The Digital Champions are the youth ambassadors of the Childnet Digital Leaders Programme. Childnet work closely with them to ensure that the programme is youth-led, they have opportunities to represent the Digital Leader community in many ways, including at events and in consultations. You can find out more about the Digital Champions here.
In this blog we ask some of the Digital Champions about their experience in the role this year, including highlights and how they have found taking part in the group throughout the COVID-19 school closures. Thank you to Cosima, Jess and Aimee for their insightful and thoughtful responses, which you can read below.
What has been your highlight of your Digital Champion role this year?
Cosima: For me my biggest highlight was either presenting our charter at Westminster to the MPs or talking to Baroness Nicky Morgan at the BT centre event on Safer Internet Day!
It was such a unique experience that not many people my age would get to do!
At first talking to the MPs was a little daunting but as the day progressed I became a lot more fluent in what I was saying, I guess practice makes perfect! In addition, once Aimee went on to go and do her speech, and I had to do everything solo, I felt kind of proud of myself for being able to do that!
As it I was talking about something I was passionate about when it came to doing our stand at the event, I found it quite rewarding in a way to get the message across to so many different representatives of different companies. Oh and a bonus was that I was on the news hehe!
How have you found your Digital Champion role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jess: During the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have had to adapt in many ways, including the way we work and communicate. Although we haven’t been able to meet up in person a huge amount this year, by communicating online, the Digital Champions team has been able to keep in touch and continue to make a change. Personally, I feel as though being able to communicate more online has brought me closer to the team and made me feel like I am making a bigger impact with what I do. With more people using the online world as a way to chat with friends and work from home, we have been working hard to support our peers and other young people who are spending more time online and make sure they are safe and well. I feel like my role during this time has made me a more well-rounded person, and has helped me develop my communication and teamwork skills, despite only communicating through a screen. The rest of the team have done an awesome job of keeping us all informed and updated throughout this time, and I have felt more confident in my role than ever before. Although this has been an uncertain time for us all, I have felt more connected with not only my friends, but the rest of the Digital Champions and Childnet team and through more online communication, I have felt a bigger part of the team and a more confident person.
What would you say to someone thinking about applying to be a Digital Champion next year?
Aimee: If I could say one thing to someone who is thinking of applying to be a digital champion, I would say don’t allow any feelings of doubt, worry or anything else put you off it because it has been my best experience! It feels like a close family and you get to take part in a range of new and enjoyable opportunities that teach you so many skills as well as putting you in really influential positions with the ability to help and teach many people from all over. I’ve loved it so much and I would recommend it to everyone so, to everyone reading this, definitely try it!! 🙂
Thank you to our Digital Champions for sharing their thoughts on how they have found their role over the year. If you are interested in becoming a Digital Champion next year, then keep your eyes peeled for the next round of applications due to open in September.
The Digital Champions are Digital Leaders from across the country who were successful in applying to be youth ambassadors of the Digital Leaders Programme, representing the Digital Leader community and supporting the Childnet team. Find out more about the Digital Champions and their role within the programme here.
Some of our Digital Champions created videos to share their thoughts on the programme and particularly the youth leadership element.
Below you can watch the videos created by the Digital Champions, where they share their thoughts on the programme.
Thank you to Cosima, Aimee and Jess for creating and sharing these wonderful videos.
If you are interested in the leadership opportunity the programme will provide for your pupils and the impact the programme could have on online safety education throughout your whole school, then take a look at how the programme works and register your interest for more information. Once you have registered your interest, you can request access to a free guest login to our gamified online platform which is training thousands of young people to lead online safety conversations in their schools and beyond.
During school closures young people (and adults alike) are having to adapt to changes to their usual day-to-day lives. Most young people are spending more time at home, and more time online. We asked our Digital Champions for their advice for other young people on how to keep well during this period.
The Digital Champions are Digital Leaders from across the country who were successful in applying to be ambassadors of the Digital Leaders Programme, representing the Digital Leader community and supporting the Childnet team.
Below you can read the fantastic and creative ideas the Childnet Digital Champions shared:
My top tips for these testing times are –
Keep occupied – The Olympics are cancelled, do your own! Create activities for you and your family in your garden or living room! It’s exercise but fun 🙂
Watch Netflix, watch cheesy shows to cheer you up!
Try not to focus on the bad figures – While there are live tolls of the numbers of cases, there are also live tolls on the recovered cases, try to keep track of that 🙂
Download zoom or Houseparty to stay in touch with friends and family – We are so lucky to have the internet and technology during these tough times so make the most of it! Use your phones and iPads to keep in touch with your friends and family! Especially grandparents, they are the ones who are likely to be alone so your video call could really lift both yours and their spirits!
