SID 2018: Profiling the generation of native internet users

  • Awareness
  • 17/04/2018
  • João Pedro Martins, Youth Ambassador

On the occasion of Safer Internet Day (SID) 2018, we asked our Youth Ambassadors how they would be marking the day and contributing to the theme of "Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you". Here, João Pedro Martins from Portugal tells us about his actions in raising awareness with youth in his country.

"As in previous years, I noted the importance of taking action and speaking out on Safer Internet Day. It's a solid milestone for peer dialogue on internet-safety-related issues and, as more people become aware of this day and what it stands for, the better the internet we can create for tomorrow. This year, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of local schools, giving a lecture alongside Pedro Veiga, Coordinator for the Portuguese Centre for Cybersecurity (CNCS). I was also invited to contribute to a national webinar about my experiences over the last seven years in collaborating with Insafe and my national Safer Internet Centre (SIC).

"The mission for this year's SID was clear: find and profile current internet trends for young people, including opportunities and possible risks, by engaging with young people in focused discussions about general internet topics. The challenges were the wide age range I was presented to, from primary school children to young people who were about to go to university, with different backgrounds, geographical locations, social environments, and so on. Of course, these are all things we consider when debating internet safety in general, but still the approach must be carefully thought through and contextualised whenever the opportunity of engaging with young people occurs. Nevertheless, I believe each moment went great, and I learnt just as much as I was able to teach them about online safety.

"Two of the main hot topics raised in the discussions were Instagram and YouTube. Due to the Stories feature provided by Instagram, teens are using Snapchat increasingly less: they get more things from Instagram, which allows them to both publish permanent posts (as is the case on Facebook, although in a more visual way) while also sharing content which is only accessible to others for small periods of time (normally 24 hours, although for the person who shares the Story, the content may be accessed for longer following recent updates on the platform). So, it looks like when it comes to social media trends, Facebook has also been overthrown by its baby brother. If I had to state two reasons for that, one would be that Facebook reached older people who now cohabit in that social network, making young people less prone to share content. Another reason would be the constant targeted advertisements that led to less content being shared about people we know, making us less likely to spend time scrolling through our news feed. This last point was even one that Mark Zuckerberg himself recognised, making it into his bucket of things to tackle in his 2018 resolutions.

"Another place young people are spending their time online is YouTube. It was interesting to note that even parents seem more worried about the platform than other social networks. What I found out was that there is ever-more content being streamed by so called YouTubers, and many of them aren't always great examples or role models. Also, being a system of one-to-many interactions, the individual influence of a person with subscribers is greater than what happens in other social media environments. On this matter, I'd like to always point out that there are, of course, many great people, with outstanding positive examples, sharing content on YouTube. Furthermore, I sense that, in many cases, what happens is that young people are not aware of their own role in the revenue of those who do not behave so properly in front of webcams. After some practical examples in the sessions I delivered, I was able to ease the concerns of both the parents and teachers present, and induce some self-evaluation of the power that each young person was giving to people which they have only met indirectly through a YouTube channel.

"The bottom line is, the digital landscape of the grown-ups of tomorrow is constantly changing. The race for creating tools for them to stay safe in a positive environment, and educating on how to use them, is now a sprint more than ever before. I believe that the challenges young people face are only opportunities that are waiting to be explored, while influencers online will have to be made aware of their responsibility towards the people who follow them."

About the author:

João Pedro is a 19-year-old computer engineering student at Coimbra's University. He has been a youth ambassador for about five years. Born in Portugal, he was one of the first members from outside Lisbon to join the youth panel of his national Safer Internet Centre (SIC). After attending a Safer Internet Forum (SIF) in Luxembourg in 2011 representing his country, he was invited to be a youth ambassador. Since then he has attended a number of seminars and, over the years, has had the opportunity both to share and learn about online safety issues, as well as to get to know a lot of interesting people from all around the world.

Young people's opinions are very important to him and he believes they should be taken into account by politicians and companies. That is why he is involved in several projects, most of them connected to youth participation in debates and decisions. In recent months, he has worked alongside his national Safer Internet Centre (SIC) organising lectures in local schools.

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