Developing an online media platform for Bulgarian youth

  • Youth
  • 28/06/2018
  • Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre

Involving young people in online content creation is a great way to develop their digital and media skills, while also minimising exposure to online risks and promoting positive and responsible online behaviour.

The Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC), coordinated by the ARC Fund, has recently formed a team of young people who will create and upload media content for teenage audiences via a youth online media platform. A key benefit of this approach is that youth writing for youth can allow them to more easily engage with peers, recognising both the interests and needs of this target group. The aim is to use the platform as a channel for raising awareness on particular topics related to internet safety and digital and media literacy, while also facilitating discussions among youth on these issues. At the same time, it is hoped that the young people involved in the media platform will act as role models for positive online content creation.
 
Project aims
The aims of the youth media platform project are:
  • to empower young people to express their opinions and positions, and champion digital citizenship and digital creativity.
  • to give the young people an opportunity to develop their digital and media skills (according to the DigComp Framework) in practice (as positive content creation skills, information assessment skills, communication skills, and so on), while also taking advantage of the opportunities the digital environment offers.
  • to prevent online risks through the development of digital and media literacy skills, and foster positive and responsible internet use as an alternative to risky or harmful behaviour online.
Best-practice scenario
The following examples, taken from the Bulgarian scheme, outline some good practices in developing a youth media platform:
  1. Create a youth content creation team
    In the Bulgarian example, the core content creation team was recruited from existing members of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel (youth board). In Bulgaria, the youth panel is a voluntary structure, which has existed as a successful form of youth participation since 2010. Its members are young people aged 14-18 who meet regularly face-to-face (at least once per month) to develop their digital and media skills. They also play an important role in other initiatives and events organised by the Bulgarian SIC and its partners.

    If there is already an established youth panel, it is reasonable to recruit members of the content creation team from its members: they are already a team involved in child participation activities and have experience of raising awareness among their peers. If not, it is also possible to recruit young volunteers specifically for a content creation/editorial team, perhaps using the existing information channels used to reach out to young people.
     
  2. Provide a youth online media platform
    Although creating a brand new online platform is a possibility, the Bulgarian SIC chose to use existing opportunities in the country. Hence, it entered into a partnership with Mrs Evelina Pavlova, a famous Bulgarian radio and TV journalist, who had created an online media platform called Teen Station where teenagers upload content created by them for a teenage audience. It was agreed that the members of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel can have their own section on this online platform where they can upload content on the topic of digital and media literacy for young people. Alongside this opportunity, they can also create content on other topics or initiatives which interest them, as well as expressing their opinions on a range of other issues (including politics and strategies) and participating in topical debates concerning youth.
     
  3. Train young people on media content creation
    In order to support young people in the task of creating high-quality online content, the Bulgarian SIC, along with Pavlova's The Voice of Children Foundation, plan to provide several trainings on media content creation. The young people will be trained by professional journalists and online safety experts. They have already participated in an introduction training on components of digital and media literacy (according to the DigComp framework) and the basic principles of journalism (for example, "the five W-s") provided by an expert from the Bulgarian SIC.
     
  4. Facilitate youth media content creation
    Members of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel, in their role of an editorial team, will create online media content regularly, uploading articles, videos and radio content which they have created. They will also promote the youth online media platform to peers, and recruit other young people who would like to create content too. The professionals who will have provided trainings will continue to support the youngsters as mentors.
What young people are saying about the youth online media platform
Some great feedback has been received about the project so far:
 
"I think that participation of the youth panel in Teen Station could contribute a lot to expanding our activity as a community. It's a great chance to increase digital literacy in other young people too. Also, Teen Station gives us freedom to express our thoughts, feelings and ideas, and share our experience and knowledge with other teenagers."
Tsvetina Tsonkova, member of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel
 
"In my opinion, young people in Bulgaria - and all over the world - should be properly informed on a wide range of topics. The Teen Station youth platform gives such an opportunity to Bulgarian teenagers. I am very happy that I can take part in this. It's an online space where you can talk about online safety and can help more young people to understand that the internet also hides its dangers."
Simona Valeva, member of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel
 
"Teen Station is a place where young people have the chance to learn something new and different. And that's not all. What I liked most is the fact that we have no limitations and can freely talk about everything. We can discuss topics and points of view which media and society avoid for one reason or another, although they are not unimportant. Teen Station is a unique platform where everybody can be themselves and feel 'in place'. We have the chance to exchange experiences, and share and discuss things concerning our own interests and hobbies."
Della Inomwan, member of the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel
 
Pointers for other organisations on setting up a similar scheme
Forming a youth content creation/editorial team, and providing an online platform where they can upload the content that they have created, is a good model of youth participation. In this way, young people can find a way to champion digital citizenship and express their opinions and creativity, while also developing their digital and media skills in practice.
 
Other organisations can set up a similar scheme by:
  • Recruiting young people who would like to create content – they could be recruited from existing youth panels or from the general teenage audience through the organisation's existing communication channels (including social media), or possibly through schools which the organisation has previously worked with.
  • Along with safer internet experts, media professionals should be recruited to provide training on media content creation. Ideally, they would be "media celebrities" who are known by the young people. A proper methodology should be developed for the trainings, in collaboration with these professionals.
  • An online platform should be provided. An organisation could create a brand new website for this purpose, or negotiate a partnership with existing online media, as in the case of the Bulgarian SIC.
  • Ideally, trainers should continue to provide advice and support to the young people after the initial trainings, in a mentor role. This can be very motivational for the teenagers involved.
Find out more about the Bulgarian SIC's youth panel on the Safenet.bg website, and discover more about the Teen Station Youth media platform.
 
Find out more about the work of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its 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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