Safer Internet Day is coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre and in Ireland by the PDST Technology in Education and Webwise.
This year’s theme is “Together for a better internet” and as usual the focus is on making the internet as safe and secure as possible for all users, particularly young people. The internet is a valuable tool, and young people need to be taught how to use it wisely so that they stay safe.
There are a number of ways to stay safe online and parents and teachers need to ensure all young people are educated on how to stay safe on the internet as follows:
- Keeping personal information secure. Personal information includes your address, email address, phone number, date of birth, passwords for various websites, bank details etc. Do not allow anyone to access your personal information. If your personal info is not secure someone could set up an online account in your name, gain access to your own social media accounts or even access your bank account.
- Take care when sharing information. Many people know it is unsafe to talk to or accept a lift from someone you do not know, but how many people accept emails, IMs or other messages from strangers. These messages or files could be harmful. They could also contain viruses or other programs which could damage your device.
- As well as information, they should take care when sharing photographs. Once a photograph is uploaded to cyberspace, anyone can access it. Many social media sites have privacy settings and If they feel someone is behaving inappropriately or threateningly, they can report them to the website and block them. There are also ways to securely share photos online — check out some of the apps and services available.
- Young people need to take care using chat rooms. Many people use aliases and not their real names, and they may say things that they would not normally say as themselves. Very often people hide behind the anonymity of the internet — it is easier to say something online than face-to-face.
- You should never agree to meet someone you have only been in contact with online! You don't really know this person and you cannot be sure they have told the truth about who they are. If you want to meet up with an online contact, make sure you have your parent or guardian's permission and ask them to accompany you on the first few visits.
- Make sure young people know what to do about cyberbullying. This type of bullying takes place via computers and gaming & mobile devices and includes bullying by text, IM, email, chat room, forum, blog and other social media sites. Have a talk with them about this issue and tell them what to do if they or someone they know is being bullied online. They need to know how to report the issue and they must feel confident that their concerns will be taken seriously.
Parents and teachers also need to be digitally literate and educated on how to use the internet in a safe, ethical manner. Make use of the parental controls and filtering devices that are available on computers and portable devices — these will prevent young people from accessing potentially harmful sites. If we all work together we can make sure the internet is a safe place for all.