Guest post for Digital Wildfires: #TakeCareOfYourDigitalSelf

DigitalWildfiresYoung people are a highly vulnerable group on social media. Current research (summarised here https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/2015/how-safe-are-our-children-2015/ ) suggests that 1 in 3 have been victims of cyber bullying and 1 in 4 have experienced something upsetting on a social media site. The ‘Digital Wildfire’ project (www.digitalwildfire.org) explores the spread of provocative and antagonistic content on social media and seeks to identify opportunities for the responsible governance of digital social spaces. As part of this we have spent time engaging with young people and school teachers to find out their views on social media and the harms it can cause.

School teachers have told us that they are highly concerned about teenagers’ use of social media. As ‘digital natives’ these young people have a great deal of access to platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram etc. but they often lack the digital maturity and resilience necessary to use them safely. They are at risk both of experiencing harm and causing harm to others. Activities such as sexting and cyber bullying are rife in many schools and young people may often find out the hard way that they cannot always control who sees and shares what they post.

To coincide with Safer Internet Day 2016 (9th Feb) the Digital Wildfire project team has put together a set of teaching and learning materials that seek to promote digital maturity and resilience amongst teenagers. These are freely available to schools and youth groups and cover important issues such as the pros and cons of social media; digital footprints; privacy; and thinking before you post. The materials for younger groups (ages 11 to 14) are based on the theme #TakeCareOfYourDigitalSelf and incorporate our short video animation, which you can see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nXaEctiVhs .

The materials for older groups (ages 14 to 18) encourage reflection on digital citizenship. They include a video summarising our recent youth panel conducted in collaboration with the CaSMa team. The video shows the ways that a group of 16 to 18 year olds answered the question ‘What makes a good digital citizen on social media?’ and can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh1_7VVoq8g.

For a copy of the materials or to find out more about the Digital Wildfire project, please contact helena.webb@cs.ox.ac.k .

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