Safer Internet Day: creating a better internet for young people depends on us all

In Europe today, children start using the internet on average when they are 7 years old.

Between the ages of 9 and 16, the time they spend online is estimated at 88 minutes a day.

They are growing up in a digital environment where technology is an integral part of their lives. The internet is their companion, sometimes more than their family, school and friends.

We live in an online world and the internet is a wonderful thing; a tremendous treasure trove of services, activities and opportunities. Children need quality content to stimulate their imagination and help them learn. They also need skills and tools for using the internet safely and responsibly. But they may not always be aware of the challenges and risks they face online.

I have children and grandchildren myself, so I have obvious concerns about the very real dangers that have magnified over the years as social networks and services have evolved.

Whether we are children and young people, parents and carers, educators or social care workers - or industry, decision-makers or politicians - we all have a part to play in making the internet a better and safer place to be, especially for the young.

It is a shared responsibility for everyone.

Inappropriate and harmful content that could be violent, sexual, racist or discriminatory, and viewed by inexperienced or naive web surfers - which includes many children.

Cyber-bullying, internet trolls, hate-message posting on social media sites.

Unfortunately, these have become all too common. They can lead to tragic consequences for the young, and not so young. We read about them far too much and often, too late.

Primarily, this is about awareness, which is the aim of Safer Internet Day #SID2015 #saferinternetday.

This annual event is being celebrated today across Europe and across the world, in over one hundred countries.

This year's theme, with accompanying video, is "Let's create a better internet together".

The objective remains the same everywhere: to promote safe and responsible use of the internet by children and young people and to protect them from illegal or harmful content and behaviour online.

Safer Internet Day began in 2004 as part of the EU's Safer Internet Programme. Today it has become a worldwide celebration, trending on global media and connecting people from all horizons through thousands of events that are being held to raise awareness and show the huge range of ways to create a better internet for young people.

For many years, the European Commission has supported support projects and events, and continues to promote industry self-regulation and international co-operation.

Activities include raising awareness, fighting illegal content, filtering and content labelling, involving civil society in child online safety issues and creating a solid database of information related to the use of new technologies by young people.

Safer Internet Day crossed the Atlantic in 2012 with the EU-US Declaration on cooperation for child online safety. Since then, hundreds of events have taken place in both continents.

They aim to teach young people about the importance of protecting their online reputation, and how to go about it. They stress the need for respect and responsibility, the need to stand up to cyber-bullying – and also to report it, along with any inappropriate or illegal content.

Informing children, but also empowering them. Helping them to get the most out of what the internet offers, do it safely and develop the digital skills and confidence they will need for the future.  Involving those others who can make a difference – because creating a better internet for children depends on everyone.

As the UK's safer internet campaign says in its hashtag, it's #Up2Us. Another blog soon.





Galava UK's picture

Hear! Hear!

I wholeheartedly agree with you, it is vital that we make our children aware of the dangers of the internet, not in a way which makes them scared of it, but by helping them understand its dangers and teaching them how to keep themselves safe online. The internet is a powerful tool, it has the potential to open up young (and older) eyes to the world beyond the borders of our towns and villages, and of our own countries. It can help us make friendships and do business across the planet, but it does need serious safeguards in place that help keep users safe, that help protect them from hackers, identity theft, IP theft, grooming, and other issues which can cause them harm. And it is not just youngsters who can be victims: I know of older people who have fallen foul of bullies, stalkers and hackers, of fraudsters using the "I've been mugged and lost my passport" scam, of the phone scams where a caller pretends to be ringing about an issue with the computer, and a host of other phish and scam attacks. The more we can do to raise awareness of how to be safe and stay safe online, the better. But in all of this, no one country or continent should be able to control the internet, it's not a geo-specific territory and no political administration should have more power over access to it than others. To try and do so can and will cause great damage. The internet belongs to all the people of the earth and collectively we all have the responsibility to use it wisely and protect it for the benefit of all humanity.

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