Keynote speech of the H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden on children on the Internet – 2012

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15 June 2012 | 09:00-9:30
Programme overview 2012


Key Participants

  • Young people from Nordic Youth IGF


  • Beata Wickbom


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This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

>> OLA BERGSTROM: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s take your seats.

I hope you had a nice evening last night and also waking up to a beautiful Stockholm morning.

I will give the floor to the moderator of the first session of today, Beata Wickbom, who will say a few words and also present the keynote speaker of today.

Beata, the floor is yours.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Thank you so much, Ola.

I’m happy to moderate this first session of day two, which will be focusing on children and youth online. For two days, I’ve been spending time with the Nordic Youth delegation that has met here in Stockholm, discussing issues that concern our lives online. You saw some of their reflections and ideas on the film yesterday.

Perhaps, Martina, you can upload the link to the film in the Twitter feed.

Some of my reflections from these two days could perhaps serve as an introduction to this half hour. Although I’ve started working with the Web already in ’95, and so I feel fairly digital, I spent almost half my life being digital, I still reflect upon the fact that my default setting is off line. I refer to off line. And I realize perhaps that many of us in the room who are over 35 do the same. And this reflects – these are reflected in our discussions and in our comments and in our values.

When I started working with the Web, we had an expression that was information at your finger tips. The Web was very much about information and knowledge. And we were typing our imaginary desktop computers with our fingers like this. When I hear the discussions of the Nordic Youth delegation, it’s very much people at my finger tips. Or people at my thumbs, rather, since mobile is the platform, mobile is the most common behavior. So these are two things: Off line as a default and people before information.

And we always, as grownups, see the future in an analogy of the past. So, for example, when we had the smartphone, we called it a smartphone. With the iPhone, we called it a smartphone, because it was smarter than just the regular phone where you call and you use GPS and so on. But when we stretch it farther and use it as a new behavior, perhaps we should call it a device to enhance technology. And when I hear the young people discuss their lives, the mobile isn’t a device, it’s more a behavior.

And I talked to my daughter Ellen this morning, who is 11 years old. She has a fashion blog. She is fairly active in a horse game, where she sells and buys rabbits and makes money, inline currency, but she can trade that for better horses. She is 11. I said that I’m going to speak at this conference. What is the Internet for you? And she is constantly online. She is an instantgram addict. She said I think it’s the www thing when you type that, I think that is called the Internet.

So we must be aware of the fact that semantics might also be hindering us from having open discussions, because it’s a lot about words and understanding what we actually mean when we say things. And I will later be asking the young people up here on stage their favorite activity online.

Just the word “online” feels strange to me. And I would rather ask them so what is your favorite activity, and not say online, because the – then that is about our lives in general, that’s not a specific activity.

In order for us to learn from the next generation, I think we have to look beyond the default settings, beyond the semantics and assistive technology look at what technology can be and what it is, and hopefully we can learn more about ourselves in that process. So please open your minds during this session and find new perspectives.

And with these words and these reflections, let’s start the session. So please rise for Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden.

And we are delighted that our first speaker this morning is someone who has been active in the debate about conditions for children and young people on the net for a long time.

Please, a warm welcome to Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Sweden. (Applause)

>> HM QUEEN SILVIA: Good morning, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I was so very pleased to receive the invitation to speak at this conference. Not only because I’m looking forward to an interesting morning, but also because I consider the issue of children and Internet extremely important.

When I founded the World Childhood Foundation 13 years ago, I did so because I had seen how many children all around us were at risk of being abused and exploited. And although there are many organisations around the world working with children, it just wasn’t enough. I strongly felt that there was a need for more good efforts, and this became an organisation focused on children at the edge of society, those who were not seen and who needed support to get on the right track and grow into happy and healthy adults.

To do this, we decided to work mainly with preventive methods and more importantly we decided that we needed to be where the children are.

Some years back, we realized that the children started developing new less obvious arenas where they could socialize, learn about life, and have new experiences. The Internet became a place of interaction, information, and new experiences. In addition, this was an arena where they could be anonymous and where few adults were present. For a teenager, this must be heaven. And for most teenagers, the Internet has become a fantastic tool to make friends, stay in contact with friends far away for academic purpose, et cetera.

But for some children, the Internet has also become a place where the lack of protection and adult supervision may place them in great harm and danger, which is why we strongly need guidance in how to protect our children on the Internet without limiting them, the positive effects of the Internet.

