What is the BIK Youth Panel, first of all? Every year, before Safer Internet Forum, a group of youth panellists from across the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe get together to discuss online safety issues from a young person's perspective. This year, they gathered in Brussels to prepare a "deep dive" session for the Safer Internet Forum (SIF), held in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, 20 November 2018. Their aim was to identify a contemporary online issue for young people and work together in finding a solution that reflects the youth point of view. The resulting idea was to utilise methods of critical thinking to let adults take a glimpse at the online world through the eyes of young people.
Read on to find out what some of them told us:
Marina, from Greece:
"This year, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the BIK Youth Panel 2018 and in November I travelled all the way to Brussels to team up with my fellows from 14 other countries in Europe in order to create and present a video about online safety. The experience was absolutely amazing! Not only did I get the chance to meet all these amazing people from all around Europe, but I also got to see and really understand various perspectives concerning the issue of internet safety.
Our video was called #MyDigitalSelfAndI, a hashtag that I strongly believe summarizes all the messages we wanted to get across through our work. We presented it in an one-hour session where we were divided into 6 different discussion tables that touched upon a variety of serious matters like influencers, the article 13 of the GDPR and other topics related to esafety.
What I enjoyed the most from this experience was definitely the part where all of the group worked together and actually managed to prepare a whole video and a full blown session in such a limited amount of time. When the presentation of our work took place, we really felt like our voices where finally being heard.
Going back home, I know I will never forget this experience and I am sure that I will definitely spread our messages and our video with as many people as I possibly can. This event inspired me to never give up fighting for a safer and friendlier environment on the internet since it proved to me that yes, we may be young, but our voices and our opinions count."
Marina is a 15-year-old student from Greece! 2 years ago she joined the Greek Safer Internet Youth Panel and internet safety has been one of her main interests ever since. She is particularly fond of children's rights on the Internet as well as young people's safety in it. Having the opportunity to be a part of the BIK Youth Panel 2018 was a huge thing for her since it provided her with the chance to have a voice and an impact on the future of the online and offline worlds.
Lorcan, from Ireland:
"In November, I had the opportunity to take a break from studying for my Leaving Certificate to travel to Brussels. I was double jobbing so to speak, as firstly, I was invited to Brussels to receive an award as a finalist in the inaugural #SaferInternet4EU Awards, having qualified during the summer. The second reason I was in cosmopolitan Brussels was as a member of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel representing Webwise.ie and Ireland on the Youth Panel.
This was definitely a working trip as from the time we arrived in Brussels we were focused on plans for the Safer Internet Forum. We worked over dinner in a funky Brussles restaurant before an early start the next morning at Google near the European district. Here, we continued working on our plans for the Safer Internet Forum as we had been planning our video and our workshop in advance. We had so many ideas about the issues that we wanted to explore because this was a real opportunity for us to represent the voice of young people across Europe.
In the end, we agreed that we wanted our video to consider how we have to be aware of our identity online and think critically about what we see and hear online. So, the idea of #MyDigitalSelfandI was born … a call to all users of the internet to be themselves and to not be influenced by others. Here's our video narrated by our Lithuanian Youth Panelist Algirdas featuring each of the 2018 European Youth Panelists:
We also planned our workshop for the Safer Internet Forum. This workshop brought together all of the ideas that we had wanted to discuss. In the hour-long workshop, we firstly had an opening activity which encouraged people to consider their online identity, thinking about things such as whether their virtual friends are the same as their 'real' friends, their privacy settings and how often they use social media. We then facilitated 'deep dive' discussion groups on six areas of interest to us: GDPR and children's rights, creators, Article 13 (copyright), fake news, online safety and the impact of digital devices. In these groups, we presented our ideas about the topic and asked questions to help the participants to share their ideas and then presented a summary of all of the ideas from the groups. It was really interesting to hear the different opinions of the participants - especially as there were people from industry, education, advocacy groups, politicians and public representatives all with a shared goal to make the internet a safer place.
