Biography
Nicholas-Carlisle.PNGNicholas Carlisle, who has led Power of Zero since its beginnings in London in 2017, has dedicated much of his life to social justice and to ensuring that the next generation grows up with a shared commitment to kindness. He graduated from Oxford University and worked as a barrister in London while serving as chairman of the Amnesty International UK Charitable Trust. In California he practiced as a child and family psychotherapist, where he founded and led No Bully, a US based non-profit with the mission to eradicate bullying and cyberbullying worldwide.  


Interview by Mary de Souza



Video transcription

MdS:

Hello everyone - to all our network members, and to Nicholas Carlisle, who is the Director and CEO of "The Power of Zero", which is a global campaign to better equip teachers and young students with the skills they need to live and learn in an increasingly connected world.

I think, what I would like to ask you first, is why this campaign is necessary, and how it has evolved and might be even more important now that we are in the middle of, or hopefully nearing, the end of the [COVID-19] pandemic.

NC:

As a society we are going through this enormous change where our lives are going online. I think it is fair to say, that for most children around the world, their childhood was starting to be more and more online. Even before COVID, if you looked at the average 8-year-old in more developed areas they are spending maybe five hours a day online, and that excludes the amount of time they might spend online at school. And then you add COVID, and learning goes online, and my thumb estimate is that because they are now online for school, three quarters of children are now online for school due to COVID, that amount is doubled.

So, if you think about it, children are in front of a screen for maybe six to ten hours a day, and, of course, that is going to have an impact on them. We want to make sure that with this extraordinary transition online, that they are still healthy and socially and emotionally develop, in the way that they need to be.

MdS:

It's an interesting concept, it is based around twelve powers. Could you tell me, why that was chosen as a concept?

NC:

As we looked at childhood, we realized, that we needed to redefine the important skills and values that children need to learn in this very online world that we find ourselves in. So, we spoke to some of the experts at UNESCO, and we spoke to experts around the world, who study childhood and technology and we said to them: "What are the twelve most important things that children need to learn now?" They came back with this fascinating wheel that you can see on our web site, that we call 'the twelve powers for good', and these twelve powers range from things like critical thinking, to how you manage your feelings, to respect, and my favourite ones are 'kindness' and 'inclusivity', because we forget those at our peril, and we want to have an internet which feels good to be a part of, we need to make sure that everyone is practicing those values.

MdS:

I noticed that there are two different strands we are talking about: children are learning online, for the first time maybe, but they have been 'living online' for quite a long time.  Were the challenges for the campaign the same, addressing those two strands?

NC:

Now that children are spending so much more time online because of school, I think some of those twelve powers I just mentioned become even more important. Obviously, critical thinking, you are going to be researching things online even more, spending more time online, it is really important to know what you can believe, who you can trust. But, I think, for the most important one right now, with this extraordinary amount of time children are spending online, is emotional regulation, and that is often defined as the most important skill of childhood. It's quite a claim, but I think it is true.

Different apps and sites online will make you feel better, some will definitely will make you feel more hyper, and some will make you feel you worse, more violent, more aggressive. It is going to be more important for ever, for every person who goes online, but we are really helping children to make them aware of what they are feeling inside, and when something online is not feeling good, they know what to do about it.


MdS:

Yes, and also to step away a little bit, go outside and move about a bit.

NC:

Yes, to play and get back into the active world.

The internet is an extraordinary gift to all of us, for connecting with people, for entertainment and for learning. But, also, there is a healthy use of the internet and we keen to make sure that every child learns how to do that.

MdS:

If I could ask you directly, to condense this a bit, and to send out some messages to our younger network members, what would they be?

NC:

The first one is: "Be as kind on the internet as you would be face-to-face, the people you are interacting with do have feelings, and it's very easy when you are online to forget about that, that they have feelings and needs just like you.

The second thing I would say is: Remember to take breaks, it's so easy to get sucked into your game, what you are watching and to just do it for hours and hours, but you will feel a lot better if you take breaks from time to time, get up and stretch, go and talk to someone in your house,

MdS:

It goes without saying, that those are lessons that we all need, whatever our age, we all probably spend too much time online.

NC:

We all need to do this, Mary, and I think that adults need to set a good example and walk our talk!

MdS:

Thank you, Nicholas, and to all our members: Have a look at the campaign, which is the theme of this newsletter, the work of UNESCO and the Power of Zero is very closely aligned on safety online and bullying, and keep an eye out for future collaboration.