DUBAI: Meta recently hosted a virtual forum on digital literacy to help young adults in the Middle East and North Africa navigate digital platforms. The forum, which was broadcast live on Meta’s official Facebook page, explored the importance of digital literacy programs in creating a safer online experience for young users and reducing the risk of misbehavior in the real world.
The event brought together leading organizations working on youth well-being to discuss the role of digital literacy in promoting the safe and responsible use of digital platforms to fight misinformation, hate speech, bullying and harassment and address online safety, privacy and digital citizenship among MENA youth aged 13 to 18 years old.
“Digital citizenship involves using technology responsibly for any individual who engages with social media, the internet, and other digital tools to interact with other members of society,” said Rama Halaseh, policy programs manager at Meta for the MENA region.
She added: “We aim to partner with multiple organizations across the region on youth digital literacy as a key pillar of the work we continue to do in the MENA to create a safe environment for everyone engaging responsibly on digital platforms.”
The first panel brought together experts from the SecDev Foundation and the Arab Digital Expression Foundation to discuss the importance of understanding digital citizenship.
Ranwa Yehia, co-founder and chairperson of ADEF Egypt, said: “In designing programs on digital literacy for youth, attention to long-term impact, criticality and fun exposure and practice to latest trends in technology are essential.”
Dr. Raed M. Sharif, senior regional manager of [email protected], the Digital Resilience for Women and Youth in MENA Program at the SecDev Foundation said: “Digital citizenship and resilience skills are crucial for Arab youth’s future.”
He added: “Whether it is basic digital literacy skills, such as using digital tools, or more advanced ones, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, Arab youth need to be digitally safe, productive and innovative in order to capitalize on the many socioeconomic, political and cultural opportunities offered by the digital environment.”
The second panel featured leaders from the non-profit Sourire de Reda and the Himaya Foundation, who discussed building an ecosystem for prevention and protection.
Myriam Bahri, director-general of Sourire de Reda, said that the non-profit, which has been working for over a decade to prevent suicide among youngsters, believes in “the importance of spreading messages of life, hope and kindness through awareness campaigns.”
She added that the non-profit believes that “social media plays a tremendous role in this matter” and trusts “peer prevention to be one of the most efficient ways to prevent suicide among teenagers,” as they identify more easily with a person their age who is going through the same life experiences.
Meta said in a statement that it will work on “leveraging collective efforts and building partnerships with organizations on the ground” and “convene with stakeholders, share resources, and invest programmatically in educating young users about the responsible and safe use of digital platforms across the region.”
The organization is also looking to work with local partners in the region to address community needs and challenges.
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