Safer Internet Day 2019: “Together For a Better Internet”

Safer Internet Day

This year Safer Internet Day aims to inspire a global dialogue about online safety for young people and to highlight the issue of online consent. 

Safer Internet Day (SID) is a campaign to raise awareness of emerging online issues and safety concerns. Celebrated globally, over 2000 organisations and schools across the UK are involved this year to help raise awareness and stimulate a national conversation about online safety.

SID 2019 is focusing on helping young people to understand how consent works in an online context. The goal is to help them better understand how they ask, give, and receive online consent – this could be in their friendships or relationships – with a special focus on how they take and share images or videos, and how they manage their privacy and data.

According to the Office of National Statistics, between September 2017 to 2018, 16% of the total number of child sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales were cyber-related crimes. In 2018, the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) removed more than 100,000 web pages showing the sexual abuse and torture of children from the internet – this is an increase of one-third on the year before.

With the number of cyber offences against children on the rise, many are calling for more to be done to educate and protect children from being abused online.

Many believe that a combination of collaboration of between government and social media companies along with parental intervention is needed to remedy the problem, which if not address is likely to get significantly worse as the online sphere further permeates daily life.

Related: Scottish Minister Unveils Internet Safety Initiative for Children

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children‘s (NSPCC), Wild West Web campaign is calling for an independent regulator with the power to investigate and fine social networks if they fall short in protecting children.

Will Gardner OBE, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “It is vital that we – from an individual to an industry level – take responsibility to support young people to navigate consent online and put their positive attitudes into action.

“We must move beyond advising them only on what they should do online, and work with them to understand how to do this in practice. Our research shows that without clear guidance for navigating the complexities of online consent, the gap between young people’s attitudes and behaviours is striking.”

Chairman of the Shetland Islands Child Protection committee, Tam Baillie commented: “I would expect parents to be curious about where their children go online, who they associate with and how long they spend there – as they would in the physical world.”

Echoing this sentiment, the NSPCC recommends that parents should explore apps with their children, and talk about things they might see online which make them uncomfortable. They ought to discuss what is ok, and what is not ok to share online, and reassure them they won’t overreact.

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According to SIC, official co-coordinators of SID, increasingly, sharing and viewing content is viewed as integral to the lives of young people, with 65% saying they would feel disconnected from the world if they couldn’t be online.

Worryingly though, more than half (52%) say someone has shared a photo or video of them online without asking their permission, despite the fact that four-in-five say they know when and how they should ask.

A ComRes survey for CBBC Newsround found that 22% of people aged 10-18 with a social media account say they’ve been bullied or trolled online.

Although there are clear drawbacks of social media and being online, there is a myriad of acknowledged benefits. Susie Hargrave OBE, CEO at (IWF) said: “The internet opens a treasure box for young minds and we must collaborate in shaping its progress as one of the most positive tools for learning and experiencing that has ever been handed to us. It’s our internet – let’s keep it safe and enjoy it.”

70% of young people say being online helps them understand what’s happening in the world. 60% said they only know about certain issues or news because of the internet, with 67% saying it’s easier to learn topics and subjects potentially embarrassing online.

Nearly half (46%) said that being online had helped them through a difficult time and that being online offers them a platform to voice themselves. 48% of young people say being online makes them feel like their voices and actions matter with 42% saying they have been inspired to take positive action by sharing support for a campaign, social movement or petition

“Today’s findings are encouraging, highlighting how young people have a strong sense of what is right online, and are harnessing the internet to make a positive difference for themselves and others,” said Gardner.

“However, our research shows that without clear guidance for navigating the complexities of online consent, the gap between young people’s attitudes and behaviours is striking. In doing so, we can empower young people, and those that support them, to be better able to harness and use the positive power of the internet for good,” he concluded.

Recommended: Google Launches Family Link to Teach Online Safety to Kids

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “We must provide children with the skills to use technology and take advantage of the online world effectively and safely. We are making Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools, to sit alongside the existing Computing curriculum.

“Teachers will address online safety and appropriate behaviour in a way that is relevant to pupils’ lives. All children will be taught about online friendships as well as to face-to-face relationships. I want children to understand that the same rules of good behaviour and kindness that they are taught in the playground also apply online.”

Later this month the government will publish new laws to protect children and other vulnerable groups online. It is hoped that the government’s Online Harms White Paper could go a long way to force tech companies to act on the concerns of parents, child protection charities and the police.

Today, Scottish Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, unveiled a new initiative –  Special Recognition Badge for Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety – to provide education professionals with the necessary resources and support to help pupils learn more about online safety.

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