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Digital skills

How can you encourage positive online behaviour?

A teenage girl sits at the dining table reading messages or browsing the internet on her phone.

The Social Switch Project is just one way delivery partners, Redthread and Catch22, are intervening early in harmful behaviour to prevent further youth violence in our communities. Supported by Google.org, the programme trains London’s youth workers, teachers and other frontline professionals to switch the story on online behaviour.

For Safer Internet Day 2020, Training and Curriculum Manager Jessica Lee shares her thoughts:

At The Social Switch Project, we are often asked what online behaviour we should be encouraging or discouraging, but with the online world now as much a part of young people’s lives as the offline world, the solution is not that simple. Learning to openly talk about the online world, opening the doors to these creative, digital opportunities, and training frontline workers with the tools to do these things, requires input from everyone – organisations, parents, guardians, and schools.

As we continue to develop The Social Switch Project and respond to the daily developments of our online world, here are a few simple rules to help you encourage a positive online community for the young people you care for.

1. Control your content

For young people who have grown up online, social media platforms are where to get their information and to understand themselves. But there’s a lot of noise and some of that is harmful.

Point young people towards role models and remind them to hide anything that feels harmful – whether that’s toxic people or content which makes them feel down about their own lives. That means it’s OK to hide content that always looks like someone is having more fun than you are!

There are many online communities, influencers and campaigns that drive home messages of self-acceptance.  I_WEIGH is a powerful example of an online community that fights for inclusivity and promotes body positivity among women and girls.

2. Take time to disconnect

By setting limits for certain apps or blocking access at certain times in the day, young people can work towards a better night’s sleep and have time to check-in with their offline life! For most apps it’s very easy to block, delete or restrict friends, even if it’s just temporary.

The South West Grid and Safer Internet Centre have some great downloadable check-lists for the main social media platforms. These take you through all the main privacy features to help young people stay on top of their online safety.

3. Remember the 3 Cs…

By commenting and sharing content, we contribute to the online space. It isn’t just about creating your own material. The Social Switch Project wants to create a generation of considered contributors by  asking them to remember the 3 Cs for online behaviour:

  • Conduct – Don’t let your emotions rule online behaviour. Anger is temporary, online is forever. Take a breather and think about what you’re using your phone for. Is it to inspire or is it to hurt or provoke?
  • Content – Social media is fast paced and instantaneous. Consider what you’re posting and the impact it will have. When talking to young people, there are resources you can use online to help the conversation, such as BBC’s Is What You’re Posting Mean? quiz.
  • Care – Take care of others and of your own digital footprint. If you find yourself ready to leave a snarky comment, like a mean meme or an embarrassing video, maybe it’s time to check-out.

4. Stand up against hate

The internet can be an exciting place where young people feel safe to exchange ideas, but these open platforms can lead to conflicting or even hateful content. Consider the ways they might choose to respond to free speech – is it best to counter with positivity or check out entirely? Do you have the perfect meme for this comment or are you just feeding trolls? Very few of us have the mental capacity or the time it takes to make other people change their point of view, and young people should know it’s not their responsibility either.

Blocking or reporting content is a powerful way of standing up against harmful content and will work towards a better internet for everyone.

Selma Hacking Hate is a great resource for understanding hate speech online and the role young people can play in tackling it. You can work through some actual scenarios and develop considered responses.

5. Be creative

Creating powerful content doesn’t have to be left to the professionals. We’re seeing a generation of TikTok campaigners taking to the platform to share short videos on issues they care about. In London, there are many  workshops for young people and professionals to help make the most of our smartphones. Tech Pathways delivers free filmmaking with mobile phones training and you’ll find them at The Social Switch Project practitioner training. For the creatives among you, YouTube Creators is another great resource.