Remember the first time you experienced the Internet? A few clicks of the mouse, a tuneless dial-up tone, the ear-splitting sound of connectivity, and hey presto! The outside world was brought to our fingertips. It was a pivotal point, whether or not we knew it at the time. Suddenly, the world changed. The digital generation of today is unlikely to experience that 'Eureka!' moment, simply because the Internet has always been part of their lives, and with it, the challenges and boundless opportunities it provides.
On February 11, more than one hundred countries will show their support for Safer Internet Day. Members of Parliament, police forces, business, schools, celebrities and non-celebs alike are showing their commitment to creating a better Internet, together. Even William Shatner has demonstrated his support. Although this is the eleventh Safer Internet Day, it seems to have generated more interest than any other, possibly due to last year's NSA revelations and the resulting focus on data privacy.
Our appetite for the Internet shows no signs of abating. Three quarters of Europeans used the Internet in 2013. Shining the spotlight on young people in particular, 94% of 16-24 year olds across Europe are regular Internet users, according to the latest research from Eurostat. EU Kids Online found that an increasing percentage of 0-8 year olds are going online too.
Research from the National Children's Bureau in Northern Ireland found that one in five young people spend five hours or more on the Internet every day. And once they're online, here's the billion dollar question: what are they actually doing there? The research shows that 87% are going online to access social networking sites, 73% to download films, music and books, and 63% to do homework. I doubt these figures will surprise or concern many parents - if anything, they should be relieved that they get excused from helping the kids with their long division homework (cue collective parental shudder). The Internet is educational, it's fun, and it should stay that way.
Safer Internet Day urges us to focus on celebrating all that is good about the Internet, and to help us to protect ourselves against what isn't. The debate seems to have moved on from parental filters and privacy controls, as critical as they still are. Now, it's about educating and empowering the next generation of Internet users, equipping them with the knowledge, tools, communication skills and confidence to make the most of the vast opportunities the Internet presents. It's about being respectful, of ourselves and others, in person and online.
Some inspirational activities have taken place in the run-up to February 11th. Bidston Avenue Primary School in Birkenhead (@Bidstonavenue) held an assembly using Prezi to introduce e-safety to children in Key Stage 2. The positive and inspiring session celebrated the opportunities for creativity that the Internet presents, and shared its vision for creating a perfect online world. Clear messages urged children to get creative; to show respect online; to keep information safe; and to tell someone if something online upsets or worries them. No scaremongering, no 'stranger danger' - just strong messages empowering the children.
Glasgow Senior South Section (@GirlguidingGlas) guiding group, whose catchphrase is "I'm a survivor, guide me out of here" invited an 'ethical hacker' to share experiences with the girls. How times have moved on since the guiding and scouting days of yore.
Greater Manchester Police (@gmpolice) held a live Twitter interview to answer questions on cybercrime. Picturehouse Education (@PHEducation) are running Safer Internet Day Filmcreatives Workshops. There's also a realm of advice on Internet safety across the web tying in with Safer Internet Day. We've found some great downloads and resources on this website, www. digitallyconfident.org. and of course on the Safer Internet Day website here: http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/2014
We know that the Internet has a darker side and we need to know what to do if we come across it. This is where the Internet Watch Foundation steps in. As a business, we are a founder member of the Internet Watch Foundation, which has been working tirelessly for almost twenty years to minimise the availability of online abusive content. I mention this not because I'm expecting rapturous applause for Easynet's involvement (I'm not), nor because I feel it gives my organisation the right to share its thoughts on this (I don't), but because the work of the Internet Watch Foundation is fundamental to the creation of a safer Internet.
All of us must share responsibility for making sure the Internet is a safe, educational, fun part of children's lives - parents, carers, extended families, schools, young people's groups and enterprises. Research from EU Kids Online found that a global average of 81% of mothers had uploaded images of their under twos, and 23% had even uploaded antenatal images online. How can we teach our children a safer online experience if we're controlling their digital footprint before they're even born? This is where common sense comes in. Would you ring an old acquaintance and tell him about your cat's haemorrhoids? I doubt it. So why share it online? Let's lead our children by example and make the Internet better, together.Suggest a correction