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Safer Internet Day: ‘Connect with Respect’ – an important message in a digital age for both Toddlers and Teens

Will Gardner

safe internet 300x225 Safer Internet Day: Connect with Respect – an important message in a digital age for both Toddlers and Teens Today is Safer Internet Day. In fact, it’s the tenth anniversary of this annual event. This year, we are encouraging all internet users to ‘Connect with Respect’; a message we believe resonates regardless of age and hope will focus us all to think about what our online rights and responsibilities are for the year ahead.

Our survey which spoke to 24,000 primary and secondary students from across the UK gives a great insight into what young people are doing, what bothers them and what they want to make it better.

It shows for example, that children and young people do want to learn about how to stay safe online. We developed this survey, the largest of its kind, to understand how their online experiences inform their opinions on the roles they, as well as parents, government, industry and educators, have in ensuring everyone is safe online.

It showed that there are things that stop children from enjoying their time online, including mean comments and advert. It showed that when things do go wrong, for young people of all ages, the importance of parents as someone to turn to for help. It showed also that the majority have been taught about staying safe online in the last year – four out of five seven to 19-year-olds to be exact – though the survey did highlight and this was less for early primary and upper secondary age groups. Up to one third of seven and eight-year-olds, for example, have not been taught about e-safety in the last year.

Working with children as they are starting to use the internet is really important in helping to shape and develop their internet habits and behaviour as they grow and develop. When we think of children online, we need to include very young children. Just a few months ago, we heard from Ofcom that over one third of three to four-year-olds are now online using some form of internet-enabled device. It is easy to find examples of this. There are some incredible YouTube clips of two-year-olds navigating iPads and smart phones. In my own family I remember watching my twins when they were three trying to swipe the glossy looking advert at the end of a bus-stop expecting it to respond to their touch. Children from a very young age are engaged with technology and they also have high expectations of it.

internet 2 300x225 Safer Internet Day: Connect with Respect – an important message in a digital age for both Toddlers and Teens We recently published a book called DigiDuck’s Big Decision, a story about friendship for young children, helping them to think about what it means to be good friend, and how they can be a good friend online as well as offline. This year on Safer Internet Day, various partners are also supporting children of this age, including CBBC and Disney – which has seen its stores up and down the country making special friendship bands for children to remind them to be good friends to each other online.

In our survey young people of all ages recognise they have a responsibility to help their friends stay safe online. It is important then that we support this and empower them with knowledge to protect themselves, but also to support their peers and siblings online, and be a good friend online. A third of primary school children turn to a friend, and three in 10 would tell an older sibling if they saw something that concerned them online. Friends are the most important source of support for teens – in the secondary age group, over half of 11-19-year-olds would tell a friend if something upset or worried them online.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can leave them to it, and young people make it clear that we all have a role to play too. As parents, we need to equip ourselves to have conversations with our children. Asking them about what they enjoy doing online and whether they feel equipped to deal with protecting themselves – whether that’s reporting something or making privacy settings tight. Asking them to help you with safety, such as privacy settings can be a good start.

For teachers and educators, there is a need to make sure that we are equipping all children, whatever their age to stay safe online. Young people of all ages would turn to their teacher if something was wrong online. While for those in industry, many young people are using the tools available, such as privacy and reporting, but they want this to be clearer and need reassurance about how this works.

This Safer Internet Day we have a great collaborative effort taking place to reach out as widely as we possibly can to make people think about Connecting with Respect. Promoting a safer and better internet for children and young people involves promoting their online rights – to be safe online, to report concerns and to manage their privacy, and more – while also developing children’s understanding of their own responsibilities to support their friends and be kind online. In listening to what they need, and providing a holistic framework of information, support and tools for them in their digital journey, we will be working for a safer and better internet future.

For more information visit www.saferinternet.org.uk

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  • Allan Peppelman

    This is an important issue, I’m glad people are taking this seriously. I’m always when my kids surf the net, I mean who knows what they’ll encounter and who they’ll talk to, it’s so important to educate them! Also, I think it’s important that I protect my computer when my kids are on the internet because I don’t know if they use the same common sense that I do when I download files and so on. I use a good antivirus (Unthreat Antivirus) and this was at least I know my computer is protected.


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