Giving young people a voice globally

Posted on 02 November 2015

At Childnet, we have always championed young people’s rights as key stakeholders in the internet, and have promoted their right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Through programmes such as the Youth IGF Project and campaigns like Safer Internet Day we have given young people the platforms on which to have their voices heard at the highest levels. We have given young people opportunities to have a say at Number 10 Downing Street, government hearings and UKCCIS panels, and at conferences around the world, and we have reached out across the UK to hear from thousands of young people about the issues they care about.

The Youth IGF Project has been a key highlight of this work. Launching in 2009, the project helped establish the importance of youth voice at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), collected the views of thousands of young people and stakeholders from over 75 countries and in 2012 delivered the first ever youth chaired workshop at the IGF, helping to set the stage for greater youth participation in international discussions on the future of the internet.

Why the IGF?

The IGF is a UN mandated conference, bringing people together from various stakeholder groups as equals in discussions on policy issues relating to the future of the internet. Young people are a key stakeholder group, but until the Youth IGF Project was founded in 2009 they had not been included in these debates. 

Establishing youth voice

In the first year, Childnet spoke to over 1,500 young people from the UK and ran events in Parliament in advance of the IGF in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in 2009, with two young people attending the IGF to share the project methodology at a workshop as a template for youth engagement which could be replicated internationally.


In the following years the Youth IGF Project further expanded, with seven young people attending the IGF in Vilnius in 2010 and eight young people attending the IGF in Nairobi in 2011, where they presented their youth manifestos. 

Youth take centre stage

In 2012 in Baku the youth team delivered the first ever youth-chaired workshop at the IGF, and were the first young people to be invited to speak at the Main Session. Their workshop was titled ‘Social media, young people and freedom of expression’ and they chaired a panel of young people from Hong Kong, Denmark and the Nordic Youth IGF Project. To support their workshop theme, the youth team developed a survey for young people age 11-18, which reached 874 young people in 40 countries across 6 continents. 

In 2013, members of the youth team developed their discussions in a workshop about ‘Online anonymity, freedom of expression and internet governance’ and delivered a survey of 1,300+ people from across 68 countries.

Last year, at the IGF in Istanbul a youth team were on the panel for a range of workshops, discussing issues as varied as privacy, child safety, online rights, anonymity, youth participation and internet governance.


The importance of youth voice

At Childnet we know that young people’s expertise and experiences are invaluable in creating the most effective policy and educational responses, and that’s why we are committed to ensuring that young people are given an equal voice in these multi-stakeholder discussions and we will continue to create opportunities for young people to have a say.


Not only does this create better policies and strategies, it also has a hugely positive impact on the young people involved. As Rebecca Cawthorne, one of our youth participants said, “I went to the IGF with Childnet for three years as a youth participant. Through my work with Childnet I have grown hugely in confidence and developed my public speaking skills. I learnt so much though workshops with the Childnet staff, and it’s made me far more responsible and thoughtful about the way I conduct myself online. Childnet has really open up a lot of opportunities for me including going to the ICANN conference in London in 2014. I know that Childnet's work is invaluable for many young people around the UK. I have been proud to have helped Childnet bring a youth voice to internet governance.”

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