Self-care – Do a face mask, buy yourself a nice bit of makeup to make yourself look gorgeous – for you! Get some chocolate on amazon or even a new football, we can’t go out so treat yourself 🙂
Talk to someone if you’re feeling down! If you’re worried or anxious tell a parent or a friend, worries are not one of those things that you want to keep to yourself, let it out and you will feel much better about it!
I have been setting myself up with a routine daily in terms of what I want to get accomplished. It’s really helped me, because I think as school-oriented people who have been taken out of that environment quite suddenly, we do suffer from not having an element of structure in our lives even when there’s not so much we need to do. The way to do this is not necessarily to plan things out by time but set yourself a couple of goals, if there’s something you particularly want/have wanted to do/learn etc.
I’m finding that learning a language and taking daily classes on Duolingo is something positive I can work towards daily and over a larger span of time.
I would also say sleeping too much is a classic mistake – waking up so that you have a good portion of the day ahead of you is massively important, because as students we’re sort of oriented to a very regular pattern of waking/sleeping and if we disturb that it makes us feel as though there’s less obligation to get things done.
Achievement really helps stave off feeling negative; it’s something positive you can do for yourself and only for yourself, which is something we don’t often get time to do day-to-day.
My top tips for keeping well during these times are to be aware of the media content you’re consuming, stay in touch and be kind to yourself. It is of course important to stay up to date with the news and make sure you have a sense of awareness of what is happening in the world, but too much media exposure can do more harm than good. Be aware of the amount of media you’re consuming, by staying up to date, but also not letting your enjoyment online be ruined by constant news and media exposure.
Staying in touch with friends and family can also really help with feeling alone in these uncertain times. I have found myself becoming closer to my friends and more appreciative of spending time with them due to new ways of connecting. Try a video call, or plan something different such as a virtual quiz night! There are lots of fun ways to stay connected online.
And finally, be kind to yourself. Know that it is okay to feel worried and alone during times like these, but also remember that it won’t be like this forever, and it will get better. Please talk to someone you trust if you ever feel as though things are getting too much, because you matter and even though times can be tough, please be kind to yourself.
Thank you to Cosima, Bella and Jess for sharing their fantastic top tips. We hope these tips help other young people who are spending a lot more time at home. If your team of Digital Leaders have top tips you would like to share please email [email protected].
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.
Tuesday 11th February saw the celebration of Safer Internet Day across the world in over 170 countries. The theme of this year’s campaign in the UK was ‘Free to be me: Exploring identity online’, encouraging young people to explore how they manage their online identity, and how the internet shapes how they think of themselves and others.
We asked Bella, one of our Digital Champions, a few questions around the theme and she provided some enlightening and insightful responses which you can find below.
1) Why is it important for all young people to be free to be themselves online?
“For many young people, particularly as the generational divide between our and our parents’ generations widens, access to the internet can equal a person’s access to certain safe spaces that they would not be able to access ‘in real life’. This means something, and whether or not a person feels comfortable in a certain community online should be the qualifier for it allowing young people to ‘be themselves’. These spaces should be commended for accommodating people regardless of race, sexuality etc.”
2) Why is it important to have different groups represented online? Why is online representation important?
“The intense diversity of some sites, such as Tumblr and Instagram, really helps to confront and challenge people’s opinions and understandings of the world where in their current situation offline they may not be. Issues that do not pertain to certain people are still raised by others online, and therefore those people learn something valuable about the struggles and the successes of other communities – and therefore the importance for diversity and the concept of ‘free and equal’ online. Representation online is so critical in my own experience because LGBTQ+ folks in my area are not so common publicly – to be presented with people that are ‘like you’ online, regardless of what that means to an individual, provides a critically important sense of validation and strips away the isolation many feel in their offline situations. This is why visible and healthy representation must be paramount.”
3) What is the best thing about diversity online? What is the worst thing about diversity online?
“The best thing (for me personally): the communities that form around aspects of diversity, particularly when those aspects are not universally or widely celebrated offline. The internet is so critical for providing (particularly) young people with a set of others like them whom they can communicate with and share their experiences with, and anonymously, if need be. These communities build up a validating sense of self worth for those who might otherwise be lacking it.
