On April 17, 2019 Check Your Head hosted 75 amazing youth for “Youth Take Action: Digital Citizenship Day,” in conjunction with SFU Public Square’s 2019 Community Summit: Confronting the Disinformation Age. Students from across the Lower Mainland joined each other at the Roundhouse Community Centre to share their perspectives on digital citizenship and collaboratively create a Digital Rights Manifesto for the twenty-first century.
Selfie of MCs and all participants
Together, youth participants explored the following questions:
- What are the rights of youth digital citizens?
- What are their responsibilities, and what are those of governments and private companies?
- How can we ensure that new technologies do not deepen existing injustices or create new ones?
- How can we navigate online spaces that are dominated by “fake news” and misinformation?
- How can we use exponentially advancing technology to create a better future for all of us?
Nasma Ahmed, Director of Digital Justice Lab
Students heard from a wide-range of speakers who spoke about many facets of digital citizenship, including growing up in a digital world, online privacy, surveillance, how to access fact-based journalism and so much more. Nasma Ahmed, director of the Digital Justice Lab, kicked off our day with an incredible interdisciplinary keynote, which you can view in its entirety here. Next we were joined by Nichole DeMichelis and Jean Broughton, both librarians from the Vancouver Public Library, who spoke about digital privacy, highlighting the lawlessness of companies protecting our data. The final speaker was Dimitri Pavlounis, the News Literacy Education Coordinator, at CIVIX who presented on access to information and complicated our understanding about personalized newsfeeds and algorithms filtering our news sources.
Check Your Head wanted Digital Citizenship Day to be an interactive, generative process. After each speaker, students worked in teams with our awesome CYH Youth Peer Facilitators to discuss, unpack and reflect on what they heard. Students were encouraged to combine their personal experiences with their learning and curiosity to ask questions, imagine alternatives and brainstorm the digital rights they would like to see protected under law. We were delighted to see students expand on the speakers’ ideas and generate over 45 digital rights over the course of the day. These rights not only call for protection of personal freedoms in the digital sphere (“The right to protection over our personal photos”), but demanded collective protections and ownership to prevent deepening inequities (“The right to access information which does not force false opinions or incite hatred, or attempt to indoctrinate or brainwash”).
At the end of the day, once all rights were compiled from each table, students voted on which digital rights they wanted to include in their Digital Rights Manifesto. Complementing the discussions about democracy, students voted using Ethelo, a Vancouver-developed democratic decision-making software, to develop the final Digital Rights Manifesto. Five privacy-related rights and five information rights were included:
- The right to access verified sources.
- The right for online sources to be transparent: Online sources should clearly indicate their position and biases, and whether or not they are advertisements.
- The right to access information which is professionally written and easily accessible to all.
- The right to access information which does not force false opinions or incite hatred, or attempt to indoctrinate or brainwash.
- The right to choose what content one consumes on the internet.
- The right to accessible online spaces: Terms and Conditions that are in different languages, audio options for people with visual impairments, and simplified versions of web pages.
- The right to an international set of standards and guidelines for companies and governments with respect to information storage and management.
- The right to know where our data is going to and for what uses: product advertisement, data analysis, government/ company surveillance, and if this is for compensation.
- The right to protection over our personal photos: greater protection regarding third party sharing, more rights to our photos and protection around catfishing, etc
- The right to know if the content created was saved/tracked/screenshotted by other users or companies.
The intention behind the Digital Rights Manifesto was to produce an actionable document students could take with them, that would live beyond the scope of our one-day event. Youth activism is gaining attention in the adult world, from the school strikes for climate, sparked by then 15-year old Greta Thunberg’s protests in Sweden, to anti-gun organizing by survivors of school shootings in the US, and digital activism is no different. Noni Nabors, one of our Youth Peer Facilitators and Assistant Coordinator for the event, and Emily Gorham, our Education Program Coordinator, spoke to the Tyee about this: “The young people will be encouraged to take back the manifesto back to their schools, their homes, and even their Member of Parliament’s office.” Youth in the EU developed a similar manifesto for a “better internet” in 2015 calling for a democratically oriented internet and we wanted to empower students to think broadly about how they could use their voices and their manifesto to shape new digital developments.
