In the past decades the internet became increasingly important in the life of billions of people. At the same time, it started representing a threat with the spread of hate speech and dissemination of fake news. Experts are still trying to understand in what extent false information can damage democratic societies, but in one point they agree: it affects democracies in a negative way and can even change one country’s destiny.
Extremist groups have managed to develop specific strategies to persuade individuals according to their preferences available on the internet. Broadly speaking, young people represent the main target of extremist groups and their vulnerability could be decreased with education.
Since 2008 policymakers have been discussing how education can provide youth with the necessary critical thinking to challenge hate speech and identify manipulated images/information. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) in partnership with the Dutch citizenship education providers Codename Future developed the Digital Resilience Project as an attempt to reduce the impact caused by fake news and hate speech available on the internet. The target audience of this project is young people between 16-19 years old who learn, among other things, how to identify manipulations of images and news.
The project was implemented in six schools in the Netherlands and six teachers were trained to give classes for 135 students. The first results proved the project has potential to challenge online hate speech. 81% of the students recognized they have gained new skills and 47% affirmed they would behave differently after the training.
Although adolescents and young adults are the main consumers of violent content available on the internet, they are also more likely to develop new skills through education. Therefore, they are the best applicants to participate in this project that in the end will also prepare students to become leaders, inspiring their peers to engage in positive causes and share knowledge on the internet in a democratic way.
In this sense, Digital Resilience is also about Digital Citizenship as it prepares young people to consume information in a critical way and raise their voice on matters that have been damaging our society.
You can find more information about this project here:
By Barbara Lopes