Adults have a lot of opinions about how the online world affects young people’s lives. But so do young people themselves, and it’s vital that they get their say.
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland is a member of ENOC, the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children . Each year, the network meets to discuss an issue that affects the human rights of children and young people across Europe – and this year the theme is ‘children’s rights in the digital environment’.
ENYA – the European Network of Young Advisers – is made up of young people aged 13-17 years old from across Europe who meet throughout the year to make sure ENOC is listening to young people in all the work that they do. Every year, different young people are invited to take part. 14-year-old Beccie White is an ENYA adviser from Scotland and has been working hard on digital rights with our office and 13 other young people from Ayr, Monifieth, Brechin, Linlithgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. She’s just back from a 2-day event with 36 other ENYA advisers in Brussels and has written us this fab blog post. Here’s her ENYA story so far:
In June this year, 2 young advisers from the Scottish group of ENYA (European Network of Young Advisers) went to Brussels for the ENYA Conference. This year, the topic was children and young people’s rights in the digital environment.
In our Scottish ENYA group – made up of 14 young people from all over Scotland and coordinated by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland – we discussed lots of the issues and the benefits that young people experience when online. We came up with lots of ideas ranging from creating a digital platform for young activists to having digital skills classes.
We voted on our ideas and managed to narrow it down to 3 key ideas:
- the fact that things do go wrong online –for example revenge porn – but there needs to be support systems in place to help us when these things happen.
- that some sites at schools can be blocked that help us with learning or self-help— for example LGBTQ+ youth sites.
- the impact that poverty can have on people’s access to the online world and the information and resources that exist there.
Having decided on these three key ideas, we split off into three subgroups to create short videos on each topic. We wanted to use as little English as possible, since the video was going to be shown at the conference in Brussels that young people from all over Europe would be attending. We wanted to break down any language barriers and make it as accessible as possible. The different groups did this in different ways.
One group made a stop-motion animation using drawings to show how blocked sites can negatively affect pupils:
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Another acted out a mini-story following two young people, one with access to technology and the internet, and one without, and showed how that impacted on their ability to do the online homework:
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The Journey to Brussels
Bleary eyed, but bursting with excitement, Matthew and I set off for Brussels! We were really excited to be going as it was going to be the largest ENYA conference yet, with 2 young advisors from each of 19 European regions ranging from Albania to Norway to Georgia! On the first day of the conference, each region did a presentation about the ideas they had been working on in their own ENYA groups in their country. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s ideas – some of them we had also thought of and others we hadn’t even considered! It was also amazing to see how creatively some of the groups presented theirs: one group had a short film, another had a stop motion animation and one group had even written a song! We also did a few icebreaker activities to get to know everyone better. My favourite one has got to be the ten second portraits! Everyone one was split into two circles, an inner circle and an outer circle. The inner circle were the people who were being drawn, and the outer circle were the artists. You had ten seconds at each person to add onto their portraits before you had to move onto the next one. Although they might not have been the most flattering portraits, they certainly were funny!
In the afternoon, we gathered all the key topics and ideas that we had all discussed in our presentation and voted on the top ideas that we wanted to focus on. We chose to focus on cyberbullying, sexting, poverty and fake news. We then had various creative workshops that focused on making the content for the video that would be shown at the ENOC (European Network of Ombudspersons for Children) Conference in Belfast in September. This included short interviews, stop motion animation and drawing animation, all looking at those key topics.
We then had a few hours to explore Brussels before dinner, so it was a very quick pit-stop tour of the famous buildings and of course, chocolate! The meal was a great chance to get to know everyone better and exchange cultural differences and traditions. It was amazing that there were so many young people from all across Europe, just at one table!
Day 2 of the ENYA Conference
The next morning, we had a panel discussion with the Children and Young People’s Commissioners for Northern Ireland, Belgium, France, Iceland, Ireland and Scotland. We then dove right into writing our recommendations! Having already picked our key ideas, we then split into groups focusing on different themes, that all these topics came under. These groups were:
- risks and challenges,
- participation and opportunities,
- privacy, and
After each group had come up with their 5 recommendations, we then presented them back to the main group and then asked for any questions or comments surrounding the recommendations. This sparked some lively debate around the accessibility of legal terms and conditions amongst other things! After every group had fed back their recommendations, we had the opportunity to place post-its on them highlighting any positives or concerns we might have about the recommendation. After this we all signed off on the recommendations, feeling incredibly proud of our work and honoured to have been able to attend this amazing event.
ENYA was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve made life-long friends and spoken to young people from countries all over Europe who were all also so incredibly passionate about children’s rights. All in all, it was an incredible opportunity and I feel so privileged to have been able to attend.