When many of us were young, our parents warned us against the world’s dangers. Don’t talk to strangers, they said. Come straight home without taking a detour through the woods. Tell a parent or other authority figure if you see or experience anything creepy or scary.
Today, kids (and adults) who may feel “safe” in their homes, schools, or libraries, can encounter endless perils on the internet, ranging from online bullying, exposure to misleading or inappropriate content, cyberstalking, and identity theft. Children’s natural curiosity and the proliferation of mobile devices combine to create the perfect storm of risk. Parents and educators can try to set boundaries, but those boundaries are no match for tech-savvy kids.
One effort to address these dangers is International Safer Internet Day, this year held on Tuesday, February 8. In the USA, ConnectSafely.Org is the sponsor of Safer Internet Day US which aims “to create both a safer and a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively” by involving “children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and social workers, as well as industry, decision-makers and politicians, to encourage everyone to play their part in creating a better internet.”
Connect Safely offers online resources and lesson plans for teachers and parents. Topics include maintaining self-esteem and well-being on apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok; stopping cyberbullying, handling discord and negativity, reducing bias and hate speech, and using the internet to effect positive social change.
In a perfect world, we could protect children with basic internet safety skills. Unfortunately, we’re getting a late start and fighting powerful and entrenched foes. Ironically, Safer Internet Day US is financially supported by Google, Comcast, Meta, Amazon Kids, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Snapchat, TikTok, Trend Micro and Twitter.