Australian government gets digital advice from kids

By Anne Collier

Doesn’t it just make sense? That government programs aimed at educating youth actually consult youth about what works for them? The Australian federal government is doing just that in what I hope becomes a model for other governments. “The Youth Advisory Group (YAG) on Cybersafety program for 2013 has been launched [this week] with the first online discussion forum taking place with primary school students in the Northern Territory, South Australia and West Australia,” ComputerWorld reported. A government’s practicing digital citizenship! Students aged 8-17 discuss what comes up in their online experiences in “live, secure and moderated online discussion forums with other students, moderators and [this week] the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.” These are discussion forums open for set periods of time, for example one with high school students in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. And the consultations will include the face-to-face element we human beings need too – with a “Cybersafety Summit” that’ll happen in Melbourne in August.

I hope the discussion is as much about what digital safety and literacy education actually works for kids and kids feel they can be candid. This isn’t rigorous research, and the format and methodology have their limitations; whether or not these are “only” self-selected or teacher-appointed students (the article doesn’t mention demographic or socio-economic representation), there’s certainly broad geographic representation. But most important, what a message to send young people, that their government wants their input? Seems to me, this government is modeling citizenship as well as digital citizenship for the youth among its citizens!

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