Participants at Tables
See what the youth who participated in the event said about the day in their Head/Heart/Hands reflections below! (Head: something you learned, a take-away! Heart: how you’re feeling! Hands: a concrete action you’ll take!)
Other cool stuff: on the day of the event, participants got to check out the Glass Room exhibit by Mozilla – an interactive display that encourages us to challenge our ideas of privacy online.
Check out the Resource Guide we developed with individual and collective actions and cool articles and videos to help inform further discussions on these topics!
We’d also like to extend our gratitude to Rhiannon Bennett from the Musqueam Nation for welcoming us to her people’s territory, and to SFU President Andrew Petter and Deputy Mayor Christine Boyle for introducing the event. Thank you as well to the entire SFU Public Square team and the Digital Justice Lab for their enthusiasm and support. Lastly a huge thank you to the phenomenal team of Check Your Head MCs and facilitators who made this one of our largest team collaborations ever!
All in all, Digital Citizenship Day was an exciting, learning-filled day. Check Your Head is so grateful for the youth and teachers who participated in the event. We can’t wait to discover how these youth continue to advocate for an equitable digital sphere!
*Do you want to contribute to our understanding of Digital Justice? Take our survey by May 31st, 2019 and your answers will help inform us as we adapt our materials to develop a new digital citizenship workshop for classes, launching in fall 2019!
“This presentation really inspired me, and I learned a lot about how much technology really is used in our world today. I also learned that the internet really doesn’t have a delete button and it stays on there forever.”
“Access to the internet is a privilege but comes with rights to privacy and what we share. By staying informed we can avoid being taken advantage of.”
“I learned that it’s important to think about your actions/decisions before you make them. Be aware of what you do online. We need new policies.”
“I learned the Internet is a bigger place than we think and well a complicated place to make rules and laws.”
“Today I learned the complexity of having social media, and be a digital citizen, and the important of being aware my rights on the internet. I also learned that I can be a part of making the internet a better place for everyone.”
“Learned a lot about the algorithms and purposes of these social media and news platforms. On top of that being able to connect with new people opened me up to new ideas and paths.”
“I feel shocked almost due to learning that not all things about the internet is not safe at all. This event has opened my mind up more – more aware of myself and my well-being.”
“I feel like since almost everyone shared the same privacy views that we could make a change.”
“I feel very informed and quite amazed at all the new things I learned today.”
“I feel paranoid, everyone is being watched in some way. Empowered – youth have power.”
“I feel great after this workshop because I have more knowledge over this and know what to do.”
“I feel excited to do something to change this.”
“Empowered – we are the future, we can make a change.”
“I feel inspired to raise awareness on the topic of digital citizenship, I also feel confident in knowing a lot about this now.”
“I feel a lot safer as I learned a lot more about how to be a responsible digital citizen.”
“I feel happy to learn about how we can do better to share our data less with these big corporations.”
“I feel that internet has deeply affected our opinions, the news, and how we think I am also scared because the internet has so many ways it could harm you. But I am also glad and thankful we have access to this resource.”
“Motivated – to do something about what was talked about.”
“I will check facts online to find sources to get a better understanding of the concept of truth.”
“I will become more cautious of what information I share on the internet and spread my new found knowledge with my peers.”
“I am finally getting a password manager! Also, will bring these conversations forward with my peers and (hopefully) with my family.”
“Firstly, I am going to make others aware especially about the algorithm stuff and the tracking. I will also do actions suggested to keep myself digitally safe and will overall think before I post more.”
“I am going to read simplified terms of service before agreeing.”
“Lobby for change.”