Play your part for a better internet on Safer Internet Day

09 Feb 2016 BY Will Gardner

3 mins
Safer Internet Day 2016
Safer Internet Day 2016

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet International and a director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, explains how educators can get involved in Safer Internet Day

On Tuesday 9 February 2016, millions across the UK and globally will be celebrating Safer Internet Day, the theme of which this year is 'play your part for a better internet'.

On the whole the internet is a really positive place, but there are still too many young people who have negative experiences online. Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity to talk to students, family and friends about using the internet safely, and exploring our responsibilities as digital citizens.

In 2015 we launched a study into friendship in a digital age, which revealed that 30% of 11-16-year-olds had experienced some form of cyber-bullying. The only way to combat this is by working together, and everyone has a part to play - schools, parents, the internet industry, government and young people themselves. We definitely know that young people are up for the challenge: according to the online study conducted by ResearchBods, more than three quarters (78%) of young people believe they have the power to create a kinder online community.

For younger students, there are dangers of a different sort. For children aged 4-11 years, educators can use Safer Internet Day to teach them how be vigilant about their personal details, and think critically about sharing information online, or arranging to meet an online friend. It's also important to note that many social networks have a minimum age requirement of 13.

For 11-18s the discussion can become more nuanced, and educators can address issues such as respecting yourself and others online, cyberbullying, looking after your online reputation and being aware of and managing your digital footprints.

Social networking plays a key part in this and it's important that education professionals know what to do to support pupils to use social networks safely and positively. Safer Internet Day will help educators understand the reporting mechanisms used by different sites, so educators can support their students if they need to make a report. The key is to be proactive in discussing cyberbullying and other related issues - how it occurs, why it occurs, and the consequences of such behaviour - and to know whom to go to in your organisation to escalate any concerns you may have. This may be a head of year/department, a member of the senior leadership team, or the member of staff designated as the Child Protection Officer.

To inspire schools to support Safer Internet Day 2016 the UK Safer Internet Centre has developed education packs, which this year aim to empower young people to celebrate diversity online in order to inspire a kind, respectful and inclusive internet, and help raise awareness about the issue of online hate and ensure no child is ever targeted online for being different. This is explored through posters, assembly presentations with scripts, drama activities, quick activities, full lesson plans and films.

If you're running an activity for Safer Internet Day remember to share what you're doing by joining the Safer Internet Day supporters list. For more resources, ideas and tips visit: www.saferinternetday.org.uk

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet International

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet International

Will is the CEO of Childnet, a children’s charity working with others to help make the internet a great and safe place for children.

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