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It’s time for young people to have their say on digital access, by James Linder, Policy Manager, Digital Jersey

Posted: Monday 12 November 2018

Young Scot 1 SA : MSP Kate Forbes and Baroness Beeban Kidron along with the Britsh-Irish Council join Young Scots as they gather in Edinburgh to debate and celebrate the rights of young people in a digital world at the first ever Young Scots 5Rights summit. Picture by Stewart Attwood All images © Stewart Attwood Photography 2018. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission. No Syndication Permitted.

You may have seen, heard or read a lot of late about how Jersey’s government is prioritising the needs of young people. Indeed, putting children first is the very first priority in the new Common Strategic Policy.

I’m just back from a truly fascinating conference in Edinburgh where learning how to embed the rights and needs of young people in every area of policy was top of the agenda.

And it really made me think.

The event was organised by Young Scot, a union of young people in Scotland, as well as the Scottish government.

They were promoting 5Rights – which in essence is about giving children and young people access to the digital world.

The 5Rights Youth Commission comprises a group of youngsters who want us all to think about their needs more often.

As 16-year-old Jonas said: ‘Without young people enjoying these rights they have no ability to get the very most out of the internet on which we all depend.’

17-year-old Rachael added: ‘I imagine that the digital world of the 22nd century will be advanced, brilliant and safe for all children to use effectively and creatively.’

While 20-year-old Isla said: ‘I want to make a real change to the lives of children and young people in today’s digital world.’

So what are the rights?

They’re the right to remove – as in take down content that’s been published online, the right to know – so who’s profiting from young people’s information online, the right to safety and support – protecting them from dangers or illegal practices, the right to information and conscious use – in other words having access to the digital world and knowing when to switch off, and the right to digital literacy – being skilled for our digital environment.

These are big, broad ambitions that, I would suspect, most people agree with, but turning them into action is another matter.

That’s where the team here at Digital Jersey are pleased to be working closely with our colleagues in Education to ensure the voices of young people, and their specific needs, are being taken into account as we review the digital and broader curriculum.

We’re previously spoken with industry about the sorts of skills they need from the workforce of tomorrow, but how often have we actually listened to the young people themselves? I’ll be frank in admitting I thought this was very much the domain of the Children’s Commissioner, but the conference has made me very clear that it’s everybody’s responsibility.

One immediate action we can take here at Digital Jersey is to create a new category at the next Jersey TechAwards that could be focused on young people, education and digital skills.

There’s no single take-away from the conference, instead there’s a shopping list of recommendations that I’ll begin sharing with the myriad people I liaise with at policy level in the coming weeks.

Fundamentally, though, it’s about all of us taking the time to listen to the needs of children and young people when we make the big decisions that could affect their access to the digital world.

As 16-year-old Rowan said: ‘I think it is important that the views of young people like me are heard when rules and decisions are made which affect the way young people like me live our lives.’

And it’s really hard to argue with that.

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