As the pinnacle of the Youth IGF Project, Childnet attended the IGF 2009 in Sharm-el-Sheikh to share the thoughts and opinions on Internet Governance of young people in the UK with the other delegates, alongside running a workshop on Internet Governance and activating and listening to the voice of young people.
Childnet convened the workshop at the IGF alongside the Egyptian Cyber Peace Initiative, and both organisations communicated the methods used to promote Internet governance and safety awareness with teens. In a marked difference to other workshops, the session placed at its heart an International team of ‘teen youth panelists’ who shared their experiences of Internet Governance, covering the themes of access, openness, security, diversity, rights and digital citizenship.
The youth panel were active participants in the session bringing a fresh and challenging perspective to the topics of discussion and an honesty and openness about how various technologies are used.
The wide-ranging and engaging discussions covered different aspects of Internet Governance. On rights, the participants felt that children and young people should be afforded the same rights online and offline and that there shouldn’t be a distinction between them. The youth delegates highlighted their right to an Internet that represents them and their culture, but acknowledged that there were many young people globally who weren’t able to access the Internet, stating that they believed this should be addressed.
The contradiction between the desire expressed by young people for freedom and their belief that they have an automatic right to be safe was discussed as was the phenomenon of social networking. The youth participants outlined their concerns about social networking and the issue of privacy, but also the potential for these sites to be used in communicating key messages to other young people and the fears and lack of understanding that sometimes accompanying internet use.
The workshop heard from the young people that while very often they are held up as the experts in this field, and undoubtedly they do have a degree of expertise that is instinctive, this is also a new environment for young-people and very often they too are learning on the job. However, the youth panellists agreed that while young people may have not engaged widely on the topic of Internet governance in the past - they do want to continue to engage in the future of the IGF and called for wider greater participation in the IGF from the user perspective.
The youth participants felt that moving forward young people should be integrated into the heart of the IGF, and stated that they would like to see more youth input both at the IGF and also with the Internet industry.
Lucinda Fell, Policy and Communications Manager at Childnet who chaired the session said,
“It has been a fantastic to have the eloquent and honest contributions of these young people, and also the young people we spoke to in the UK as part of the Youth IGF Project, in the discussions at the IGF. Their input and opinions have generated a high level of excitement and energy here in Sharm. However, this is just the start in working towards the meaningful inclusion of young people in the IGF process and we hope to work to progress the commitment from those present in the session to continue to progress the work of youth inclusion in discussions around this topic leading up to the IGF 2010 in Vilnius.”