There are several rules and regulations in existence today with the purpose to protect and support our children. Our challenge is to ensure that these also apply to the Internet. One example is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a key Convention and it also applies in conjunction with the use of the Internet by children and young people. The Convention assures children and young people the right to express their opinions and the right to information. However, it also prescribes that the child is entitled to a private life and to be protected from a terror that might be harmful. It seeks in general to provide protection from people who in various ways are relevant to children.

Children and young people are spending an increasing amount of time on the Internet and using social media and, therefore, face the challenge of finding a good balance, considering the best interests of the child. A growing number of children abuse the Internet, for example. One in two three-year-olds in Sweden currently uses the Internet. This is a challenge that both parents and educators have to deal with, so that they can make children aware and enable them to become critical media users, competent to protect both their own privacy and the privacy of others. We must also, of course, protect children and young people who are for other reasons of manifest risk of running into digital trouble. This may be children without good adult role models. This may be children who for various reasons take greater risks than others and consequently become more exposed and vulnerable on the Internet.

These may be children with different forms of disability, who need special support to interpret information and understand potential risks associated with people they meet while on the Internet.

The Convention also stipulates that the countries that have exceeded, it should assist parents to become good parents. We as adults must participate and support children and young people in their everyday use of digital media just as we do in all other areas of their upbringing.

We often participate in the their leisure activities, taking them around for their sporting activities, and get involved with young people in various local activities. As adults, we feel comfortable with this involvement and can see the use. However, the constant change of social arenas and new ways of interaction mean that many of us may sometimes feel uncertain about how best to support our children and young people.

The Internet and digital media plays a major part of the day-to-day lives of our children and young people. The problem is that we as adults do not have a sufficiently great insight into their new day-to-day lives.

We need knowledge and understanding in order to

provide good support. The good news is that we can get the support from our children and young people if we listen. They have a great deal to tell us. If we look, they have much to show us. If we make ourselves available, we can learn so much more from them.

I’m a strong believer in physical meetings so that we can see and interact in real life with the people we meet, so that we can bring in more dimensions in the meeting. I was, therefore, very happy to learn that around 30 young people from the Nordic countries have met in real life for a few days preceding this conference. They discussed the use of the Internet, looking at behavior and standards, the things that it is important to be aware of, and the rules and principles concerning what should or not should apply. I’m very happy that some of these delegates are here today.

Let us ensure that we listen to what they have to say and use their message as a platform for further discussions.

Let us ensure that we protect our children on the Internet just as much as we try to protect our children in real life.

I wish you good luck and a fruitful conference, and thank you for what you are doing. Thank you very much.


>> BEATA WICKBOM: Thank you so much. I’d like to invite my panel of a selected group of the delegates from the Nordic Youth Delegation. So, could I have the slides, please?

So please come up on stage.


Yes, you can cheer a lot, because this is a very big room and a very big stage. So to encourage us, please give us a warm hand if you feel we’re on the right track. If you support us, cheer for us.

Welcome up. We met for a few days. The Queen also briefly discussed what we were talking about. Dilja, tell us more, what was the Nordic Youth Internet Governance Forum? What did you do here?

>> DILJA HELGADOTTIR: It was a project between the Nordic countries. We were 14 to 18. And we were to create a Youth Nordic Delegation. And even though we’re of course to discuss the situation of the Internet and today and how it should be in the future, and even though we’re like all different and we have different opinions and views and things, we were able to conclude a conclusion about what we think are the most important use or the most important topics on the Internet today. And we worked for two days very hard. We started like 9 o’clock in the morning and we ended at 9 o’clock in the evenings. And it was also very fun and creative. So I’m very glad that we got this opportunity all to meet and work together.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Fredric and Dilja, what did you discuss? What were the main themes?

>> FREDERIC: During these past days, we have discussed pretty much everything regarding Internet issues. Everywhere from monitoring on the Internet to personal preferences when we are browsing the Web.

But to give a few examples, one of the issues that arised during the days were the theme on the freedom of speech. We had quite a hectic discussion. Like Dilja said, we are not really agreeing on all the points, considering that we are from different personalities and we have different personal preferences.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: What were the differences that you were having?

>> FREDERIC: Well, we all have different opinions, but in the end we were able to agree on three fundamental points and I’d like to recite those. Those are education on the Internet. Those are privacy and integrity on the Internet. And the ease of use of Internet.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: And we will dig deeper into some of the kinds of suggestions that you have or on what to focus on.

