Digital Leaders - a model youth participation scenario

Peer-to-peer education is a great way to educate others about staying safe online. As part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, Childnet has created a Digital Leaders Programme for primary and secondary schools. The aim of the programme is to train up young people to become "qualified" Digital Leaders in order for them to educate others in their community about staying safe online.

Each Digital Leader has access to an interactive online training platform which allows young people to learn about online safety in an engaging way and, once they've completed the online training, they are then encouraged to run activities in their community to help others stay safe online. Of course, not every young person who wishes to be a Digital Leader needs to have access to an online platform; there are plenty of amazing activities they can carry out without an online platform in order to make the internet a safer and better place.

Project aims

The aims of the Digital Leaders Programme are:

  • To empower young people to champion digital citizenship and digital creativity with their communities and to educate their peers, parents and teachers about staying safe online.
  • To make online safety learning youth focussed, fun and effective.
  • To engage and empower parents and staff.

Best practice scenarios

The following examples, taken directly from the UK scheme, outline some good practices in developing youth participation scenarios:

1. Creating a youth board

A youth board is a great way to engage young people in youth leadership activities. A notable team on the Digital Leaders scheme comprises of a group of young people who have joined together from different schools and have formed a youth cabinet. They have been carrying out the Digital Leaders Programme in their various schools and the youth cabinet have worked through the online modules as a team, sharing together how best they're going to deliver what they have learnt about online safety to peers in their communities and separate schools. This is a good example as it shows how the scheme can be filtered down to various schools and how the young people can benefit from each team member working in their own school.

2. Impact of Digital Leaders on SID 2018 in school

Digital Leaders have been pioneers for our Safer Internet Day (SID) campaigns, and can have a huge impact on their own communities. One of the UK's champion schools went above and beyond to celebrate SID 2018, which took place on Tuesday, 6 February 2018. The whole school were taken off timetable and their Digital Leaders ran online safety presentations throughout the day, to all year groups.

3. Digital Leaders improving school for those who misuse technology

Digital Leaders can help mobilise behavioural change among their peer group. One school have been using their team of Digital Leaders to re-educate students who have previously been excluded from school due to misuse of technology. Digital Leaders are working with these young people so that they in turn will be able to demonstrate to the rest of the school how working with the Digital Leaders is improving their behaviour. This is a fantastic example of a holistic approach to online safety and technology. Rather than banning technology when it is misused, empowering young people to behave in a different way is an effective tool to combatting negative behaviour online.

What schools are saying about the Digital Leaders Programme

"We are really chuffed with the Digital Leaders, if you give children the opportunity to explain to their peers they show a maturity that we don't always give them credit for. All the staff have said how good the leaders were from Nursery through to Year 6."

From a teacher who explains the positive impact Digital Leaders had on the school on SID

"I would like to thank you and everyone else who helped out on Safer Internet Day for the truly remarkable and amazing day I have had. It is an experience that I will never forget and it will stay with me forever. I hope there are many more amazing experiences to come as a digital leader!"

From a 16-year-old Digital Leader who took part in the UK SID 2018 event, and appeared on national news

Digital Leaders assembly
 

What young people are saying about the Digital Leaders Programme
"What I like about the Digital Leaders Programme is that schools around the country are being educated, and I think that being a Digital Leader can boost your confidence. In the future I think that it could become worldwide to make sure that everyone knows how to stay safe online, and hopefully will make a happier world online."

"I really enjoy the confidence the programme gives me in becoming a Digital Leader, and how I now feel confident enough to truly help someone in need."

"I like the fact that it is led by students and on a peer-to-peer basis so it is not intimidating and makes addressing situations fun and easy. I like the focus on creativity and think this should be continued as that makes the programme very engaging."

Example resources created by Digital Leaders
Watch this great video was created by Digital Leaders at Anson Primary School in London to support children deal with bullying in the real world and online:

Digital Leaders from the Viridis School Partnership in London created an online safety leaflet for families:
Digital leader resource for parents

Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancashire also created a flyer for parents:
Digital leader flyer for parents

How to set up a similar scheme

Putting young people at the forefront in your community is a very powerful and effective way to influence online safety best practice. We have found that many schools have invested in having Digital Leaders in their school, and many are doing it without an online platform. They believe in the power of peer and have set up some inspirational programmes which have helped other young people enormously. Digital Leaders from across the UK have put together some amazing campaigns for SID 2018, some have written a play and performed it to parents to help inform them about how to keep their child safe online, others have created short films, and nearly all have presented to their peers and younger students about online safety. All this and more can be achieved with a similar scheme in your school – and it's even more inspiring when this initiative is led by young people themselves.

