Microsoft’s teen Council for Digital Good at one year: Learning, sharing and growing

One-year birthday logo for Council for Digital Good

This month marks one year since we selected our inaugural Council for Digital Good: 15 teens from across the U.S. focused on improving online safety and promoting digital civility around the world. The year has been full of learning, sharing and growing for all of us – and there’s more to come! – as we continue to foster safer and healthier online interactions for everyone.

We assembled this inspiring group of young people as part of a pilot program to bolster Microsoft’s youth-focused, online safety policy work. We brought council members and a parent or chaperone to our Redmond, Washington, campus for a two-day summit last August. After months of planning and conference calls, we saw the summer summit as a capstone event. Instead, it was just the beginning.

“I look forward to using our political capital as council members to make a change in our government and society,” said Robert, an 18-year-old Council member from Connecticut. “We’ve started to see the power of youth in the past few months. I’m optimistic that we, like many other people our age, can make a difference in America.”

Indigo, a 14-year-old council member from California agrees, adding: “Ever since I left the summit last August, I’ve taken all the tools I learned and discussed and applied them to my everyday life. For example, I now think more about what I say and post online, and I also try to educate others whenever possible about digital civility and their ‘digital footprints.’”

At the August 2017 summit, each council member drafted a written manifesto for life online, and then took on three more assignments in as many months:

• An artistic representation of their individual manifestos, which yielded rap songs, videos, paintings, mixed-media art and digital works,
• A consolidated written manifesto from the full council that focuses on digital skills, advice and perspective, including thoughts for maintaining a healthy online outlook; and
• A visual representation of the cohort manifesto.

In addition, the council went beyond these specific assignments and crafted a separate vision document, outlining members’ roles, their mission and the impact they want to have. (Read the full council vision document here, and watch a new video showcasing their individual creative manifestos at this link.)

Council members join in Safer Internet Day 2018
International Safer Internet Day 2018 followed shortly after the new year, and we suggested the teens might evangelize within their social circles our latest research and work in digital civility: our campaign that promotes respect and dignity in all online interactions. Perhaps surprisingly, our latest research showed that more than 60 percent of respondents who had negative interactions online in 23 countries said they had some familiarity with their online abusers.

Council for Digital Good member and teen Judah
Judah on Safer Internet Day in Tennessee.

We were pleased that a number of council members wanted to get more personally involved in and around Safer Internet Day. Judah, a 14-year-old from Tennessee, returned to his elementary school where he spoke to a fourth-grade class about staying safer online.

Council for Digital Good member and teen Jazmine
Jazmine on Safer Internet Day 2018 in Kentucky.

Jazmine, a 13-year-old from Kentucky, led an interactive presentation to her American history class; and Christina, a high school junior from Georgia, held an information session for parents.

These are examples of council members at their best: taking their knowledge, learnings and perspectives, and sharing them with others to foster digital citizenship, digital civility and a kinder, more inclusive internet.

Student talks to parents attending class about online safety
Christina addressing parents about online safety.

And there’s more to come. Christina has created her own “control group” and is circling back with the parents who attended her information session to see if any have adopted the safer online habits and practices she and her school staff recommended. (All responded positively – talk about impact and behavioral change!)

And, Miosotis, a 16-year-old from Florida, created informative, eye-catching flyers in both English and Spanish that she’s distributing to classmates in Florida and her native Puerto Rico. Still other council members are planning various forms of community and social outreach about these important topics.

Online safety flyer created by student
Miosotis’ English-language flyer.

Looking ahead to one-year post-summit

Digital civility is our call-to-action for healthier online behaviors. We’re driven to grow a kinder, more empathetic and respectful online world, and in this quest, we know we’ve chosen some outstanding partners in this remarkable group of teens.

We look forward to our next in-person event with the council this summer. We’re planning a public event to discuss some important online safety issues, and we’re asking the teens to share their views with policymakers and other influentials, as we convene in our nation’s capital.

“I’ve learned a lot from interacting with new people,” says Robert, the 18-year-old from Connecticut. ”Insights from peers, government agencies, experts and NGO (nongovernmental organization) leaders have helped develop my understanding of digital civility.”

You can follow the Council for Digital Good on our Facebook page and via Twitter using #CouncilforDigitalGood. To learn more about online safety generally, visit our website and resources page; “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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