Safer Internet Day is taking place on Tuesday 9 February this year, with the aim of teaching school children and teens how to operate more safely online.
Since 2003, platforms such as Myspace have enabled people to communicate online and meet new people.
However, in a progressively connected world there are risks that come with using the web because of untrustworthy sites and people, and this is why the UK Safer Internet Centre is working to promote safer web usage.
So what is the day about, how can you get involved and how can you keep kids safe while they are using the internet? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Safer Internet Day?
The aim of Safer internet Day is to raise awareness about the importance of staying safe online, and to share information with adults responsible for children.
The theme for the 18th edition is ‘Together for a better internet’.
This year’s campaign is sponsored by the UK Safer Internet Centre and other educational sites and broadband providers such as Virgin Media, Sky, BT, BBC and TikTok have also joined in the conversation.
The UK Safer Internet centre states that “It’s now more important than ever for [children] to know how influence, persuasion and manipulation can impact their decisions, opinions and what they share online.”
As the internet becomes an increasingly integral aspect of our lives, being aware of the risks and concerns for children is more important than ever.
Why do we need to promote safer internet usage?
The most concerning issue is arguably the use of social media and how to monitor who children are engaging with online and what they are sharing.
According to Ofcom, 5 percent of children aged 5 to 8 had some form of social media in 2019.
In a randomised survey of the use of social media among teenagers in 2019 by Statistica, almost 70 percent of the UK’s 12-15 year olds had Facebook and Snapchat (69 and 68 percent respectively) and 66 percent had Instagram.
At the time of the research only 13 percent had TikTok, though this is thought to have grown hugely during 2020 as young people turned to social media during lockdown to connect with their friends.
However, it is not only family and schoolmates that children are connecting with, as the world wide web opens doors to global communication.
Social media platforms may have age restrictions, but with no real way to disprove someone’s date of birth, young people can easily register for a Facebook, Instagram,Twitter and TikTok account even if they are not of the legal age to have an account.
The use of gaming has also provided a new obstacle in understanding who children are chatting with, since it’s particularly difficult to track conversations through games, and monitor who your child could be involved with.
There are therefore risks around children being exposed to inappropriate content and cyber bullying, as well as possible mental health implications for a generation that are growing up in the age of influencers.
Additionally, there is now a concern over the growing use of a digital identity and footprint - as what you post and share about yourself becomes accessible to anyone you allow to view your content.
The use of fake news is also prevalent, with children now being taught how to critically think about the information they read and view online and how to identify reliable sources of information.
How do I take part in the BBC live lessons?
BBC Teach is offering lessons throughout the day on 9 February, for parents and children to learn more about online safety.
You can participate in the lessons by logging onto the BBC Teach website.
Lessons include topics such as how to report inappropriate behaviour, cyber bullying and how to safely use social media.
They are aimed at primary aged children and their carers and teachers, with the level of teaching formed around the English primary computing curriculum.
Although the lessons went live at 11am, they will be uploaded to the site to watch at any time after this as well as a running commentary of how children in schools and at home are observing the day.
Top tips for parents to keep their children safe on the web
Here are some top tips from Internetmatters.org to help your child stay safe online, and ideas for opening up conversations around how to report inappropriate behaviour online.
1. Talk to your child about making and managing relationships online - from gaming to online messaging, there is a real risk to anyone who chooses to disclose information about themselves with people they do not know.
Therefore, it is important to reassure your child that it is okay to block someone who is being overly intrusive or whom they do not know. Children should also feel comfortable enough to report anything they feel is inappropriate and tell you if someone has behaved inappropriately towards them.
Young people may also be concerned that you will not allow them to continue using social media or online gaming if they make you aware of a situation, so reassure them that they have done nothing wrong and you would only like to know so you can deal with any concerning situations.
2. Discuss how children access online news and information - make your child aware of the need to question what they are reading and whether it is from a legitimate source.
Older children can search for information on other sites to see whether the information is common knowledge and if it is being reported on elsewhere.
It is also important to tell your child not to share information on their social media which they cannot verify as true, as this adds to the spread of misinformation especially among other young people.
3. Managing personal information online - Young people are more likely to share their passwords with their peers and share personal information on public platforms.
This could lead to their identity being used for the purpose of scams and their accounts being accessed by strangers.
Stress the importance of passwords being kept secure and difficult to guess, as well as downloading anti-virus malware onto laptops and tablets which your children access.
Tell your child not to share information online which is not necessary and ensure their privacy settings are correctly set to avoid people who are not friends or verified followers of their social media to read about their personal information.
4. The advantages of reporting concerning or inappropriate content - Make your child aware of the different ways in which they can report inappropriate behaviour or sites which others have shared with them.
Your child could have accessed a platform by pretending to be older than they are which might put them off disclosing inappropriate behaviour by someone else. However, you should reassure them that the conduct is not their fault and report it to the site’s server. This is vital in ensuring that other children and young people do not fall victim to the same situation.
5. Set up parental security and child locks on sites which could be harmful - before your child is first given a new device, ensure you have applied secure search locks on any content you deem inappropriate.
Additionally, many servers and apps now allow parents to link to their children’s account so they can monitor what they are searching and how long they are spending online.
You could also put a password on Wifi settings which results in a password being required to search specific words or sites considered to have content which is inappropriate for under 18s.
Servers such as o2 now prevent searches on over-18s websites on their data plan, unless you can provide credit card details.
A more in depth help guide on keeping your child safe online can be accessed on the Internetmatters.org website.