Today sees the launch of the updated Scouts Digital Citizen Badge to help young people be safer online through fun and engaging activities that encourage critical thinking across a broad spectrum of topics. These include how to work out the authenticity of news, how to manage cyber bullying and how to best mitigate other potential online harms in a positive and proactive way. The Scouts encourage young people to question, listen and have an open mind – having awareness of the risks and benefits that being online can pose to them is vital.
YouGov research conducted in 2019 with 75,000 people across 38 countries revealed that 55% of those surveyed expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation with 70% of those asked in the UK being concerned about what is real and what is fake internet content (1). In 2019, Ofcom found that just over 50% of 12 to 15-year olds said that they felt it’s difficult to work out whether news on social media is accurate or not (2). The Scouts and Nominet believe that providing the right tools in an accessible way will help young people develop new skills to combat key areas of concern like this among young people in the UK.
Scouts taking part in the Digital Citizen Badge will not only learn how to spot fake news but they will get pointers on how to best conduct themselves online, spot bad behaviour and report it, use online tools to improve their CV, and learn how to best protect their data when they are signing up to online services such as social media apps and home-school learning platforms, for example. The badge goes beyond safety with activities to demonstrate how digital tools can also positively impact learning, the community and local environment.
Chief Scout, Bear Grylls said: “I am very proud to relaunch the Digital Citizen Badge, so it’s fit for purpose in rapidly changing digital world. I am known for being able to survive in the wild but it’s just as important that young people today have their wits about them when online. Taking part in this badge will help Scouts of all ages make good online decisions. Scouting is all about helping young people develop skills for life and this badge a really good example of our approach to youth work.”
Explorer Scout Charlie white aged 15 from Sheldon in Birmingham said: “It’s really important I learn how to spot fake news that comes in on my smartphone. Sometimes my friends tell me stuff and I think that just can’t be true. Now I know a way to check it and see if it really is true.”
Eleanor Bradley, MD of Registry and Public Benefit at Nominet, said: “Our children’s relationship with technology has changed beyond all measure over recent years and particularly during lockdown as children’s learning has largely moved online and they are spending increasing amounts of time on devices. With the digital and physical worlds so intertwined we wanted to produce a badge to help each Scout be better prepared for the online world – not only for spotting what is true or false, but also how to practically protect themselves and their privacy.
“By encouraging critical thinking, discussion and positive action through the activities, this new Digital Citizen Badge will help arm these young people with a whole host of important skills and increased awareness to better manage issues they may face in both the world online and off.”