The conference opened with welcomes and introductions by Prof Christina Slade, vice-chancellor of Bath Spa University, and Prof Stephen Ward, dean of the School of Education.
Elizabeth Ribbans shows the numerous ways young people are involved in the Guardian – not simply as consumers but also producers of news.
That ranges from taking part in book clubs to interviewing famous people.
There are also a huge range of stories where young people are the subject and these require sensitive handling.
It was clear that the Guardian was engaged in an on-going process to work out the most appropriate guidelines for dealing with young people. For instance, the ability of the internet to store information meant that a story featuring a six-year-old would be acceptable but as a 12-year-old they would have a different view. Newspapers had to be alive to the rights and concerns of young people about content they are involved in. Against this had to be balanced the integrity of the newspaper archive as a record of work.
That could also mean protecting young people from themselves and Elizabeth Ribbans gave an example of a student who posted on twitter and then was shocked to see it used in a news story. They hadn’t realised what publishing on twitter entailed. It would be a mistake to assume that young people are automatically ‘more savvy’ about technology than adults.
Elizabeth Ribbans emphasised that the Guardian worked under legal rules such as those which protected young people in court cases, industry guidelines such as the Press Complaints Commission, and its own editorial guidelines. The latter were being reviewed and would take into account changing ideas about young people and online content.
In answer to questions, Elizabeth Ribbans explained about the comment moderation process for online discussion. The Guardian has closed comments where young people have posted pieces because of the abusive comments that can result. While this robust discussion is accepted by adults it is not something young people should be forced to deal with and yet they have a right to post comment articles. Elizabeth Ribbans described post moderation as a “human process”.