Find out more about the UK's Digital Leaders Programme.

Several other Safer Internet Centres in Europe use similar youth participation approaches…

To give one such example, since 2015, the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) has run the Cyberscout Training Programme which uses peer-to-peer training methods for effectively popularising the most dangerous online risks and ways to combat them among Bulgarian children between the ages of 9 and 15.

To this end, 5th graders from across Bulgaria undergo a two-day online safety training conducted by the Bulgarian SIC and later use the acquired skills and knowledge to train their peers. With the financial support of Telenor Bulgaria and the help of the Ministry of Interior, a total of 42 schools in 34 towns and cities in the country have participated in the programme to date. By the end of 2018, a total of 58 schools in 45 towns and cities will have participated. After more than three years of operation, more than 650 children and nearly 290 teachers have been trained. The trained children have subsequently raised awareness about online risks and appropriate methods of prevention and reaction among nearly 5,000 of their peers.
The mission of the Cyberscout Training Programme is to create a community of Cyberscout children and young people across Bulgaria who demonstrate self-developing, responsible, and safe online behaviours and popularise this among their peer groups. A certified Cyberscout is a trained student, who:

  1. Is a role model for responsible and safe online behaviour for their peer group.
  2. Gives advice to their peers regarding online-related problems.
  3. Organises and conducts public events regarding online safety, targeted at their peers.

The methodology of the programme is built upon the principles of autonomy and experiential learning. During the first day of training, through a supportive environment and interactive methods, the participants engage in a series of challenges related to the main online risks and ways of combating them. After each challenge, the participants reflect on their experiences and apply what they have learned in the next challenge. During the second day of training, the participants use their newly-acquired skills and knowledge to enter the role of a Cyberscout by giving advice to their peers and organising public events in simulated scenarios. In addition to these practical skills, the methodology also develops the team working and critical-thinking skills of the participants.

The students who successfully complete the programme receive certificates and are given the opportunity to participate in a national competition with the other trainees across the country for organising and conducting a public event about the main online risks and ways to combat them, targeted at their peers. The students divide into Cyberscout squads in order to implement their projects. The squads compete with each other, even if there is more than one squad in a school. A special jury selects the three best projects and awards the participant Cyberscouts during the Safer Internet Day event in Sofia in the February of the following year. In addition to the competition, the Cyberscout squads are invited to participate in monthly gamified missions, which further hone their skills as Cyberscouts.

Find out more about the Bulgarian Cyberscout Training Programme.

Likewise, Young Coaches for the Internet is a Cyprus Pedagogical Institute (CPI) programme, which is run under the activities of CPI and other organisations as partners of the Cyprus Safer Internet Centre (SIC). This programme aims to involve students in training others on the creative exploitation and safe use of the internet. With the guidance of their school teachers and the support of specialists on the subject, young coaches are invited to develop an action plan for their school unit to design and implement activities to raise awareness regarding safe and responsible use of the internet in their school and community. Students are invited to think creatively and implement at least three activities, report on those activities in a reflective journal, participate in Safer Internet Day (SID) activities ,and organise an event in their school in order to receive a Young Coaches certificate.

Cyprus Young Coaches for the Internet scheme

Since 2013, when the programme first started, students have exceeded expectations and amazed everyone with their creativity. Among other activities they have created and shared printed materials such as posters, leaflets, bookmarks and cartoons; digital material such as videos, blogs and animations; they have written and acted in theatrical activities, and written and performed songs; provided peer and parent training presentations; organised events and talent shows; created board and online games; completed questionnaires; and run research on internet-related topics.

Find out more about the Cyprus Young Coaches for the Internet programme.

Find out more about the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC), Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) and Cypriot Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including their respective awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

Find out more about the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) youth participation programme more generally on the BIK Youth minisite.


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