Some of the things that struck me were how few people were aware of their privacy settings on social media, the number of different platforms people used, the number of friends people had on social media that were simply online friends- people not known to them in advance of meeting them online. I was also particularly interested in how many people were unaware of Article 13 and the child-specific provisions under GDPR. Discussing these issues in our two workshops really showed me how we all need to be mindful of our online presence and keep up to date. Here in Ireland, Webwise has a wealth of resources to support young people, parents and schools to do just that so it is worth paying a visit to www.webwise.ie to check out what is available.
I genuinely want to thank Webwise, Commissioner Gabriel and the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) team for the opportunity to be part of the youth panel. I have a new group of friends from across Europe who share a vision to make the internet a safer place to communicate, collaborate and learn. Together in our countries, we will help to organise events and campaigns for Safer Internet Day 2019 which takes place on Tuesday 5th February. Check out https://www.saferinternetday.org/ for more information.
I'm back in Leaving Certificate mode and preparing for my mock exams - in studying my Irish I was reminded of the old Irish seanfhocal 'Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine'. This means we rely on each other for shelter... and in this digital age, we definitely need to rely on and support each other."
About the author:
Lorcan is a 17-year-old student from Ireland. He first became interested in online safety through his own experiences online and then signed up to become a Safer Internet Day (SID) Ambassador with the Irish Safer Internet Centre. He organised online safety events in his school for Safer Internet Day and became a member of the Irish Youth Panel. Through this role, he has taken part in open policy debates and panel discussions focusing on the challenges and benefits of technology. These include an Open Policy Debate organised by the Irish Government in March this year which lead to the first Online Safety Strategy, and the EMEA Child Safety Summit hosted by Google and Facebook in April 2018. He is also a member of Tipperary Comhairle na nÓg, where they actively promote positive use of technology and being aware of online safety.
Catarina, from Portugal:
"It was in the beautiful city of Brussels that from the 18th to the 21st of November I took part in one of the best experiences of my life (and although I am only 16, I am sure of what I am saying).
This year, it was the first time that I experienced first hand, the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel, the Safer Internet Forum and the BIK Advisory Board. These were incredible opportunities to meet different people, to listen to what others have to say and to make myself heard. As my smile of genuine happiness in all the photographs taken proves, these were some wonderful experiences.
I never thought that it would be possible, in less than 24 hours, to meet a group of eighteen young people from different countries, to discuss and create a project that we consider an asset for all European children and young people. This is the "piece of the puzzle" that was missing, in our view, in digital citizenship education. It was something that transcended all cultural differences; and, what is more, it was done in a language that is not our mothertongue - which for me was one of the most enriching ways to educate and learn.
Other things that inspired me were all the various presentations at the Safer Internet Forum, presented by specialists from different areas, united to establish the next step in building a better and safer internet for children and young people. With all the other participants and speakers, we felt like we were allies – especially during our own workshop in which we tackled current issues such as Article 13, fake news, children's rights, artificial intelligence, and where we had to defend our ideas and opinions as young citizens, who need to be heard by society, industry, politicians, and many others. This truly motivated me to return home and share all this acquired knowledge with my peers and my networks.
What is more, during the BIK Advisory Board, which was attended by representatives of the European Parliament, of the European Commission, industry, several European ministries and several Safer Internet Centres, I felt very proud to discover that yes, youngsters' opinions are valued in Europe!
In my case, in addition to the responsibility I felt because, after all, I was speaking from "the point of view of European young people", it was very gratifying to know that I was able to contribute, even though in a minimal way, to a Europe more interested in education, innovation and the digital world.
In conclusion, I returned home with more enthusiasm to share everything I learnt, all my thoughts and experiences, to bring my contribution to improve everyone's knowledge about the technological world, and consequently, help to build a better and safer internet for all users."
About the author:
Catarina is a 16 years old girl from Portugal. As the cyber world plays a big part of her life, she is interested in all the things related to it. Because of this, she has been involved in the "Digital Leaders" initiative of the Portuguese Safer Internet Centre, since 2015.
