One of our Digital Champions, Jess from Selston High School, was invited to attend the Safer Internet Forum in Brussels on 21st November 2019. Jess was selected to represent the UK within the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel, made up of around 25 young people from across Europe.
We asked Jess to tell us about her experience at the Safer Internet Forum. She provided us with a report detailing how she collaborated with young people from other countries and how she found the whole experience. Read Jess’ report below:
“The Safer Internet Forum is an event held annually to spread the word about positive Internet use and bring people together to share their views on different topics surrounding the online world. In 2019, I was chosen to represent the UK and speak as part of the BIK Youth Panel to help make a change for young people online, with the Safer Internet Forum being a way to express our views and take a stand for youth online.
Due to our limited time in Brussels, we needed to come up with ideas and ways to kick-start our campaign before reaching the conference itself. This was done through various web conferences, starting a couple of months before we were due to arrive. These online meetings helped us put together ideas, get to know each other more and ultimately prepare for the event properly. Lots of brilliant ideas were thrown around in these meetings about how we can spread our message, both online and offline, and how we can kick-start our campaign. In the end, we chose to go with an Instagram account, informing and helping young people to use the Internet positively and responsibly. You can find us at @bik.youthforyouth.
During my time at the Safer Internet Forum in Brussels, Belgium, I took part in lots of different activities and helped to prepare for our session within the Forum itself. Not only did we hold many discussions on important topics facing today’s youth online, but we also covered less talked-about topics such as helplines and misogyny in gaming. These activities helped is build skills in communication, teamwork and organisation. We also planned our session for the forum itself and discussed many things such as the survey we ran, how to present our Instagram account and speeches we would perform in our session.
Of course the forum itself was an incredible experience, however the other young people I met whilst there really was the highlight of my trip. Seeing how the Internet can bring a group of young people together from all across Europe really highlighted why I believe the online world is such an amazing place to be. After weeks of chatting with each other online, we finally all got to meet face-to-face and share our message to a wider audience. Everyone was so kind and supportive, it really was an experience I’ll never forget.
After attending the Safer Internet Forum, I learnt not only so much more about online safety, but also more about the power of the Internet; how it can bring people together, to share a universal message and help change young people’s lives online for the better. There is so much negativity in the media surrounding the online space, however this experience taught me that no matter where you are in the world, the Internet can unite us all and bring us together as one amazing, supportive community full of people just like you and me, and bring about a change online.
This experience has changed my life, and without the Internet, I never would have met such awe-inspiring people who are helping to make the Internet a better place for people like you and me. “
Thank you Jess for being an excellent representative for young people across the UK and ensuring that youth voice is heard. Find out more about our Digital Champions here and take a look at their plans for the year ahead as well as more information about their role within the programme here.
Each year since 2008, BIK Youth Panel has been organised prior to and during the annual BIK conference SIF in Brussels, encouraging a group of youth panellists to voice not just their personal opinions and challenges, but also those of their peers who they are representing at a European level.
I was honoured to be nominated by Childnet and represent the UK at the SIF as the representative for the BIK youth team. There were 18 other youth members (aged 14-19) who came from 14 different European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal. Yes, that is quite a lot of countries!
Prior to our participation on the panel, we all ‘virtually’ met through four webinars where we attempted to discuss and decide our overall theme for the campaign: Critical thinking. This concept would be addressed through a ‘deep-dive’ session that we, the youth, co-ordinated and created.
As I had only met the other panellists online, I was unsure about how we would interact in person. How would everyone work together? How would be bring our ideas together? Will everyone get along? Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about! The other youth panellists was incredibly friendly, energetic and inspirational and I had an amazing time working with them.
On Sunday 18th November 2018, Miss Shah and I took the Eurostar to Brussels where the 3 day conference was going to be held.
We had an early start the next day and after breakfast, headed to the Google HQ to spend the day working on our concept. We proposed several key messages for our campaign, eventually agreeing upon “It is normal not wanting to share everything; therefore, you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.“
We then talked about how we would structure our youth sessions at the SIF Conference. This included deciding the structure of our deep-dive session and the choosing the hashtag for our campaign: #MyDigitalSelfandI.
We formed two groups: one working on the content of the deep-dive session and the other working on creating a video to spread our message. The deep dive group was further split into several subgroups, with panellists working on a particular theme that we would be discussing with those attending the conference. These included, ‘How digital devices impact young people’s lives’, ‘Safety’, ‘Copyright’, ‘Fake news’, ‘GDPR and children’s rights’ and ‘Creators’.
I was part of the team that was involved in creating and producing the video that would showcase our campaign as well as launch our hashtag. It was a challenging but fun task and we did have a few hiccups along the way. Creative blocks, tiresome video editing and having to re-shoot lost sections of footage made for a very busy but productive day. Eventually, quite late at night, we finished working on the video and it was ready to be posted on You Tube and launched at the conference.
Following on from the Keynote speeches at the SIF, the BIK Youth panellists were ready to run our deep-dive sessions. We also presented the video we had created. Our sessions were very well attended and we were given very positive feedback. Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society and the main keynote speaker, commended us for our hard work and commitment and told us “Do not be afraid to speak up, talk about what you want, what you need, what you are afraid of.”
I had an amazing time in Brussels where I got to work with some incredible young people who came from different countries. Despite our multicultural backgrounds, we had so much in common with each other and I really enjoyed learning about their lives. I still keep in touch with them and I feel that we will be lifelong friends.
This was a fantastic opportunity for me and helped with building my confidence and public speaking skills and gave me the opportunity to speak about online safety policy to an EU wide audience as well as act as a representative for the whole of the UK.
Thank you to Miss Shah, Childnet, BIK Youth and the wonderful people I met for this incredible experience. This event was truly one that I shall always remember.
Thank you to Hadia for sharing your experience and for being such an inspirational Digital Leader! If your Digital Leaders would like to write a guest blog, please email [email protected]