In more and more parts of the world, today’s young people are the first generation to have lived their whole lives in a digitally connected world. Growing up with the internet provides young people with access to a great educational resource; fosters their social connectedness; and enables them to participate on a global scale, helping to develop informed and engaged citizens of the world.
However, though access to the internet can empower children, it also exposes them to new challenges, such as the invasion of privacy and cyberbullying. A study by the Cyberbullying Research Center shows that one out of every four teenagers has experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes, and about one out of every six teenagers has done it to others.
Balancing young people’s online safety with their use of digital media to fully enact their rights is a priority if we expect young people to flourish in the digital age. But how do we create a safe and empowering online experience for young people around the world?
Collaboration and consultation with young people
Young people have a critical role in helping us to understand how we can make their online experience more empowering and safer through legislation, advocacy, policymaking and the like. Consultations with young people enable us to be more responsive to their needs.
RErights.org is a collaboration between Western Sydney University and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, in partnership with UNICEF’s Voices of Youth and Digitally Connected. This youth-centred platform invites young people to explore how their rights relate to their use of digital media and technologies like computers, the internet and mobile devices.
This year, RErights.org has teamed up with ITU’s Child Online Protection (COP) initiative to launch the ‘Operation Uncool’ consultation. Young people from around the world will be asked to respond to a series of quick and fun tasks, such as completing short quizzes and responding to a series of scenarios. By inviting young people to share their ideas and experiences, we aim to understand how young people define, perceive and respond to unkind online behaviours such as cyberbullying.
Balancing young people’s protection, provision and participation rights in relation to digital media is a complex task. A consultation of this kind will encourage young people to participate in exploring, defining, and enacting their rights in the digital age. Operation Uncool will allow us to channel young people’s opinions and concerns to relevant stakeholders so they can reflect young people’s needs in policymaking.
We want to give as many young people as possible from all around the world the chance to participate! Spread the word about Operation Uncool on RErights.org through your networks to ensure that your country’s next generation is being heard. If your organization is interested in running a workshop with young people to get them engaged in RErights.org and Operation Uncool, you can visit the RErights workshop page for more details.
NOTE FROM ITU: The outcomes of the consultation will be summarized into a report and then presented at the meeting of ITU Council Working Group on Child Online Protection which will take place on 10 October 2016 at ITU Headquarters, Geneva.
Associate Professor Amanda Third is Principal Research Fellow in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Her research focuses on the socio-cultural dimensions of young people’s technology use, with particular emphases on children’s rights in the digital age, the intergenerational dynamics shaping technology practice, and vulnerable young people’s technological engagements.