Hello, my name is Morgan Kneath, I’m 16 years old and live in Swansea, Wales. Between 15 - 18 October I travelled to Brussels and participated in the European Safer Internet Forum, representing the UK as a youth delegate on behalf of Childnet and the Insafe team. I was among a group of 30 youth delegates from all over Europe, each representing different organisations, and all debating, contributing and working towards a better Internet for young people all over Europe.
The first two days of the trip were focussed on getting to know each other. We took part in team building exercises and games eliminated any awkwardness between us all, and the only awkward thing was the fact that their English was nearly as good as mine!
Lots of the sessions that took place over these first two days really got us into the swing of things. We talked about many different factors relating to internet safety, from bullying to fraud, who is responsible for online content.
On the second day, I was privileged to sit in and contribute in a debate in the European parliament, the meeting was about the development of the ‘dot kids’ domain. This is an initiative to develop a domain purely for children and young people where they wouldn’t come across harmful content, and effectively keeping children in a safe zone. The possibilities for this are endless and I can definitely see it being implemented very soon!
Of course it wasn’t all debating, later that day we visited the ‘future classroom’ which is a super modern classroom, with a sleek design and interactive features. Here we split into groups and talked about designing an application, product, or even a service to protect children online, or something related to internet safety. In my group we had the ‘Dos and don’ts of the Internet’ which was an application which highlighted what you should and shouldn’t be doing on the internet through a quiz which is fun and appealing to children. We also had another games session outside, despite the rain and my team losing every challenge, it was still a laugh!
We travelled back to the hotel by train and got to see and experience Brussels, which is an incredible city. After these two fun days we knew that the next two days would be long and hard!
On Thursday morning, at 9.15 the Forum was open and delegates from many influential organisations, government representatives, corporate representatives came to listen to and take part in it. The first session was chaired by Robert Madelin, Director of DG CONNECT, who was accompanied on the panel by Sir Graham Watson MEP and Patricia Watson of Facebook.
During the forum we heard from many different speakers including a 14 year old CEO, Internet Entrepreneurs, authors and tech bloggers. There were plenty of other speakers who brought a new perspective to people’s eyes about the potential dangers and opportunities of the internet. I found it extremely interesting that the majority of problems which we talked about all linked back to lack of education, and how vital it is that policy makers and governments make internet education as important as reading, writing and mathematics.
Myself and the other youth delegates were active participants in the forum and were given many opportunities to speak our minds.
I really liked the fact that the speakers encouraged us to voice our opinions and they welcomed our input. It was really nice to know that our opinions were valued, and I really felt a part of the forum.
I have gained a lot from this experience. I have met so many new people, made many new friends and I hope to make connections with people who can give me the opportunity to participate in events such as this in the future. I feel it is important to spread this message and share the knowledge I have gained through this experience.
The internet is fast becoming an integral part of our lives. It is a powerful tool which can be used for positive, as well as negative things. It is vitally important we all know how to use the internet safely and responsibly. As Spiderman says; “With great power comes great responsibility” Be safe on the Web. (see what I did there, web?)