170 countries come together to raise awareness of the need to educate young people on internet safety.
Safer Internet Day will take place on Tuesday and has become a landmark event in the calendar as our reliance on the internet increases year-on-year.
Every February, 170 countries worldwide celebrate a day of raising awareness for internet safety concerns such as cyberbullying, social networking and digital identity.
This year the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC) is marking Safer Internet Day (SID) by mobilising people across the country to get “Together for a better internet”, encouraging them to explore how they manage their online identity and how the internet shapes how they perceive themselves and others.
Receiving education on online safety is “very important” says Scott Driscoll, Founder of Internet Safety Concepts that has been producing internet safety education programs since 2008.
“We underestimate the power of the internet sometimes,” says Driscoll, “we can forget how broad of an audience it can be, how widespread our information can go”.
The UK SIC is providing a range of free resources including films, lesson plans, assemblies, quizzes and more in an effort to deliver practical support for young people to question, challenge and change the online world.
As well as days like SID, Driscoll says parents are crucial to helping children stay safe online, stating “if something does go wrong, our kids should be able to look to their parents” for help, “communication is huge,” he added.
Issues such as cyberbullying have become more prevalent as social media has grown into the roots of many of our lives. Driscoll explains that many of the 10-year-olds he teaches about online safety use Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok despite being under the age requirements.
“Adults of my age group never experience cyberbullying,” says Driscoll, “a lot of us underestimate how powerful and influential it can be… getting involved is the biggest challenge and its something that we all need to do, kids and adults”.
Dr Daniel Kilvington, senior lecturer of Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University agrees that “challenging online hate, bullying and abuse is not just the responsibility of the victims, it’s the responsibility of everyone”.
“If you see it, report it, challenge it, screenshot it, don’t scroll past it,” he continued.
Everyone then, should take some responsibility for their own and others’ online safety, especially as the number of online scams have seen a rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:
“Criminals have ruthlessly adapted to this pandemic with scams exploiting the rise in people working from home and spending time online. These range from investment scams promoted on social media and search engines to the use of phishing emails and fake websites to harvest people’s data.”
Emily Turner gives her personal experience of receiving an increased number of scams since the beginning of the pandemic:
The pandemic has resulted in three national lockdowns, forcing most of us to utilise online spaces as a way of learning, working and communicating more than ever.
“It’s obvious that if we spent more time connected to technology, then we are going to see more online communication and it’s likely that we’ll see more online abuse,” says Dr Kilvington.
“We must ensure that social media platforms are inclusive rather than exclusive,” he says. “All of us, as individuals, can play an importnant role in changing the future of communciation on these platforms.”