Posted: 06 February 2018

Safer Internet Day: How we can create, connect and share respect

Safer Internet Day is an opportunity to have a conversation about about how children and young people can use technology responsibly, respectfully and creatively.

To look beyond the negative headlines and empower young people to make use of the internet in a positive way.

How do we connect?

For many children, the internet is at the heart of their daily lives - providing a platform to talk to friends, learn online, follow trends and get creative.

‘[Not having a phone] would be the worst thing because I really like playing on my phone, like going on Facebook and that’. – Young person

Social media in many respects has replaced conventional forms of communication and it is hard to deny that the global reach and scope of information available through these channels is appealing.

‘I had to leave [my friends] at that school but we are still friends like, we write on Facebook and stuff’. – young person

This seemingly limitless wealth of opportunity and interaction however, does open up questions around the nature of the information shared, the tone of these online conversations and if the right tools are in place to keep young people safe.

The risk of opportunity

Last year we collaborated with YoungMinds to conduct a survey of more than 1,000 young people aged 11-25. Although 60% surveyed said that social media had a positive effect on their relationship with friends, many voiced concerns or relayed harrowing experiences of online abuse, exclusion and bullying.

‘And they also bully him online. So they might bully him on texting sites, like WhatsApp.’ – Young person

But expecting young people to stop using social media to avoid these risks is simply unrealistic. We need to work instead towards educating and ensuring that use of the internet is a positive and safe experience for them.

Educate and empower

School is a unique opportunity for pupils to learn how to make informed choices to keep themselves safe from online dangers, such as cyberbullying and online grooming. 

That’s why we welcomed the Government’s decision last year to make relationship education statutory in all primary schools and relationship and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools in England from September 2019. We want the same commitment for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and we want to see online safety at the heart of both subjects.

Making social media a safe space

Education, however, is not enough. We can’t expect children and young people to navigate these challenges on their own and social media companies must do more to tackle risky issues on their platforms.

That’s why we’ve been working with YoungMinds on an inquiry led by Alex Chalk MP, to gather evidence about what social media companies need to do to tackle cyberbullying and promote good mental health.

Follow us on Twitter to find out what our inquiry has uncovered when we publish the findings soon.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

 

By Louise Jones - Digital team
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