For the sixth year running, Childnet's Youth IGF Project has enabled a group of young people from the UK to share their voice at the Internet Governance Forum, a UN-mandated global conference about the future of the internet.
This year, three young people aged 15 years old travelled to Istanbul to take part in a range of workshops and share their perspectives on issues such as balancing child rights and child safety; privacy and anonymity; and digital citizenship.
Kindly supported by Nominet this year, the young people's participation was hugely successful in ensuring that youth issues were addressed at the conference and considered as part of the wide-ranging discussions taking place. It is great to see the profile of young people at the IGF continually being raised, as a truly multi-stakeholder discussion needs the participation of all user groups, and that includes young people.
In an interview with LSE, Eleanor, Zach and Harriet shared their thoughts about internet governance, the importance of youth participation and their perspective on some of they key issues they discussed.
1. What is the atmosphere you see at this year's IGF in Istanbul? What are your overall impressions of the discussions and the event?
It’s been a busy week and it’s been great to hear from people from different countries and different perspectives. Lots of people have been interested to hear our experiences as young people, and it feels like we are being listened to and treated equally, which makes us feel as if we’ve made a difference.
2. One of the sessions Childnet's youth representatives are participating is on child safety AND child rights. There is often much talk about protecting children online, keeping them safe, but less about their rights as users. How do you think this should be handled or a balance struck?
It’s very important to ensure that young people have a chance to be creative and to explore good aspects of the internet. However, there need to be some systems in place to protect against the exploitation of young people and to support their wellbeing, though these protections can’t be too restrictive or limit young people’s internet access or how they use the internet.
3. Other workshops you are participating in focus on privacy and anonymity. We often hear that your "sharing" generation has no concept of privacy. Is that true? To what extent is privacy online important?
It depends on what you mean by privacy. Young people often feel they need to keep things private from their friends and family, but are less concerned about companies getting hold of our data or are not aware of the risks this poses.
Because so many young people use privacy settings, it’s clear that they do take an interest and they are conscious about how public the information they share is. They do want a level of protection for the things they say and their thoughts.
It’s nice to hear more from the technical side of the conference who can explain a more detailed definition of what privacy is, as not as much is known about cookies, and the ways businesses use your data to make money from you.
4. What is your vision for the future of internet governance?
It’s so important to get everyone who has a role to play together to discuss these issues, rather than working separately in different countries. We think it would help to establish some basic human rights on the internet (like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) that everyone could agree to.
It’s great to have young people at the IGF from the UK, Denmark, Gernany, Holland, Ireland and Hong Kong – but there needs to be more representation from the wide range of young people who use the internet. We don’t represent all children globally, as you need to have the interest and ability to take part in this conference.
Our vision for the future is an internet where all young people are not abusive in their language but freely and confidently express themselves in whatever thoughts they have, and are knowledgeable enough to use the internet as a way of connecting to youth worldwide.
5. What is the most important thing you'd like to communicate to world leaders?
The youth are key stakeholders in the internet too, so our opinions and voices should be heard, and we have as much of a right to have our views listened to as any key stakeholders. Young people today are getting more aware of what’s going on around them, and growing up faster, and are very tech savvy. We use the internet as much as others, and so we should also have an equal say and be consulted more often, especially as these things will be implemented when we are adults.
Find out more at www.youthigfproject.com