Since the last POCC focus group in September 2019, the landscape has significantly changed with transformations such as the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+) released in May 2022, and new ways of framing online activities for younger children. This edition of the campaign focused on investigating how positive online content concepts need to evolve and adapt in the future focusing on the development of more advanced technology (especially with regards to online gaming, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), AI and playful-by-design concepts), while also taking into account developments in legislation (such as GDPR).
Additionally, more than two years on from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was relevant to also assess its impact on the digital lives of children and young people. As many young children were ‘forced’ to spend increased amounts of time online to continue education and social activities while in lockdown, it was important to explore how this – as well as other emergency situations such as wars and conflicts – affected industry and content producers/providers and the services offered, and how this might affect service provision in the future.
During the awareness month, daily posts were shared on social media highlighting positive online content resources and quick, interactive polls. In addition, a Twitter conversation and Twitter Space were hosted to draw on different perspectives.
The campaign aimed to target:
- Children aged 0-12 years
- Parents and carers
- Teachers and educators
- Content and service providers.
In addition, the POCC criteria checklist was one of the main tools of the campaign. The aim of the checklist is to assist content and service providers when developing new products to ensure that they are fit for purpose, and take measures to ensure that children can go online free from risk of harm. Parents, carers andteachers can equally benefit from the checklist by being better aware of the features they should look out for when choosing online experiences for younger children. The checklist is regularly updated and can be accessed on the POCC website (available in all EU languages).
Discussing online experiences for children: the Twitter Space
Twitter Spaces are a longer, podcast-like format that are used to tackle a different topic or target a specific group. On 16 September 2022, a Twitter Space was hosted by the Insafe Twitter account, and gathered a range of content and service providers, Safer Internet Centre representatives, a BIK Youth Ambassador voicing the opinions of young Europeans, research experts and other stakeholders to discuss concepts, best practices, challenges and future dreams for positive online content.
The youth perspective: the Twitter conversation
When discussing positive online content and playful-by-design concepts, it is essential to involve young people themselves in the design of such products, and be willing to listen to their opinions and experiences. For this reason – and circumstantially during the European Year of Youth – we took the opportunity to have a Twitter conversation with BIK Youth Ambassador Matěj, for him to voice young people's opinions and challenges regarding safer/better internet issues. Several topics were addressed, ranging from examples and good practices of positive online content, what kind of content he would like to see available for a younger audience, and what feedback and suggestions he would have for industry representatives and content providers. If you are curious to read what he had to say, you can read the Twitter conversation here.
Takeaways from the focus group
The awareness month activities culminated with a focus group on Thursday, 29 September 2022, where a selected group of industry representatives, institutions, research and academia, Safer Internet Centre representatives, as well as small content and service providers rallied online for a morning packed with prolific conversation to discuss and share best practices about the challenges of providing safe, educational, and entertaining content for children moving forward. Representatives from the European Commission presented the new BIK+ strategy and reflected on the need for multi-stakeholder engagement going forward, building on the discussions of the day.
There were many takeaways from the focus group: every participant agreed on the need to consult and include children and young people from the earliest stages in the development of new content or services aimed at a younger audience, instead of assessing whether they are age-appropriate only once the product is finished. Other aspects to be considered during the design process include ensuring accessibility and inclusion of all children, as well as their parents, carers and educators, regardless of their socio-economic background or the cultural context they find themselves in, in order to cater to everyone’s needs and be able to reach the target audience. Moving forward, a balanced combination between different factors such as safety, playability and enjoyability, accessibility and inclusion should be pursued when developing positive online content.
Find more general information about the Positive Online Content Campaign at www.positiveonlinecontentforkids.eu.
Check out all the examples of Positive Online Content available at www.positiveonlinecontentforkids.eu/examples. Results can be filtered by country, language or target stakeholder group (children and young people, teachers and educators, parents and carers).