The influence of social networks on psycho-emotional development of youth

Stakeholders, child helpline and ICT members were present during the 2016 GSMA and Child Helpline International workshop “Safer Internet: Issues and responses”. The participants focused on issues around internet safety and how to best support capacity building for child helplines. Three #Youth members were also present and contributed to the event. This is Lucija’s take on the experience!

A story by Lucija


The most beneficial aspect of my trip to London was getting the wider picture about the complexity of emotional and sexual abuse online. Throughout the whole meeting, I was thinking about the role of our Youth Advisory Council and youth in general in these issues.

My contribution was centered around the positive and negative influence of social networks on the psycho-emotional development of youth.  Next to my own input, in each presentation during the day I found something interesting, new and inspiring. However there were some which stood out and enriched my perspective the most.  

For example, I remember Thomas Muller saying that child helplines could use some guidelines on online sexual abuse because most of the counsellors approach online and offline sexual abuse the same way. And that’s not because of lack of knowledge, but because online sexual abuse often does not exist as part of their training and in guidelines. He furthermore pointed out that one of the roles of child helplines is to raise awareness on the issue – both among parents and children.

I believe that there is no better way to approach both of these populations than through youth. We, as youth, know what’s going on out there. If someone of my own age tells me that she doesn’t want to upload to social media that picture where she is holding a beer because you never know where this might show up, I will be amazed! When someone older tells me “don’t upload photos you don’t want your future boss to see”, I would be: “Oh, come on! Which boss? Where? Stop being so anxious!”

We, the youth, are the “aboriginals” of the online world. It is our world.

Since the online world is primarily our world, we are its “aboriginals” and we know our land the best. I thus think campaigns about online abuse should be planned and carried out along with youth. There are so many creative and fun ways to do these – start a summer camp, start a new council, make a team of different specialists to work hand in hand with representatives of youth and figure out the best ways to protect children from online abuse.

Another point mentioned by speakers was adding the child helpline number to every child’s mobile phone. I think this is possible (they transplant kidneys these days!) if there is enough good will. Such progress will be especially important for helplines that don’t have enough funding to promote themselves. It is important that the child always, always feels safe! The sense of security and control would be raised if the child would have an immediate contact with the child helpline, whenever needed.

It is important that the child always, always feels safe!

The second interesting speaker for me was Jorik Korenromp. I didn’t have any idea that there are so many different apps a child could use online. I think we should stay updated to the different apps appearing and the possible dangers associated with them. Furthermore app developers should have to consult with Child Rights Protectors before launching their programme.

The third, and probably my favourite, presentation was by Alisa Simon from Kids Help Phone in Canada. I am really curious about their take on sexting and I’d like to know more about it. Children and youth don’t engage in fishy and dangerous activities with no reason – it’s to fulfil some of our needs. Offering a space for the need to be fulfilled, in a safe surrounding, is in my opinion, the best option.

I am really happy and honoured that I got the opportunity to attend and contribute to this workshop.

I learned a lot, but also felt that I have something to say and the right to be heard. I definitely think we can make a contribution on the matter, as the #Youth!