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Giving Ontario’s youth a seat at the table

Every January 1, my family and I take turns going around the dinner table revealing our new year’s resolutions. Typically, these are well-intended aspirations to try and improve ourselves and the world around us in some small way. We write them out on a piece of paper and discuss how we will hold each other accountable for achieving them.

Well, this year, the IPC has made a new year’s resolution too. We’re aiming to improve our privacy and access outreach to children and youth, with a view to empowering Ontario’s next generation of digital citizens.

In committing to this resolution, the IPC is starting 2023 with a new Youth Advisory Council! This group of highly-engaged youth will help guide my office in developing education and outreach materials that are more relevant to young people and will hold us accountable for it!

I’m very excited to announce the members of our new Youth Advisory Council. I look forward to convening this unique forum where they can share their views about digital literacy, access, and privacy rights in Ontario. We’ve brought together ten incredibly impressive young people, ranging in age from 15 to 24, from different communities across the province, and from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks.

At school, their academic pursuits range from science and technology to business, law, and social justice. Outside of school, they all find time to give back to their communities and participate in sports and other activities. Among our council members, we count a violinist with the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and a founder of a model United Nations club. Others are involved with their local Indigenous Friendship Centre, participate in their high school’s Black student union association, or serve in a mentor role for 2SLGBTQ+ students.

Reading their applications, what really struck me, though, was the common thread connecting them all. They each expressed the desire to work with others to make the world a better place, including a desire to contribute to the development of tomorrow’s digital citizens.

Children and Youth in a Digital World is one of four strategic priorities guiding the work of the IPC. It’s the foundation of my office’s commitment to championing the digital literacy and digital rights of young people, while holding public institutions accountable for protecting the children and youth they serve.

We’ve done a lot recently by engaging with youth advocacy groups, developing materials like Privacy Pursuit! Games and Activities for Kids, and launching a new youth-focused Instagram page. We’ve dedicated several episodes of our Info Matters podcast to privacy and access issues among children and youth, and held our 2022 Privacy Day event on the theme of Children and Youth in a Digital World. But through all of these initiatives, a key ingredient was missing. The voices of young people! Today’s youth have grown up online, and no one knows or understands their needs, desires, fears and challenges better than they do. Their fresh perspectives are an invaluable resource for supporting the IPC’s efforts to promote digital literacy and expand digital privacy and access rights for youth in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them.

The breadth of experience and viewpoints from our youth council members will serve to inform and complement our work with stakeholders and our Strategic Advisory Council. They will help shape and “test run” new educational materials we’re developing for children and youth this year. Keep an eye on our website and our social media channels, especially our Instagram page. Great stuff is coming!

With the input from the IPC’s Youth Advisory Council, I feel more confident that we can make a real difference in the lives of Ontario’s children and youth. By equipping them with the tools and resources, they will be better able to protect their privacy, safety and dignity online as they grow, learn, and mature into adulthood.

Someday when we look back, I want to say that we’ve succeeded in guiding this next generation through the opportunities and risks of the online world. By broadening the conversation and engaging young people with a seat at the table, we can learn from them. Hopefully, by listening and learning, we can achieve our new year’s resolution to make the digital world a better place for our children, and for future generations to come.

— Patricia

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