Fourteen young people from ThinkForward were thrilled to attend a workshop for secondary school students at the Google Academy in Victoria, London.

Internet Citizens is an initiative run by  Google and YouTube in partnership with UKYouth. Aimed at 13-18 year-olds, the workshops are designed to help young people navigate the internet in a safe and positive way.

Our students, seven each from City of London Academy Islington (CoLAI) and George Green’s in Tower Hamlets, were welcomed to the beach-themed offices (complete with beach balls, beach huts and giant deckchairs) with a delicious breakfast, then it was down to business with around 100 other young people from the capital.

Energetic hosts Alain Clapham and Efe Ezekiel kept the momentum going throughout the day as they led four sessions covering areas including hate speech, echo chambers, emotional manipulation and fake news. Young people were given support on how to participate safely and responsibly on the web and tips on how to use tools such as comment moderation and flagging.

Lauren, a Year 10 George Green’s pupil said: “I learned new things especially not to believe everything that goes on in social media. I won’t trust everything I read on social media now.”

Her fellow George Green’s student Georgia said: “I learned about the difference between hate speech and free speech. It’s important to understand so you don’t get into trouble. Also, I wouldn’t have checked information before, but I am more likely to check it now. It’s important to know if something is true because if someone has spread something that’s not true it could really upset someone.”

Kieran from CoLAI took part in an interview with YouTuber Nadir Hahdi who has his own YouTube channel Beni, and who produced a video to Happy by Pharrell Williams – Happy British Muslims -that’s been viewed more than two million times.

After the day, Kieran commented: “I think that it’s really good to show people the difference between hate speech and free speech and that you should not cross the line. I understand that a lot better now. I also learned now to recognise fake news which is a good skill, and to make sure you look into news before you share it, to make sure you don’t spread things that are wrong.”

Robbie, the ThinkForward coach at CoLAI felt the day had been useful for his students on two levels: “I feel comfortable now knowing that they are better equipped to navigate the web and social media content more safely.  They have a good understanding of how to deal with negativity they may face online and have an insight into how their comments may affect others.

“Another benefit was that the students got to see a new office space, which gave them exposure to a very different – and trendy –  working environment.”


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