Young Roundtable on Internet Safety
Young people are not only the most active users of the Internet, since Web 2.0 they are also the most productive ones. Therefore it seems quite natural to involve young people in the debate about safety issues and in the development of solutions to combat risks and harms.
At the 3rd meeting of the Youth Protection Roundtable the so-called Young Roundtable was established to give the young Internet generation a voice in the discussion and to engage them permanently in the work of the YPRT. The members of the Young Roundtable have been working beforehand on Internet safety since they are the national winners of the Safer Internet Day competition 'Life online is what YOU make of IT'.
They know how to benefit from the Internet but they also have experienced the risks of the media. During the workshops of the Young Roundtable they were given the chance to express their future visions of the use of the Internet in a safe environment. It struck the adult experts at the YPRT how well thought their ideas were on the one hand but also how radical on the other. The young people strongly expressed their wish to be protected from unwanted and harmful content. To achieve this, they recommended a system where content they do not feel comfortable with – be it commercial or user generated content – can be reported and if possible removed immediately.
For advice how to behave online and how to deal with bad behaviour of others they rely more on their peers than on adults. To the young people's opinion neither their parents nor their teachers are sufficiently acquainted with the virtual world their children are living in. Concurrently adults and youths at the Roundtable stated huge differences between European countries regarding the incorporation of teaching digital literacy in the regular schools' curricula and also huge differences in the ability of teachers to fulfill this task. Training for digital literacy for teachers as well as for parents and for their children was therefore given high priority on the agenda by all participants of the Roundtable.
The following first conclusions can be drawn from the involvement of the Young Roundtable into the work of the YPRT: Young people do not in general have a different view on the risks and threats that might occur when using the Internet, but they might set slightly different priorities, for example as regards violence or pornography. Regarding the instruments and measures to ensure safety they are not completely aware of all tools that already exist, for example hotlines to report unwanted and harmful content. In addition to the development of new measures it therefore seems to be useful to intensify awareness raising for all groups of users. The recommendations from the Young Roundtable are well in line with the objective of the YPRT to develop a mix of technical tools and pedagogical measures as an appropriate strategy. To the YPRT members the involvement of the young people has recalled the huge potential and benefits the Internet provides for them. Eventually it should be seen as the right of the youth to explore the boundaries of this wealth but nevertheless it is the task of the adults to provide for a framework of safety measures and an atmosphere of confidence and trust.
Available on the website since May 30, 2008