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Published 27.11.23

Safer Internet Forum 2023: Empowering Youth with skills for the digital decade

Jutta Croll, SDC, SDC

On Thursday Nov. 23rd the EC held the Safer Internet Forum 2023 in Brussels with about 150 people taking part onsite, and nearly the same number of attendants populating the digital space. The program circled around challenges arising from digital services and new technologies and strategies for enabling young people and children to cope.

When keynote speaker Amanda Third from Western Sidney University, Young and Resilient Research Centre referred to the English pediatrician David Winnicott and his theory of the “holding space” young and adult participants were curious to learn how the concept could be adapted to the digital environment. Although the idea is nearly 50 years old it holds true for the role parents can play nowadays providing fur such a space where children can trust their parents will give them age-appropriate liberties but also care for their safety. The role of peers in empowerment was demonstrated by youth ambassadors from countries across Europe in sketches dealing with stress online, like cyberbullying and scams.

Deep dive sessions provided room for discussing the opportunities and risks of immersive environments like the Metaverse, the role of industry in fostering skills of children, parents and educators and pre-conditions for young people’s well-being in the digital environment. Intergenerational conversation, media literacy training not only for youth but also for teachers and parents, and creative concepts to address vulnerable children were considered to built a cohesive strategy to address present and future challenges online. On the regulatory level the Digital Services Act (DSA) was welcomed as a break through and major step forward to make the Internet a better place for kids, it’s roll-out and implementation by industry according to the participants shall be a key take-away for the months to come. Eventually young participants expressly emphasized their appreciation for the youth respecting approach of the Forum, providing them with opportunities to bring forward their experiences, raise their voices and make themselves heard.