Why use SELMA when educating children and young people about online hate speech?

SELMA holds the view that children and young people can and should be empowered to become agents of change in their offline and online communities. Education responses to online hate speech should not preach what is “good” or “bad”. Rather, they should encourage and enable children and young people to critically and creatively engage with the problem of online hate speech and its possible solutions:

  • What is online hate speech?
  • How does it affect my personal and social environment?
  • Which role can I play – together with my peers – in addressing online hate speech and changing society for the better?

In the SELMA Toolkit, each of these thematic questions are approached from three methodological focus angles, in particular Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), media literacy and citizenship education.

This SEL approach allows children and young people to:

  • explore how hate speech makes them and others feel;
  • develop an emotional vocabulary to describe those feelings;
  • draw on metacognitive strategies to rationalise their own responses;
  • appreciate other people’s circumstance and experience another’s “internal map of the world”;
  • develop a range of strategies to manage online social interactions in a way that disrupts/defuses conflict.

These are valuable life skills that are often not formally addressed through a pressured curriculum; when they are, it is often with a narrow focus.

Media literacy will help your pupils to think about online hate speech in a more conscious and deliberate way, to understand and to analyse their own experience as online content users, while offering opportunities to use media to navigate these issues, raise awareness, promote counter-narratives, disrupt negative behaviours and amplify positive messages.

The ultimate objective of the SELMA Toolkit is to enable teenagers to make constructive and ethical choices about personal behaviour and social interactions. Throughout the SELMA Toolkit, learners will be encouraged to reflect and act in response to concrete online hate speech situations, which can be local, national, and/or global in nature. In our view, individuals need to be enabled to put online hate speech into context, starting from an awareness and critical analysis of the increasingly complex range of diverging (and often conflicting) views and perspectives in a digital society, while exploring pathways of change towards mutual tolerance and respect.