February 6 marks the celebration of Safer Internet Day (SID), an awareness campaign that started in Europe in 2004 and is now a global event that joins over 100 countries. The goal, per http://saferinternetday.us, is to “not only create a safer internet but also a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively.”
The main focus of the campaign is generally children and young people—our digital natives. But SID is for everyone, in every industry. We all agree that the internet significantly improves our everyday lives, which means we all share the responsibility of protecting it and making it a safer place.
A Better Internet Starts with You
This year’s theme is “Create, connect, and share respect: A better internet starts with you.” That’s the exact attitude we should all carry, not just in celebration of SID, but in every aspect of our connected lives!
What’s your role in all of this? First and foremost, spread awareness. Educate the people around you by demonstrating that online safety impacts everyone, and it doesn’t require a strong technical background of any sort. So much of security awareness begins and ends with common sense, which is as simple as staying alert on social media and avoiding shady websites.
But it’s also important to recognize that online threats aren’t always scammers and cybercriminals, especially for young people. Here are a couple of key items to take into consideration:
Cyberbullying is a huge problem.
According to a study conducted by cyberbullying.org, 34% of students have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetime. Over 63% of those students stated that it affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school.
Those stats demonstrate why it’s so important to establish an open communication with the young people in your life. Kids need to know how to recognize cyberbullying and what to do about it. Trust is a vital part of this process. If they don’t trust us enough to speak up, we’ll never be able to address the problem head on.
And our responsibility in this matter is more than just teaching our kids how to handle bullies. What if your kid is the bully? That’s an incredibly difficult realization to come to. But it’s something all parents, teachers, and leaders need to be prepared for.
As with most things, cyberbullying can be prevented with awareness and education. If we start early and train kids what cyberbullying is, and how painful it can be, we can eliminate one of the biggest threats young people face online.
So is screen addiction.
Screen addiction may not seem like an online threat in the traditional sense, but it’s a fundamental problem plaguing our society. In fact, 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones. Even more alarming, this study from a few years ago found that teens spend more than 11 hours a day with a variety of different media.
Addiction is a natural result of being constantly connected and it’s easy to see how quickly this digital divide can become a problem for our homes and classrooms alike. Not only does it create health problems, but it also undermines general awareness and communication skills.
And once again, fixing this problem starts with adults. Most of us are guilty of checking our phones too often and generally spend too much time in front of screens. The good news is that these problems have simple fixes. Here are three ways to address screen addiction in your household:
Develop a no-screens policy and enforce it. For example, no screens at the dinner table is an easy policy to enforce. But challenge yourselves! Try no screens in the car or no screens after a certain hour at night. And whatever policies you choose, the most important thing is enforcing them consistently.
Schedule screen downtime. Pick a few nights a week where everyone in your household is present and no screens are active. To take this step to the next level, try picking a weekend each month where, for at least a 24-hour period, no screens are allowed.
Keep track of your hours. Have you ever added up how much time you or your family spends in front of screens? Whether it be watching movies, playing video games, or surfing the web, the number of “connected” hours adds up quickly. By keeping track of them, you can establish thresholds and effectively lower the amount of time your household spends in front of the TV. Humans connecting, communicating, and learning from each other, IN PERSON, is essential to happiness and well-being.
Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity to spread awareness. Here are a few links for more information about how to get involved, as well as some general internet safety tips:
Official SID site: https://www.saferinternetday.org/
SID in your country: https://www.saferinternetday.org/web/sid/country
Cyberbullying prevention: https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/prevention/index.html
Tech addiction treatment: https://www.addiction.com/addiction-a-to-z/technology-addiction/technology-addiction-treatment/
Stop. Think. Connect.: https://www.stopthinkconnect.org/
Five simple tips to protect your kids online: https://www.thesecurityawarenesscompany.com/2017/06/22/5-simple-tips-protect-kids-online/
Ten internet security tools: https://www.thesecurityawarenesscompany.com/2017/03/29/10-internet-security-tools-online-privacy-protection/