Hadia, a Digital Leader from Canons High School, was chosen to form part of this years Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel. She attended the Safer Internet Forum (SIF) in Brussels and wrote this guest blog, with her Group Leader Ms Shah, about her experience.
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.