News Safer Internet Day is a great time to review security
What are your plans for this coming Tuesday? This is a rhetorical question, but whatever they are, I have one more thing to add. February 7th is Safer Internet Day, a time when people around the world pause to think and discuss how to make the Internet a safer and better place in their homes, communities, workplaces and schools. There are both in-person and virtual events in the U.S. and other countries, but even if you’re not attending, you and your family or colleagues can simply participate by discussing how connected technology can be used in a safer environment and way more impactful.
Safer Internet Day (SID) started in Europe in 2003 and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries. Globally, it is coordinated by the Brussels-based Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission. The nonprofit I lead, ConnectSafely, has been the official host of the US since 2014.
Tuesday’s program includes live events at schools across the country, a national virtual event at 4:30 p.m. PT, and a virtual local Bay Area event co-sponsored with My Digital TAT2 at 7 p.m. PT. The national live event is co-hosted with the National PTA and is aimed at parents. The national event features digital parenting expert Kerry Gallagher from ConnectSafely and Carrie Neill from the National PTA. The local event features a group of tech-savvy teens. Another school program is expected to reach more than 20,000 students from Maine to Hawaii. Educators can learn more at sidusa.org/students.
What you can do at home, work or school
Whether you can attend a virtual live event or not, there are a few things you can do at home, work or school on Tuesday. It doesn’t have to be a formal event. A conversation, even for just a few minutes, can go a long way in helping you and others think about how you use connected technology and what you can do to practice and promote good digital habits.
You can talk about anything you care about, but for our program this year, we’re focusing on resources for five main issues: media literacy and critical thinking, civility, critical peers (cyberbullying), health, identity and self-esteem, and scams , Predators and Minions (Online Safety).
just a simple conversation
A simple conversation, perhaps over dinner or during a break at work or school, can go a long way in reminding everyone to think about what they can do. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in the conversation. Don’t treat it like a lecture, and don’t train them with intrusive questions. Instead, ask them what apps and services they use, why they like them, and how they protect their privacy, safety, and security. The children’s answers might surprise you. Contrary to what many adults believe, surveys show that most kids do care about privacy and security, even though they think differently than adults. Adults worry about their information being misused by businesses and governments, while kids are more concerned about how adults and peers will react to what they post. If it makes them think before posting, that’s probably a good thing. Young adults told researchers they also worried about safety and avoiding malicious behavior online.
Safer Internet Day is a good time to ask how your children use technology. Let them share their excitement, and consider trying out some of the apps and services they use to get your own first-hand experience. But if you do, don’t stalk them. Think about how you would have felt when you were a teenager and an adult stepped into the conversation. Parents and grandparents should refrain from commenting on a teen’s social media posts or interacting with the teen’s friends unless they have the teen’s permission.
ConnectSafely offers a number of resources at sidusa.org/family-program to help families have these conversations. Resources include expert video interviews, discussion points, parent guides, and a concise “quick guide” on popular apps your kids use, as well as misinformation and media literacy, combating hate speech, cyberbullying, online safety for seniors, LGBTQ cyberbullying, and more themes, secure online shopping and more.
One of the videos is a photo with Dr. Mitchell Prinstein, Chief Scientific Officer of the American Psychological Association. It is well known that the pandemic and its aftermath have had a significant impact on the mental health of adolescents, and there has been much discussion about the positive and negative effects of social media on mental health and wellbeing. According to Prinstein, “screen time itself isn’t the issue. It’s what you do with that screen time that really matters.”
We got additional happiness resources from Dr. Michael Rich, pediatrician and CEO of Digital Health Labs, who argues that social media is neither good nor bad. What matters is how you use it.
If you’re curious about the Metaverse, you’ll find insights from human rights and virtual reality expert Brittan Heller, who says “the way your brain interprets immersive experiences is very different from the way it interprets your Facebook feed or reads Everyone on Twitter Immersive experience depends on being there, and your brain interprets it as if you were actually there.” Another video offers practical advice on using Meta’s popular Quest VR headset .
There are plenty of other resources available at sidusa.org and ConnectSafely.org, but parents and other caring adults don’t need to visit the sites to get the most important information. You’ve got it from decades of experience in the real world. Young people can learn from your wisdom, and you can learn from their experience. We are all in the same boat.
Disclosure: Larry Magid is the CEO of ConnectSafely, the organizer of Safe Internet Day USA. The official event is supported by Google, Meta, TikTok, Twitch, Amazon Kids, Discord, Roblox, Zepeto and Trend Micro.