The widespread embrace of digital technologies this past year has set us on a path toward a Europe that’s “Fit for the Digital Age.” This ambition extends to ensuring a safer digital experience for young people across Europe. As part of our commitment to helping achieve this, we are pleased to announce that selections have been made for Microsoft’s 2021 Council for Digital Good – Europe.
We invited teens, aged 14 to 16, from across Europe to apply to help advance positive and productive online behaviors to further champion our work in digital civility. Applicants submitted short essays about their lives online, as well as their hopes and expectations for the council experience. The applicants represented 14 European countries and their responses demonstrated the common effects of the pandemic on online life, as well as the diverse opportunities that applicants were able to experience. In addition to increased screen-time to maintain essential connections with school and friends, applicants shared how they used this time to learn to code, gain new language skills, or conduct school research online.
We selected 15 young women and men from 10 countries: Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Romania, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK.
We look forward to engaging with this group, as we jointly explore ways to promote safer, healthier, and more respectful online interactions.
Applicants spoke not only of the skills they would bring to the program, but the issues they hoped to tackle, such as cyberbullying and online hate speech. The teens were also very positive about the effects of the internet, technology, and social media in their lives. Here are application excerpts from two selected council members:
“Some online activities have contributed to my success at school, namely the use of platforms in which students can access old tests and their solutions in order to prepare for exams. Additionally, I have also started taking an online English course and I will soon start a Spanish one too. Online activities have also contributed to keeping my friendships with friends around the world […] Social media has also had a positive effect on my self-confidence, as they allowed me to discover people who went through similar experiences as I did and shared their tips about how to handle the situation.” – A 16-year-old from Portugal
“As a teenage girl from a small country, I believe I can offer a unique perspective to the use of social media, internet and technology. Too many people face abuse and bullying on social media. I see this council as an opportunity to also make my future on the internet better – and of course, to make it better for my friends, and even my future children. While my family openly talked to me about the need to be careful on social media and on the internet in general, I want to share my experience with others as well. I also hope to learn more about security and safety on the internet.” – A 16-year-old from Slovenia
We are excited to have assembled a multi-cultural, diverse group of teens that we hope will bring a wealth of views and perspectives to council discussions and activities. Our objective for this council is to help young people understand and fully appreciate safer online engagement and potential harms and to learn from each other. Like all things, the internet is not without risk, but when embraced to its fullest – and with eyes wide open – it offers almost limitless possibilities to learn, play, grow, and interact with others near and far. In turn, we hope to hear from council members about their digital struggles and triumphs over the last year in particular, what might make the online space healthier and more enjoyable, and how companies like Microsoft can contribute to shaping that future for the better.
As always, digital safety continues to be a shared responsibility and young people, parents, digital safety organizations, governments, and technology companies all have a role to play. Shared challenges require that we work together more closely than ever before for a safer digital experience and commit to making Tech Fit for Europe. The ongoing work of leading digital safety organizations around Europe remains crucial in this regard and we will continue to draw on their expertise. Here are thoughts from two such notable groups, deeply engaged in promoting digital safety with young people.
“Within the scope of the Portuguese Youth Panel, integrated in the Digital Leaders initiative, the Portuguese Safer Internet Centre collaborates with the Microsoft Council for Digital Good Europe initiative. We consider that young people have a say regarding actions that promote Digital Citizenship nationally and at a European level. Building and enhancing strong skills on digital citizenship is more than a policy approach. It’s a change of perspective and involves working for and with students so they feel part of the solution and empowered by it.” – Sofia Rasgado, Portuguese Safer Internet Center
“We know that young people feel very passionately about online safety – about looking after themselves, and their friends as well as contributing to the community. There are so many benefits in mobilising this passion and approaching online safety with young people and giving young people agency to make a difference. We have thousands of Childnet Digital Leaders active in their school communities across the UK who are making a difference. Meaningful youth participation is such a powerful tool and Microsoft’s Council for Digital Good is a good example of how we can engage young people to help create a better digital world.” – Will Gardner, CEO, Childnet International
We are very much looking forward to our first virtual meeting during June and will continue to convene as a group each month to explore digital safety-related topics with European experts. Council members will also actively engage in new projects aimed at enhancing a safer digital experience for young users in Europe, with opportunities to share the results more broadly with European stakeholders in due course.
To those who were not selected as council members, know that your voices are critical, and they were heard. We hope you will consider applying again in the future, as we aim to grow the number of teens focused on advancing respect online and promoting our Digital Civility Challenge.
We are grateful to all those who submitted applications, and our heartiest congratulations to our 2021 European cohort! We look forward to the next year and a half, and what we hope will be an abundance of thought-provoking discussions, edifying projects, and newfound friendships – as we all work to grow a kinder, more empathetic, and respectful online experience in Europe and beyond.
Tags: digital civility