The Final Event of the Healthy Social Media Project ‘Helping make young people’s experience of using social media a healthy, positive & life-affirming one’’ was organised by EfVET on the 27th March. The conference explored how can we promote a healthier use of social media among younger generations.

The Healthy Social Media project coordinator, Julie Jamieson (New Lodge Duncairn Community Health Partnership), introduced the main goals of the project, the most important one being to improve the ability of young people to assess and engage with the digital and social media they are consuming and creating. She also presented the results of the Healthy Social Media survey conducted amongst students. The findings showed that the majority of the students spend more than 6 hours a day online, so it is fundamental to educate them to be critical towards unreliable fabrication and fake news.  Canice Hamill (Canice Consulting Limited) presented the Teaching Resources. The online course is already available and it is divided into 8 different modules, each of them focusing on different aspect of social media usage and consequences.

Sonia Naiba (Momentum) introduced another useful tool: the Healthy Social Media app designed to help teenagers and young people to think about the way they use social media. It is already available on Google Play and it’s coming soon on Apple Store! Karin Volpato gave some insights into the lessons learnt from the project. Sue Bird (European Commission, DG-EMPL) gave an introduction on the EU Vocational Skills week, an annual event gathering together a wide range of stakeholders to share their perspectives on VET and its role in the future of work.

“All starts with knowledgeable and empowered teachers”

The panel discussion was focused on the importance of developing critical thinking skills to promote Healthy Social Media use for digital empowerment and was moderated by Valentina Chanina (EfVET). Manuel Bordoy Verchili (Director at European School Brussels IV (Laeken) opened the discussion highlighting the fundamental role teachers play in educating young people into a safe and healthy online environment. He also stated that responsible citizenship also applies in the virtual world with the same ethical framework and the same values. Sabrina Vorbau (Project Manager eSafety Team – European Schoolnet) raised a significant issue: it is not only about educating young people, but also about educating adults. She introduced some Digital Citizenship projects aimed at empowering young people to help them shape their digital identity and to counteract negative aspects such as cyberbullying and fake news. However, the responsibility should be shared in a multi-stakeholder approach.

Gabriela Ruseva (Policy and Project Officer at All Digital) introduced the 11th edition of All Digital week and insisted that education and skills are key to empower young people to be critical and aware of the use of technology. A smart way to attract young people’s attention is by fostering digital creativity and linking it with the responsible use of social media. Prerna Humpal (Head of Communications at Eurochild) stressed the necessity of engaging children in the policymaking process: ‘’work not only for the children but with the children’’. Of course, there are challenges and fears around Social Media, but we need to acknowledge also the opportunities (the students’ movement to demand action to prevent global warming and climate change could be a great example). Social Media will need to be more inclusive, accessible and secure in the future.

Presentations