Written by Zakiya Patel

Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE recently won our “Social Driver Award for Film Club and iRights” for her fresh and innovative approach to educating young people on a smorgasbord of cultures and issues.

Baroness Kidron, Director of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, has ventured to the “edge of madness” (so to speak) in attempting to widen the horizons of today’s youth, showing them that ‘film’ means more than the Harry Potter series and that Disney are not the only filmmakers from whom lessons can be learned.

In a world where children are glued to their phones and view wifi as essential as food and water, being exposed to variety is key in achieving interconnectedness, Baroness Kidron explains “Film is a great leveller. There is no subject that film has not tackled and often we find young people more expressive and engaged once they have had a common, shared experience”. Founder of IntoFilm, a charity that seeks to use film to educate children, she aims to encourage pupils to watch a diverse range of films and write reviews, providing them with a creative outlet and encouraging debate outside of which Instagram filter they should use. Through film, she hopes to give children the confidence to converse and find common ground.

Emulating the mad yet highly inspiring ambition of Bridget Jones, whose life she directed, Baroness Kidron is also spearheading the iRights campaign, a 5-point framework that enables children and young people to access the internet “creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly”. In an age of sensationalism, she stresses the importance of “a more conscious use of the net that makes a proper contribution to young people, understanding how their emotions might be manipulated for economic, political gain”.

She acknowledges that “no framework can deal with all the ills of society” in light of cases like ISIS and extreme revolutions, which young people are so susceptible to with sensationalistic headlines on every screen. Her viewpoint, however, is that “if we only interrogate those parts of the digital world that deal with extreme views and/or extreme violence and sexual content - we are ignoring a whole swathe of issues that young people face 24/7”. In tackling these issues at a grassroots level, she is hoping to prevent a “tired, over stimulated generation- one in four of whom regularly miss sleep, food or school because they are engaged in activity that they could not stop”.

Crazy though it sounds, trying to break through what seems like an impenetrable digital world that every young person has built for themselves, Baroness Kidron insists that “data, identity, compulsive behaviour, unintended consequence, distraction, social pressure, interruption all add up to a problem that we as a society are failing to tackle”. This recognition is the first step in ensuring the digital wellbeing of today’s generation. The trepidation of penetrating the seemingly intimidating issue of youths and their devices is one she has bypassed with determination.

When asked how young people can creatively talk about sensitive and political issues, she highlights, “It is site specific and depends on the level of surveillance, punishment and what social position you hold.” In our own countries, all we can do is “publicise and support those brave enough to stand up, hold our own government to account when it puts National interest above the principle” in a system which “privileges the privileged“.

By pioneering iRights, Baroness Kidron hopes to achieve a “better world”. She aims for “consensus around digital technologies. It is the organising technology of society and it needs to develop a good attitude towards young people - resilience, rights and responsibilities - theirs and ours!” In implementing such initiatives, she is helping to develop youths that are more aware of the world at large and encouraging “an upgrade of the digital world where it interacts with children“.

Through winning the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award, Baroness Kidron hopes that others “will be curious enough to find out more, to become signatories and advocate for iRights”. Insisting that success lies in being “built from the grassroots up”, the work of Baroness Kidron continues to inspire and educate, creating a foundation for an independent, culturally aware and digitally mature generation, one a far cry from the zombies of popular culture perceived by much of the older generation. 

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