In November, I was invited to run a workshop on Children's and Young People's Rights in the Digital Age. The session was organised by FANS Youth Film Festival and Document Human Rights Film Festival. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the the 5Rights 'Our Digital Rights' report published by the Young Scot and the Scottish Government in 2017 and the COE Recommendations on Children's Rights in the Digital Age (which I discussed in my blog post).
FANS Youth Film Festival took place in Glasgow between 6th - 18th November. The event was youth-led and designed by 12 young people from all over Scotland. You can learn more about the festival and the fantastic team here. Although FANS was mainly dedicated to media and film production, the notion of digital human rights seemed to be quite crucial in the context in the ways young people consume and create digital stories (for example videos, vlogs, animation ).
An aspiring media producer would often consider different online platforms (such as Vimeo or Youtube) to share their media content. This BFI post also suggests that investing some time into Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging might be a good idea to promote creative work. There are also online film forums or social media, which help to exchange ideas and communicate with like-minded filmmaking pals. The digital world can be a great place for young creative thinkers and makers, with easy access to free tutorials and research resources.
*BTW --> In 2018, YouTube reached over 1 billion users and it all started with this short video from the Zoo... :)
Young people in Scotland are definitely making the most of the currently available digital tools. Apart from the thriving youth filmmaking community, there are youth-driven organisations such as YWCA Scotland which uses social media to share young people's voices in truly empowering ways. There are many individuals, actively innovating, producing, co-producing and making the digital world their space. Among them, @katyjjo - a young Scottish activist and a journalist who set up @EndoSilence - a platform dedicated to raising awareness of women's health condition called endometriosis.
However, while all of these young people could be described as digital media creators/ digital literacy heroines and heroes; there is yet another thing they all have in common - that is their very own datafied selfs or 'data shadows' [see:myshadow.org]
The purpose of the Young People's Digital Rights Workshop was to examine our datafied selfs and to ask questions on our relationship with digital technologies How do we feel about our everyday relationship with technologies? Do we know enough about the digital world? Who is in control of our social-media feeds (and our minds)? I was particularly interested in the voices of young people who are already engaged with the co-creation of digital media. After all, they're the ones who might be curating the digital media /tech landscape of future. We need to get them thinking and talking about the digital human rights as soon as possible.
FANS's workshop on Children's and Young People's Rights was influenced by The 5Rights Framework.
The 5Rights Youth Commission is an exceptional group of young researchers and activists from Scotland who have done a tremendous amount of work over the last two years in the context of young people's rights in the digital world.
'The 5Rights project has taken 19 young people on a new and exciting journey to discover new corners of the online world and uncover problems faced by young people. From visiting Twitter and Facebook in London to learning about ethical hacking, the 5Rights group has spoken to a lot of interesting people to gain a new insight on the Internet. Our work has been based on the 5Rights framework, which looks at protecting and supporting young people in the online world from a holistic approach rather than blocking young people from the so-called ‘evils’ of the Internet.'
In May 2017, 5Rights Commission published its report titled 'Our Digital Rights. How Scotland can realise the rights of children and young people in the digital world'. The document provides a holisitc vision of how young people, education system, tech-industry and government could work together and consider using a human-rights based approach when thinking about and designing digital solutions. It is impossible to sum up the work that has been put into the report (2000 collective volunteer hours!) in a single blog post, let alone, one paragraph! More information about 5Rights Commission's work and their publications can be found here.
At the time when 'our online behaviour is under the microscope by parties we have not explicitly consented to' (Trackography) 5 Rights Youth Commission's work is only educational and inspiring, but critical in terms of children and young people's human rights - online and offline.
According to Children's Commissioner for England, data is now increasingly being collected from children:
'Many products are targeted for use by children who are too young to use the internet in other ways. For example, connected toys (toys that connect to the internet, e.g. CloudPets or Hello Barbie) are aimed at children as young as three, and location tracking watches are targeted at children who are not old enough to have a smartphone' ('Who Knows What about me?', 2018)
How could this impact young people's future? One (but not the only) of the options considered in the report is this one:
'schools would have the potential to track children’s reading speeds, sleep levels, bowel movements and other usually private data…The result may be more envy and competitiveness between siblings and higher expectations from parents…Schools may be hypercompetitive, but at the moment parents can be protective of the home as a sanctuary and keep the home free from this atmosphere. If the school is tracking how long it takes a child to complete homework, and who is doing it, this separation looks less possible' (Who Knows What about me?, 2018, p.13).
The ongoing debate on children's and young people's digital rights can be noticed within the wider European context.
In July 2018, the Council of Europe issued recommendations in which it they emphasise the importance of equal access to digital literacy and digital resources. In terms of the consent and personal data issues, the COE highlights that:
'[the European] states should ensure that terms and conditions that are associated with the use of a device which can connect to the internet or that apply to the provision of online services or content are accessible, fair, transparent, intelligible, available in the child’s language and formulated in clear, child-friendly and age-appropriate language where relevant' (3.1,14, 2018)
So what did young people from FANS Youth Film Festival had to say about their relationship with technology, the notion of consent, their data and access to digital literacy? And, most importantly, how did they react to the work of 5Rights Commissions, and their 5Rights?
We began the workshop with a simple survey/game to reflect on our digital-selves (image below). The graphic helped us to joke away way into some more serious topics like privacy and digital literacy education. Some of the questions that guided our discussion included:
How much do we know about our data? Can we teach others how to use digital technologies mindfully? Finally, how do we know when stop scrolling?
One of the thing that was striking about the workshop was that the group was quite sceptical about the overall impact of digital technologies on people in general. Some of sceptical tech stories included:
some young people being addicted to social media
some adults filming fireworks on their smartphones
some tablets being misused during classes at schools
Although many of the examples were quite funny, there seemed to be one thing that was at the centre of most of all of our conversations. As we made our way through the quiz and 5Rights graphics, additional questions came up in the context of control.
Who controls our social media access and habits? Some of the workshop participants suggested using additional apps to control and manage our access to social media. There was a feeling that too much technology is probably bad for you, yet there is not enough education to learn enough about its impact. As I introduced myself as a bit of tech-optimist, I could sense a bit of a confusion - is it because the educational resources are mainly focusing on 'staying safe online'? I'm really not sure.
Although we didn't get a chance to answer all of the questions that arose during the workshop, it was a good start to think critically about our their rights in the digital age. FANS young film makers and digital storytellers were provided with a space to reflect on their digital-selves. For 90 minutes, instead improving our skills in digital creation and sharing - we focused on ourselves and on did a bit of 'digital self-care'.
Finally, we finished the workshop by coming up with idea on how our awareness digital rights could be taken further into our communities. Here, young people came up with a brilliant idea - they are going to make a film about it.