Throughout the years, she has had the opportunity to work with children, peers, parents, teachers, and others in regional events, by sharing experiences and thoughts about this important topic. In 2018, she participated in several activities at a national level, by being the "youth's voice which adults also need to hear", such as the panel on "Ethics… odd word applied to cyber. Why and where should we fit it", in the C-Days Conference and in the "1st conference – INCoDe.2030".
More recently, she took part in the BIK Youth Panel, the Safer Internet Forum and the BIK Advisory Board in Brussels. She considers all these events were an excellent opportunity to get to know different people, different realities and different experiences, which she wants to share with others. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to improve children and youngster's rights and knowledge in the internet and new technologies!
Hadia, from the United Kingdom:
"Each year since 2008, a Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel has been organised prior to and during the annual BIK conference Safer Internet Forum (SIF) in Brussels, encouraging a group of youth panellists to voice not just their personal opinions and challenges, but also those of their peers who they are representing at a European level.
I was honoured to be nominated by Childnet and represent the UK at SIF as the representative for the BIK Youth team. There were 18 other youth members (aged 14-19) who came from 14 different European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal. Yes, that is quite a lot of countries!
Prior to our participation on the panel, we all ‘virtually' met through four webinars where we attempted to discuss and decide our overall theme for the campaign: critical thinking. This concept would be addressed through a ‘deep-dive' session that we, the youth, coordinated and created.
As I had only met the other panellists online, I was unsure about how we would interact in person. How would everyone work together? How would we bring our ideas together? Would everyone get along? Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about! The other youth panellists were incredibly friendly, energetic and inspirational, and I had an amazing time working with them.
On Sunday, 18 November 2018, Miss Shah and I took the Eurostar to Brussels where the three-day conference was going to be held.
We had an early start the next day and after breakfast, headed to the Google HQ to spend the day working on our concept. We proposed several key messages for our campaign, eventually agreeing upon ‘It is normal not wanting to share everything; therefore, you shouldn't compare yourself to others'.
We then talked about how we would structure our youth sessions at the SIF conference. This included deciding the structure of our deep-dive session and choosing the hashtag for our campaign: #MyDigitalSelfAndI.
We formed two groups: one working on the content of the deep-dive session and the other working on creating a video to spread our message. The deep-dive group was further split into several subgroups, with panellists working on a particular theme that we would be discussing with those attending the conference. These included: ‘How digital devices impact young people's lives', ‘Safety', ‘Copyright', ‘Fake news', ‘GDPR and children's rights' and ‘Creators'.
I was part of the team that was involved in creating and producing the video that would showcase our campaign as well as launch our hashtag. It was a challenging but fun task and we did have a few hiccups along the way. Creative blocks, tiresome video editing and having to re-shoot lost sections of footage made for a very busy but productive day. Eventually, quite late at night, we finished working on the video and it was ready to be posted on YouTube and launched at the conference.
Following on from the Keynote speeches at SIF, the BIK Youth panellists were ready to run our ‘deep-dive' sessions. We also presented the video we had created. Our sessions were very well attended and we were given very positive feedback.
I had an amazing time in Brussels where I got to work with some incredible young people who came from different countries. Despite our multicultural backgrounds, we had so much in common with each other and I really enjoyed learning about their lives. I still keep in touch with them and I feel that we will be lifelong friends.
This was a fantastic opportunity for me. It helped me build my confidence and public speaking skills and gave me the opportunity to speak about online safety policy to an EU-wide audience as well as act as a representative for the whole of the UK.
Thank you to Miss Shah, BIK Youth and the wonderful people I met for this incredible experience. This event was truly one that I shall always remember."
About the author:
Hadia is a fifteen year-old student from the UK. Through Childnet, she is a Digital Leader for her high school. She thinks that the modern progression to a digital society is one with an exciting future, which has its obstacles. As a young person, it is inevitable that digital content/media plays a significant role in her day-to-day life. As a result, she has a deep curiosity on the broad and fascinating topic of the internet and its effects. She aspires to (one day) contribute to making change for the better.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.