The worst thing (for me personally): In the quest for diversity, which, today, particularly with regard to sexuality, tends to produce more views/clicks, things like ‘queer-baiting’ have come into existence, whereby shows etc. falsely advertise inclusion and tolerance in order to draw in a subset of the population interested by this. The use of diversity as a weak and commercial factor in media is increasingly becoming a problem; I believe distinctions should be made for showwriters and media executives between healthy and unhealthy representation in order to bate this problem in the future.”
4) What is your one wish for the future of the internet?
“I hope we are able to overcome this idea that hate speech is a quality that should not be dismantled online because of the policy of freedom of speech. I’m aware that a number of social media sites (i.e. Twitter) have removed a considerable amount of ‘hate speech’ content under cyber-laws and legislation, and have received criticism from radical communities which resent the idea of restriction of certain materials – and while freedom of speech in a political sense is incredibly important, I believe that comfortable diversity for the large majority cannot be achieved until hate speech and free speech are separated properly by legislation and social media policy.”
5) If you could tell parents, teachers, and the internet industry one thing about online identity, what would it be?
“It is so important to encourage children and young people to develop a healthy online presence early, and, perhaps even more so, to put forward a level of trust in letting them do this. ‘Watcher’ apps are increasingly popular and they should not be underestimated in the sense that they do make online identity a more restricted concept if people feel as though they cannot express themselves, and in some cases, this is damaging to a person’s ability to socialise. Children and young people might misrepresent themselves a little bit online, but it is critical that ‘healthy identity’ is promoted and taught; that is, cultivating an image that you feel comfortable with, while also understanding there are limits.”
Thank you, Bella, for your passion for this topic and for being so open with your thoughts. 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.
The Childnet Digital Champions are Jess, Bella, Maryam, Niah, Oyinkan, Cosima and Aimee. They are a group of Digital Leaders from across the country who were successful in applying to be ambassadors of the Digital Leaders Programme, representing the Digital Leader community and supporting the Childnet team. Find out more about our fantastic Digital Champions here. The Digital Champions had their kick-off day on 23rd January at Facebook offices and the day was a chance for the young people to get to know each other, find out what to expect in their role as a Digital Champion and lots more!
Here is part one of two blog posts written by the Digital Champions which explains what they got up to on the kick-off day and what to expect from them in the coming months. Hear from Cosima, Jess, Niah and Bella in this blog post and hear more from our other Digital Champions in part two.
What did we get up to on our kick-off day?
Cosima: We all arrived at Facebook, signed in and waited to be taken in, it was the first time that all of the new Digital Champions met and it was so nice to finally see each other face to face! We went upstairs to a room on the 8th floor, there were loads of snacks and drinks which they said we could have. After we all introduced ourselves; new and existing, and the Childnet team told us a little about themselves too we decided to play some icebreakers. I’m sure that I speak for all of us in that after we made recipes from our favourite foods and scattergories we felt like we had been friends for ages! Some time and snacks later, the existing DC’s told us a little more about their experiences and highlights of the role and what kind of things to expect. We then were given an amazing tour of the Facebook offices. They had a giant phone, Instagram carriage, pick and mix, emoji game, work pods and much more. We were all thinking how if we worked there we would never get any work done as there are too many cool things to do! Once again we collected some snacks and drinks and then went back to our room! The Childnet team talked to us about upcoming events and tasks and then it was time for lunch, the best part! During and after lunch we talked some more (like a lot!) and set in stone the expectations and requirements for our time as Digital Champions and we talked to by another member of the Childnet team who asked us for our views on some pretty cool things. After a long, packed and fun day we said our goodbyes and took a trip to the pick and mix! It was a really great and enjoyable day that we won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
What are the team of Digital Champions going to do?
Jess: As a team of Digital Champions, we want to speak as the youth and for the youth. We are all from so many different backgrounds, and we can harness this diversity to speak out about issues facing young people online in our area and come together to voice our peers’ opinions. The Digital Champion team and I are ready to make young people’s voices heard and speak out for our internet!
Which part of being a Digital Champion are you most looking forward to?
Niah: The part of being a Digital Champion I am looking forward to the most is having the opportunity to support young people in making positive decisions online outside of my school community, as well as working with young people from all different backgrounds to take on Digital Leader roles and positively grow the online space.
For some of the Digital Champions this is your second year in the role. What advice would you give to the new Digital Champions?
Bella: To the new Digital Champions, I’d definitely say to twist your role in your school and on a local level especially into something you can harness to pursue relevant things you’re interested in seeing improve in your local area. For instance, my Digital Leaders and I have done a lot on safety for the LGBTQ+ community online, because we’re mostly involved in the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) here at my school. If you choose a ‘specialty’ you’re super invested in, it will pronounce you as a seriously capable young leader and it’ll give you the confidence you need to approach a leadership role. That’s how it’s been in my experience.
