Youth participation – Is it just for show or does it have an impact?

Just like with most events this year, Safer Internet Forum (SIF) 2020 took place online, but this did not stop the Austrian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) from inviting young people to become part of the safer internet community. The difference was that instead of 20 young people from all over Europe being usually invited to Brussels, this time almost 50 young people could participate in several events.

“For two months, weekly preparatory meetings took place, where the young people got to know each other and worked together. Over the period from October until the end of November, they produced incredibly creative and meaningful videos under challenging technical conditions.

“The Austrian SIC participated in three different forms. On the one hand, the SIC was able to find four very different young people who took part in the annual BIK Youth Panel. On the other hand, in cooperation with an inclusive school in Vienna, the SIC gave young people with disabilities the opportunity to be part of Safer Internet Forum and to stand up and speak for themselves. 

“And, last but not least, I was able to do my part and moderate a panel about the Youth Pledge for a Better Internet. With the Youth Pledge, companies and corporations have voluntarily committed themselves to work together with young people and to exchange information. My group got the chance to work on a campaign together with Twitter. It was planned to be launched in time for the Safer Internet Forum, but it went differently than planned.

“Time was too short and the content input had not yet been worked out. We, the Youth Ambassadors, decided to tell Twitter that we could not set up a campaign with valuable content in this time. It is such an important message from Twitter that they have agreed to re-roll and plan the whole format again at our request. They have given us a voice in this process. 

“Our project with Twitter will now run until Safer Internet Day (SID) on Tuesday, 9 February 2021. We will have monthly talks and discussions on our selected topics. At SID 2021, the output of our cooperation with Twitter will be revealed. 

“Safer Internet Forum was a complete success despite the difficult conditions caused by the COVID-19 situation! The question we asked ourselves after the event is ‘does youth participation really have an impact?’.

“Young people, who were quite shy before the BIK Youth Panel started and did not know whether they could make a contribution at all, appeared at the end of November with self-confidence and a strong opinion at events, meetings and discussions, as if it had always been like this. They dared to express their opinions with pride, they have confidence in their abilities to make a difference, they feel strengthened and, above all, they finally feel heard.

“Youth participation is not just for show, at least not at the Safer Internet Forum. Youth participation boosts the future, it enables faster progress, and calls on today's decision makers to act and not just talk.

“Over all these years I have always been told that I am too idealistic, too radical. And this has always been true and will always be true for the future generations to come. But this is exactly what can change the future. We need the ideas, inspiration, motivation and ideology of future decision makers today, not tomorrow. The world keeps on turning, and so do we. And we can do that better and more effectively with youth participation.”

For more information about the BIK Youth Panel 2020, visit bikyouth.eu. To learn more about the Youth Pledge for a Better Internet, read a dedicated article on the Better Internet for Kids portal. For further information about Safer Internet Forum more generally, visit www.betterinternetforkids.eu/sif.

Find out more about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

About the author

Lili (Austria)

Since 2015 I have been involved in online safety issues. I started attending the Safer Internet Forum back then as a youth representative for Austria and participated in disucussion at our local Safer Internet Centre. Since then, I got even more involved and became one of the many Youth Ambassadors. I was able to develope a game about cyberbullying with which I took second place at the Safer Internet Awards. Since 2018 I have been studying law at the University of Vienna and I work at the Safer Internet Centre Austria with a focus on youth participation. 

  • Type: youth
  • Date:2020-12-16
  • Author:Lili Leißer, Austrian BIK Youth Ambassador and Youth Coordinator
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