In your opinion, participating in this kind of discussion, what was most valuable to you?

>> Well, I would have to say to come here and get the other Nordic Youth participants’ views on this topic and just finding out about how similar our views really are on these topics.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Olivia, Frederic mentioned the three main themes. When you say – when you discussed education, what were the aspects that you were addressing? Like what were the topics that felt important to you as young people?

>> OLIVIA: Well, what we discussed really was that you need to teach children about the Internet earlier, because that’s the best way of preventing risks, we feel.

And also that we need to, since we were kind of born into the Internet, we know a lot about it, but a lot of older people don’t. So maybe we younger people could teach older people how to use the Internet so that the education goes both ways.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: You talked about some kind of mentorship model?

>> Yeah. We thought that maybe some younger people in groups could like be some kind of mentor for an older person, and then they could teach them about the Internet. And that would really bring the generations closer together.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: If you were my mentor, what would you teach me?

>> That’s a difficult one. I haven’t thought about it.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Would you like to be a mentor?

>> Maybe. I don’t think I’m patient enough, but I could try.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: I think many of the participants in the group felt that it was challenging and it would have been fun to be.

But, Dilja, what about the role of parents, what – what would you have wanted your parents to be involved with?

>> DILJA HELGADOTTIR: Well, I think it’s very important that parents feel the need to, like, inform their children and educate them and protect them, of course, because of all the like legal and inappropriate risks that we can find online.

And I also think it’s important that people like our parents are role models to their children. Because, yeah, because we look up to them, and I think they should behave as good on the Internet as they would do in real life in front of us.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Did you think your parents protected you? Were they like role models for you?

>> DILJA HELGADOTTIR: Well, I started using the Internet when I was quite young, but yes, my mom like – I got a chance to get more information by myself and they told me like about the risk. And, yes, don’t talk to them if some guys like start to talk to you in a chat room that you don’t know. And don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. So I think it was like maybe I wasn’t informed enough, but I got like a little bit of information about it before I started.

But I also think that, I don’t know, since I started using the Internet quite young, my, what do you call it, at least I think my knowledge on the Internet is probably quite the same as my parents’ now.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: What about you, what would you have wanted to learn more about when you were younger? You said to me, now it’s too late. I would have liked to learn things earlier.

>> Earlier?

>> BEATA WICKBOM: How old are you now?

>> I’m 17. Well, I would just liked to have received more general information about the Internet, because my parents don’t use the Internet very much. And, well, I think it’s a joint responsibility between parents and schools and such. So just receive more general information about it. But commonsense is always good.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: What about you, what would you have liked to learn more about? Because – do you agree that parents should be more involved?

>> Yes.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Well, what would you learn more about that you didn’t get?

>> I think that we should get more education in the primary schools and schools.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: When you discussed the second issue, ease of use, which was an important one. And there were lots of different aspects that you were discussing. What were the different aspects that you discussed?

>>Well, we discussed easier payment methods, where you don’t need to put in personal information, like your e-mail address or phone number. Because like Alexander Ross said in the video they showed yesterday, it’s easier to steal a movie than buy it on the Internet, and we need to change that.

And we also discussed that we needed more easily understandable terms and conditions, because they are usually very long and contain many complicated legal words.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: So, Olivia, how would you improve the ease of use? What were your suggestions? Were you discussing that?

>> OLIVIA: Yes, for the terms of use, we thought it would be just great if we actually understood what it actually meant. Because right now we just press “next” and “accept” for the rest, and we have no idea what they are actually about. Because as children or youths, we don’t really know those big words or things like that. So it would be great if there was like a simple English version, or a summary on top of it, so we could have some idea what it was about. So we don’t do something stupid by accepting it.

And for the easier payment, we just wanted like some – we really didn’t get too fine into that, because we thought it was really difficult. But we really wanted a way that we could keep our privacy, but still keep it easy enough to pay for things online.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Privacy and integrity, Frederic, those were issues that you spent most of the time discussing. In what way are these important issues to young people?

>> FREDERIC: Well, it is a really interesting question to discuss, actually. First of all, I would like to stress the fact that to us younger people, the sense of an existence of anonymity is quite important to us. We feel that in real life, compared to the online life, if we were to separate those two, the sense of anonymity on the online life is much more important, because we feel that we can express ourselves more.

