Keeping safe online youth group
Carys reflects on the first session of the 'Keeping safe online' youth group, which took place in January 2023.
The Welsh Government is working with Young Wales to engage with children and young people across Wales and gain a better understanding of their online experiences. The newly established Keeping safe online youth group is made up of secondary school learners aged 13-16 who are being invited to share their views and perspectives on how best to support children and young people with online safety.
Here is an interview with Carys-Megan James, one of the group members, following the first session, which took place in January 2023.
Tell us about the first session.
This session was our first opportunity as group members to meet each other and have a face-to-face discussion about the group’s goals. After introductions, we took part in an ice-breaker activity in which members were presented with a media story and we had to decide whether it was real or fake news, bringing awareness to the topic of online misinformation. Following this, we made a code of conduct to establish a comfortable environment to share and discuss our thoughts and ideas. The next activity involved making a mind map of what keeping safe online means to each of us, which sparked in-depth and insightful conversations about a broad range of topics. After a lunch break, we resumed with an activity in which participants chose a particular subject related to being online, and then discussed whether this was beneficial or dangerous. To conclude the session we discussed the future of the keeping safe online panel and what future sessions will look like.
Group members have different reasons for wanting to be involved. What are you hoping to get out of it?
I’m hoping to see some progress made to keep people safe online and that sharing my experiences of being online as a young person with the panel can help. Online safety is something I’m particularly passionate about and in an age ruled by technology and the internet being an integral part of many people’s lives, it’s extremely important that people are aware of how to be safe, whom and where they can turn to for support, and that there are procedures in place to protect them.
Quotes from other members
“To be honest, the internet is a deep and rather dark place. I thought I’d have a go at shedding a little more light on it. I’m thrilled there are others who seem to have thought the same!”
“I would love to be part of something that aims to keep children safe online and provide a better future for young people in Wales.”
“I would really value the opportunity to be part of this youth group, to work with young people from other schools on an important issue.”
“I would like to help the Welsh government to make changes that improves the lives of all children in Wales.”
“I want to join this group in hopes of making sure something like social media, which is so influential and popular, is providing our country with more positives then negatives, to make it less dangerous and in particular less destructive of our livelihoods.”
“I would like to teach young people about the internet that I never got taught.”
“I want to contribute as much as I can to help young people have access to education and support regarding online safety, since being online at a young age can expose people to many dangerous things and can have a lot of negative effects, as I personally, and many others have experienced.”
“This group would allow for me to voice my own (and many others') opinions while also expanding on the positive aspects of the help and support offered by the Welsh Government.”
At the session the group talked about some of the challenges for young people online. Tell us about these and any discussion points that stood out?
With the oversaturation of content at our fingertips, a massive challenge faced by many young people is moderating how much time we spend on social media. Users are constantly fed content that is geared towards them based on analytics, so it can be easy to lose track of time and in some cases lead to online addictions. The more content we see, the higher the chances are that we come across something potentially harmful or misleading, so it is a challenge for many to differentiate between what is accurate and what is not. This also applies to marketing and promotion by influencers. Social media has also been shown to have a negative impact on many young people’s confidence - most posts only show the best parts of someone’s life, so for many young people it can feel like their own life is ‘boring’ in comparison.
The group expressed concern for younger children who are growing up with technology and the internet even more than you did. What do you think are the main issues?
Children are gaining access to the internet from a young age, which can be dangerous when considering their exposure to so much - sometimes sensitive - content. When children are spending so much of their time online, it can limit social interaction and have a greater impact on their development and limit their real-life childhood experiences. Many children start using social media because without it they may feel left out or like they are missing out on something. When considering the impact being online can have on one’s concentration, mental health and self-confidence, it’s concerning to think about how this can impact children at a very early age.
The group are interested in exploring ways that they can directly input into future activities. What are some of the ideas that were discussed or that you think could have a positive impact? What are you most looking forward to?
During the group, we discussed the idea of hosting Q&As and interviews with experts. I think that working alongside experts on this topic and ensuring that young people are involved in the decision-making process is vital to making positive steps in the improvement of online safety. I’m most looking forward to working as a group and with different people and seeing the change we can make through it.
I am a member of the Welsh Government’s ‘Keeping safe online’ youth group. I’m particularly passionate about youth voice and online safety which led to my involvement in the group.
I’m currently in year 12 studying Chemistry, Biology, Maths and English Literature A levels. Outside of this panel, I’ve done youth voice work with different organisations, and I am also the UK Youth Parliament Member for Rhondda Cynon Taf.