IGF 2017 from a youth perspective

  • Awareness
  • 19/01/2018
  • Charalampos Kyritsis, Youth Ambassador

Including the voice of youth in internet governance discussions is important. Here, Charalampos Kyritsis, a youth panellist from Greece, reflects on his recent experiences in attending the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a key annual event in the global internet governance calendar.

The recent Internet Governance Forum took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 18-21 December 2017. It's an annual event that started back in 2006 in Athens, hence this was its 12th anniversary. The Forum took place in the building of the United Nations in Geneva, demonstrating how much has been achieved in previous years and highlighting ongoing efforts to carve a bright future for many years to come. I had the chance to participate in many discussions and exchange opinions about child safety online and how we can achieve the goal of a safer and better internet.

On Day 0 of the event, I was panellist in a session organised by Insafe and INHOPE during which we discussed if young people can understand the terms and conditions of the services they use - especially on social platforms - and how we can make them clearer and easier to understand. All of the panellists agreed that the terms and conditions are quite chaotic and difficult to understand, even for an adult in most cases; as a result, it will be near impossible for a child to make sense of them. The panel then debated various ideas and solutions to make terms and conditions easier to read and understand:

  • Use simpler and friendlier language which a 13-year-old child can understand.
  • Present the most important terms and conditions in a simple bulleted format just before completing the sign-up process.
  • Give users the option to control some key issues concerning privacy and information sharing during the sign-up process.
  • Use animation and short videos to explain the terms and conditions to the user; watching videos as a way of learning is common for young people in today's "YouTube era".
  • Create a game app to teach users and help them better understand what they are signing up to interactively, while also offering tips on how to protect themselves online.

At the end of the session, most of the audience and industry representatives present agreed with the panel's opinions and stated that we will see some of the ideas being implemented soon.

During an ISOC (Internet Society) event, also on Day 0, I had the chance to create a focus group for a session titled "Social media under 13". We discussed if it is right for children to have social media accounts. Most of as agreed that, at the age of 13 or younger, children have not yet developed the critical thinking skills and the maturity to face the chaotic and sometimes  dangerous environment found in social media. We then considered the question of how we can prevent those children from creating such un account in the first place. One idea was to create platforms and/or sub-platforms for kids only, but this raised the issue of how we can secure them so that only children can access them. The protection of privacy is key and no one should risk having their privacy violated to be able to use an online tool or service. The issue of encouraging children to register to a restricted environment was also discussed, especially if they can access an unrestricted environment with relative ease. Another problem is that parents these days often don't educate their kids about social platforms and the dangers that may face there; indeed, many do exactly the opposite, giving their kids a device with unrestricted access to the internet with no information and boundaries, and leaving the kids to just "play". So, I came up with an unconventional idea that, in the end, we all seemed to agree with. We should incorporate the prosses of creating a social media account into schools. More specifically, our final proposal was that informatics educators in primary schools will first inform and educate all students about the right use of social media, the dangers that may be encountered, and how to best avoid them. Then, in the final grade, kids (aged 11-12) - after some interactive content and tests to be sure that they have fully understand how to use the social platforms - will create a social media account (with the help of the educator, and only for those that want to and have the approval of their parents). Together, the student and teacher will configure it correctly, and then use it within the framework of school lessons with the purpose of young people learning how to keep themselves safe and their personal data private. This will also enable students to upload creative content – a key feature of many services - and make online platforms a safe tool for work, fun and communication.

At IGF, there were many more sessions and conversations about how we can fight cybercrime and promote child safety, and I'm happy to return from my attendance full of new inspiration and experiences.
Finally, throughout the event, I helped out at the Insafe-INHOPE booth in the IGF Village, informing other IGF attendees about Safer Internet Day (SID) and the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) project, as a member of the BIK Youth community.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author 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.

About the author:

Charalampos is a 20-year-old former YEP youth panellist. Currently a student at the Department of Informatics and Telecommunications of National and Kapodistian University of Athens, he is an active participant in international conferences on internet governance such as SEEDIG, IGF, EuroDIG, YouthDIG and the Better Internet for Kids Youth Panel.

In his spare time, he is a passionate hiker, cyclist and sailor.

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