April 6 2023 GM

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Glitter Meetups

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No Minor Futures - fairer digital societies with and for youth

Children are one third of people online globally, a representation increases significantly in countries from the Majority World. Youth are targetted by tech companies from an early age as clients and trend setters. The digital age has rendered significant and novel possibilities and challenges for our younger generations. Which digital solutions safeguard children’s lifelong development? How can we include their participation to build fairer digital societies?

Soledad Magnone (@elos on Mattermost) is an Uruguayan sociologist dedicated to the intersections between digital technologies, education and human rights. Have collaborated in the last 10 years with governments, international agencies, educators, activists and young people. Directing JAAKLAC initiative since 2020 to research, co-create and advocate for Critical Digital Education and a digital age centred in our younger generations.


First of all, can you share more about your work ‘No Minor Futures?’ What inspired your work targeting minors and youth?
  • I’ve always been inclined towards children’s wellbeing. Since I was a child, I looked up to my grandfather and his contributions to our community and orphanages as a pediatrician. At the time I couldn’t mobilise my privilege to pursue a career in medicine, so I chose social work (as my mother) which then derived into sociology.
  • Later on, I worked with children as a researcher at Uruguay’s government education and social inclusion programme. This delivered laptops to all public school students and connected to the internet schools, poor neighborhoods and public spaces. After this experience, I’ve been deepening on issues of children’s rights, freedoms and education in the digital age through my studies in Europe and the JAAKLAC initiative.
  • Children’s rights, the future of our democracy: children are one third of people online globally, yet issues regarding their rights are often sidelined. Digital solutions privilege providing digital access, often ignoring their protection and sidelining their participation in matters that affect them. Children and youth are the first generations whose lives are fully digitised, even before being born - with pregnancy apps and parents’ healthcare records. Tech companies are highly interested in youth, as clients from an early age and trend setters. It is utmost pressing to implement comprehensive strategies to promote their lifelong development.
  • For example, in the case of Uruguay, Plan Ceibal focused on reducing the digital divide in access between high and low income households. Nonetheless, issues of online safety remained broadly absent from the digital agenda until 2017, influenced by global trends in digital citizenship and focused on minors’ responsibility. Children’s voices have been constrained to standardised quantitative studies. No further spaces for children’s meaningful participation in the Digital Agenda were opened, and this didn’t even reference the various studies.
We are already delving into some of the issues and importance of your work. Can you tell us more on the findings of your project, i.e, AI, social media and ed-tech harm on children especially when ed-tech is mostly directed at kids?
  • Being critical towards the challenges and possibilities of tech is fundamental and there is a steep gap in education in this sense. To explore different ways to address it, I've been navigating different solutions with the JAAKLAC initiative. This is dedicated to research and advocate for critical digital education and youth participation in digital governance. Today I will share the experience of the NMF campaign, but I’ve expanded this approach and methods for partnerships with Tactical Tech Latin America too.
  • No Minor Futures was supported by Mozilla’s Creative Media Awards in 2022. It consisted of a collaborative educational campaign about the hopes and fears of adolescents and young people around Artificial Intelligence.
  • This was materialized in co creating animated character stories, podcasts, online workshops and a social media campaign with activists, academics, technologists, artists, adolescents and youth from around the world. And this education has been depending too much on civil society organizations. This demand exploded during the COVID pandemic.
What did you find important to do to adapt the European-developed Tactical Tech materials to be useful to your community?
  • We used the materials to provoke discussions. However, we wanted to use these to find what resonated the most with Latin American youth from different backgrounds. We then used those insights to learn about youth tactics in connections with recommendations with local digital rights organizations. The results were fresh contributions to the Tactical Tech Data Detox kit.
  • For example with No Minor Futures campaign, among the main findings from this experience were:
    • The broad landscape of possibilities that youth envision with tech for their local communities. For instance, in terms of new jobs, wellbeing for people with disabilities, creating arts, farming effectiveness, health and mental health access.
    • Concerns were mainly over the time spent with digital devices. This in relation to a sense of lack of agency, how much time we spend and what we do, for instance with online consumption of content and buying things.
    • Young people pointed at a distance with adults in terms of knowledge around digital technologies. For example, parents not understanding children’s digital wants, needs and tech being alien at schools. Teachers were pointed at not being open to use digital tech in general and online learning was not sustainable during COVID19.
    • Sexuality education, disinformation, wellbeing and gender based violence emerged in the Saga Detox de Datos Latine as well.
  • Paolo Freire, a Brazilian pedagogue, argued against banking education in which teachers deposit knowledge on students minds, manipulating their sense making of reality
What techniques did you use to engage with children? Can you share a little bit about the methods you used for the project?
  • JAAKLAC’s projects are based on three main strategies that are interconnected:
    • Dialogic education, with a Freirean approach to promote a critical consciousness around key pressing issues in society through horizontal dialogue and community knowledge.
    • This is combined with a Participatory Action Research, to enquire reality and take action to change social injustices, especially leveling up the voices of minority groups.
    • Finally, a rights based approach strengthens the strategy. Children’s rights in the digital age entail dynamically assessing the benefits and challenges of tech for them. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child is one of the most widely ratified international treaties - except for the US.
If I was creating a technology product like education, community-engagement or AI, for children, and young people, what would you suggest I pay attention to while designing it?
  • Create space for children to take part in more than one off sessions. This way you can engage with a young community, through families, schools or civil society organizations. This strategy also allows better adjusted activities to be more inclusive for people with different realities, for example school activities, work and household responsibilities.
  • Give youth autonomy to activate contributions that they find relevant and interesting. Support them into materializing these while being creative to find that intergenerational knowledge exchange in diverse collaborations.
  • Be open to surprise, recalibrate your plans and embrace the opportunities of emerging activities that could be more interesting or meaningful to the group. Be self-reflective of what you can learn from the process personally and to make the world better.
  • And remember the potential that if it is accessible for youth, then anyone can understand the topic!!
Before we leave are there any other things you would like to share with the community about your project that we have not covered?