Safer Internet Day 2017: Uniting for a better internet

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day 2017 is here, and the global campaign is going strong once again.

This year, the UK Safer Internet Centre is encouraging all to ‘Be the Change: Unite for a better internet’, and we want to echo that message to our teachers and schools today.

As with last year, we wanted to make sure we got involved with Safer Internet Day – it’s a great opportunity for all to come together to educate young people to use technology in a safe and positive way. We have always promised to keep safeguarding as our highest priority, which is why we support this cause so heavily.

Over the last couple of decades, we have seen the internet develop into something particularly masterful, which has resulted in it being used by adults and children alike.

Unfortunately, with the plethora of websites and apps available, each one now requires a certain level of understanding, especially if we’re hoping to understand how and who we (and our children) are interacting with.

It is becoming increasingly simple for young people to become exposed to a wide variety of material online. While inspiring children about the positive use of technology is great, we must also highlight the risks, and educate them on how to use the internet safely, and wisely.

The internet is an impressive resource and everyone should be able to be themselves online – but children may not be as aware as we are of the dangers.

In order to help them with this, we have to help create a kinder internet. It’s important to help them learn that hateful comments online, for example, are unacceptable, and that they should be reported to an adult immediately.

This scenario is just one of the many risks, of course.

There are many ways we can help children to understand exactly what they could face online. Here’s a few outlined from the UK Safer Internet Centre, the official hosts of Safer Internet Day – we thought these were pretty important:

1. Have a conversation with your child/children

Talk to young people about your concerns of being online – ask them what they would do if someone they didn’t know began talking to them. Mention that they should only chat to people they know online, and more importantly, the people they know in person.

Strangers exist online too, and it doesn’t matter how friendly they have been, they should still understand the danger of speaking to someone they do not know. Express the importance of not sharing personal information or arranging to meet anybody.

2. It’s the behaviour that has to change, not the technology

Talking about online behaviour can be tough, and as the older generation, we can often shy away through lack of knowledge.

Your internet smarts may be lacking, but what you do have, is a breadth of life experience, which is just as important when keeping young people safe online. Focusing on behaviour allows you to draw from your experience to provide support.

3. Look for signs and find ways to intervene

You may be able to spot signs – for example, perhaps your child is glued to their phone? Maybe they’re very easily distracted by their new messaging app – sit down with them for a chat if you have suspicions. This is a good opportunity to discuss the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship, which should highlight the potential risks.

4. Develop an interest in what they do

Parents should be aware of what their children are doing or watching online. Be aware that some apps are only meant to be used by children aged 13 and over (including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat), but it’s worth noting that there are currently no strict measures of verifying whether someone is of the required age or not, despite ongoing work to improve age verification.

5. Trust your instincts

If you have concerns, act now. There are a number of places you can rely on for support, including the child’s school, parents, and the police. There are a number of websites online giving advice about online grooming.

6. Do your own research

Learning the basics about an app gives you the tools to understand the potential risks. There are lots of safety and privacy features available that young people may not be aware of.

Create an open and transparent relationship with your children – this way you can openly discuss anything you may be concerned about, and vice versa.

You don’t need to be an expert on the internet to keep young people safe online. But if you’re in need of a little advice, the UK Safer Internet Centre publishes lots of advice and tips on their website regularly to support you, so you can support young people responsibly and positively.

As for today, there are a number of ways in which you can do your bit – join hundreds of schools, youth groups, companies (including ourselves), charities, police services and wider to help inspire a better internet this Safer Internet Day. To find out more, just click here.

As we have said before, at Connex, we take safeguarding very, very seriously. Because we are so concerned about online risks to children we have taken the decision to give all our schools a truly wonderful gift, which will help to educate both schools and young people about the dangers of the internet.

If you would like to hear more about this, please feel free to contact your local branch.

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