The Childnet Digital Champions are Bella from Gresham’s Senior School, Erin from Bredon School, Jess from Selston High School and Maryam from Woodford County High School. The Digital Champions had their kick-off day on 22nd January at Facebook HQ and this day was a chance for the young people to get to know each other, find out more about their role as a Digital Champion and lots lots more! The Digital Champions will be available for other Digital Leaders to consult with at our Regional Events. Here is a blog written by them which gives you more of an insight into what they got up to on kick-off day.
Jess – How did we become Digital Champions?
Hello! I’m Jess, one of your Digital Champions for 2019. Oh, and also, welcome to our first blog! Here, you’ll find information for what we are doing next, as well as all of the exciting things we get up to! However, you are probably still wondering what on earth a Digital Champion is and how we got here so, let me explain.
The Digital Champions are a group of people who are part of the Childnet Digital Leaders group. We represent you and are a voice for your thoughts and feelings on ways to develop the Digital Leaders programme. Not only do we help improve the programme, but we also have a say in your protection online and how to make the most of our Internet. As we are the first ever group of Digital Champions, this is an exciting opportunity for all of us and the Childnet team.
Got an idea of how to better the Digital Leaders programme? Talk to us. Got an exciting idea for a new module? We’re the ones to call! Want to help improve the safety of young people online? Hello, we’re here! We want to spread the message of positive internet use far and wide and, with your help and input, we can create a better online experience for everyone.
We are approachable, friendly and responsible. We want to inspire you to make a difference in your school or area and help people see the internet in a positive light.
The thing is, we didn’t just end up here for no reason. We had to go through a process of interviews and applications before finally being told that we were the select group of people chosen to be Childnet’s youth board. It started with the application. We had to fill out an online application about what we hope to achieve and why we want to be a Digital Champion, which we all did and passed that stage. Next was the interview. Soon after finding out we had passed the application stage, an interview on Skype was arranged. Although the connection was a bit dodgy at times, we were asked a series of questions and given five minutes to complete a task. The task being to design a session and what the benefits would be. Eventually, we found out that we had the job! I was one of the few Digital Champions in the UK! We were invited to Facebook HQ in London for a Kick-Off Day, which was low-key AMAZING! We hope to keep you updated on all of the other exciting opportunities we have for you and all of the things we get up to!
Bella – What are we going to do as Digital Champions?
As Digital Champions, it is our responsibility to be the liaison between the Childnet team and Digital Leaders on the ground. We will take opinions from our own, and other, groups of Digital Leaders and use them to influence the production of modules that are useful and, most importantly, relevant, to the specifics of issues young people face. We do this so that the platform can better prepare Digital Leaders for informing their schools and other students in a productive manner. We will be the bridge and voice for comments from the participants of the programme, and we will also be involved in reaching people on a regional basis in the future. Overall, we want to make the programme as effective and as engaging as it can be in assistance to the team at Childnet.
Erin –What did we get up to on kick-off day?
When we reached Facebook HQ they took us upstairs and said we could help ourselves to any food. At first we were scared and took only two things each. Soon, we reached the room we were going to spend the majority of our day in. We sat down and all introduced ourselves to each other and then talked about what we were doing for the rest of the day. Soon after, we met Sophie England who spoke about her role at Facebook. We asked her a bunch of questions, some were too technical for her to answer so we wrote them down and gave it to her to get someone else to answer. After a long time of awkward silences, the atmosphere became lively and we started to laugh, we also talked about our strengths and weaknesses and how we can all bring something new to the team. Then, after talking about what we would be doing as Digital Champions, we went for lunch. There was a whole buffet and it told you what was healthy and gluten free. After we had lunch we had a tour and took pictures. We saw some amazing things and amazing technology. After the tour we finished up and were handed some gift bags from Childnet and a bag of pick and mix. Then, at three o’clock, we finished up and said our good byes. It was such an experience and I’m so glad to be a part of it.
Maryam – What are our next steps?
As Digital Champions our main goals are to inspire this generation on how to protect themselves from the dangers that are lurking within the internet. Of course, it is impossible to ban certain parts of the internet, yet if we can help and understand these it will be easier to ensure our safety on the internet. We’ve planned to meet with Digital Leaders across the country and we’ve already began planning a new module for the Digital Leaders Programme! Henceforth, this will hopefully enable others who share our burning passion for helping those in any way they can and inspire them to also become a Digital Champion after seeing some of our work.