For example, let’s take Facebook. Facebook is more like an extension of our real life. We feel that if this is an extension of our real life, we cannot really express ourselves as we want to, because we want to stay as the person people know us as on Facebook, like we are in real life.

Now, if we were to stay a little bit more anonymous on the Internet, we feel that we are much more able to express ourselves as a person, and go through the more deeper parts of ourselves.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: The Queen, Olivia, talked about the digital trouble. And we also talked a lot about risks online. And I was actually a little bit surprised that you saw a lot of risks online. Can you tell us what the risks you were discussing were, and for you personally?

>> OLIVIA: For me personally, I don’t think safety is the biggest risk online. I think information is. The Internet is a great source for finding out about everything, really, but I don’t think a lot of children or youths understand that this information is ridiculously easy to manipulate. And I think that is the biggest risk for me personally, or that’s what I would want my younger siblings to know at least.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Dilja, what were the risks for you? Have you thought about that?

>> DILJA HELGADOTTIR: Well, I agree with Olivia, of course. And I think as with any other area of life, children and young people are exposed and it could be dangerous. On the Internet, people may involve themselves in, like, in activities that can possibly be inappropriate or illegal. And I think nowadays people aren’t informed enough, like we have talked about before. So with the current education of the Internet and the Internet, I think we can fix this problem. But for me personally I’m scared that my mobile will be hacked or that my computer would be hacked.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: What are you afraid of?

>> I’m a bit afraid of like all the information that I have, like, online. Privacy, like e-mail and Facebook. I’m afraid of, like, because they have, like, so much information about myself, okay, that’s okay. But I’m afraid that they will use it in a harmful way to me.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Olivia, you said safety is not your primary concern, but I think also we were discussing safety a lot. And yesterday safety was the big “S” word here at the conference. And, Siegers, in what way is safety online important to you and what do you think about when you hear the word “safety” going into semantics and words? What is “safety?”

>> SIEGERS: Well, I think safety is important to us in every way online as well as off line.

Because whatever we’re doing, we want to be safe, whether it’s driving in traffic or whatever it is. And it’s the same with the net. So, well, define safety you say?

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Uh-huh. Is it a good word for you? Is it positive?

>> SIEGERS: Yes, of course safety is positive. I think – I don’t think you should look at safety in a negative way, because safety is just avoiding the risks and such.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Frederic, we were also discussing censorship in the same discussion of safety. What was sort of – we sort of agreed on some messages. What do you think the take away from the discussions were at the preconference?

>> FREDERIC: Well, we did discuss quite a lot about that, so it’s hard to extrapolate. But I would agree with Siegers, that wherever we are today, whether it be online or off line, we want to feel as secure as humanly possible. And as Siegers also told us, it’s so hard to define safety.

But I find that safety is through knowledge. And that’s why we thought that education of the Internet is such an important issue to us. And not only the knowledge is the important part, but also we found out that censorship to a certain degree is important, because censorship on a rather shallow level can still protect us for what we feel insecure about. Yet at the same time censorship is not only to protect us. Censorship has been used to limit us on the Internet. And as the Internet was created as a form of freedom of speech, we found it to be both positive and negative.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: We’re running out of time, but I think if there are questions from the audience, perhaps you could address our panelists afterwards in the break and have a more, like, informal chat with them.

We need to wrap up. And I’ll ask you, Olivia, how would you like to be included in the discussion about the future of the net? Now, being part of EuroDIG is one example. But, like, did you talk about that, like how the voices of young people can be included in these types of forums?

>> OLIVIA: Well, we didn’t discuss that all that much, but I think this is definitely a great start. More presence of younger people at events such as this one is great.

On a personal level, I’m not sure exactly how every single, like, individual could be heard, but it would be great if there was a way for not just people who are lucky enough to be a part of a things like the Nordic Youth delegation could actually get their voices heard.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: How about you, how would you like to be included?

>> DILJA HELGADOTTIR: Well, I think it’s important that adults are open-minded and they give us a chance to talk and read our thoughts and so on. And I’m sure that the younger generation has also many things that we can, like, educate or inform the older generation about. And I would also like to say I’m very glad to be here today and it has been – it’s a great opportunity and a good start, as Olivia said, and I hope we are welcomed back.

>> BEATA WICKBOM: Thank you, and thank you for having us. Thank you, panelists.


>> BEATA WICKBOM: I’ll hand it to you.