As adults, we find ourselves reasonably well-versed in the risks of using the internet. But for digital natives, like today’s kids, those risks aren’t as obvious particularly when they first start using the internet.
Internet and digital safety are two subjects that must be discussed with kids and teens to help keep them safe. In fact, internet safety is even a priority among policymakers both in the United States and around the globe.
One of these initiatives is Safer Internet Day.
Safer Internet Day is an outreach project that aims to teach children and young people—and everyone who interacts with them—to play their part in creating a safer, happier internet for all users.
Safer Internet Day takes place on the first Tuesday of February each year. In 2018, Safer Internet Day was Tuesday, February 6. The next day takes place on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.
Safer Internet Day began as a European project but quickly expanded to include 100 countries across the globe including the United States. Each nation celebrates on the same day, but they may take part in different activities.
Anyone can participate in the day. Educators, parents, and community organizers can each benefit from the resources provided and use them as a jumping off point for developing real conversations that benefit kids and adults alike.
Safer Internet Day is a global campaign initially originating in the European Union nearly a decade ago and arriving in the U.S. back in 2012. The European Commission’s Insafe Network coordinates the worldwide campaign, but ConnectSafely.org collaborates on the U.S. event.
Every year, organizations work together to create a theme for the year. In 2018, they chose the theme “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you” to encourage everyone to do their unique part in making the internet a better and safer place to spend time.
In 2019, the event will discuss the new slogan: “Together for a better internet.”
Safer Internet day started in the halls of government, but the day targets youth in particular. In the United States, the commission and hosts live stream the day’s activities in schools across the country. In 2019, Google’s Seattle office intends to host the event and students will receive a glimpse into some of the most exciting offices in the world.
Organizers supplement live-streaming events with live-action events in major cities across the country including places like Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Speakers with ties to the internet and internet policy attend.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, California Senator Kamala Harris, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer are among the most high-profile speakers. Local officials and business owners also receive invites to participate.
Safer Internet Day wouldn’t be possible without a team of collaborators with vested interests in digital safety.
The steering committee includes:
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
- Committee for Children
- Common Sense Media
- Family Online Safety Institute
- Internet Education Foundation
- iKeepSafe Coalition
- National PTA
- National Cyber Security Alliance
Material and financial resources come from sponsors like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Symantec/LifeLock, Kik, Trend Micro, and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association.
Organizers design the main event around a broad goal: finding ways for students, teachers, parents, regulators, and technology companies to come together to make the internet safe.
In 2018, the group held a live event in Austin, Texas that lasted almost the length of a school day. The program features an exhibition, raffle, speakers, activities, and contests.
Attendees heard an address from members of:
- Texas PTA
- Austin Independent School District
- Trend Micro
- High school students
In between speakers, students participated in breakout sessions and discussions about media literacy and its role in good citizenship.
Internet safety is a priority for kids, teens, and adults. Even if you think you and the people you know are already internet savvy, it never hurts to brush up on safety skills. Plus, the nature of the internet is continually changing, and new challenges continue to emerge.
Getting involved with Safer Internet Day is an opportunity to engage with both the general conversation and new directions in internet skills.
Here are just a few ways you can get involved.
You don’t need to live in the host city to get involved in Safer Internet Day’s main event.
The whole event is live streamed via YouTube from a link on the organization’s website.
Whether you’re an educator or a parent, you’ll learn something applicable to the way you use the internet and the way you teach the kids in your care to use the internet. Stream it for yourself or use it as an activity for the kids. Last year’s 2018 event is already available online, so you can choose the sections of the day you’re most interested in or watch the whole thing.
Safer Internet Day creates exercises for use in schools or even at home. These activities illustrate the year’s theme in a more age-appropriate way for kids of all ages.
Last year’s activity explored the theme “You are an internet activist.” Kids were divided into groups to learn about media literacy and how to develop it as a skill. After a discussion, kids got into groups to create their media to share among their communities about using media literacy on the path to becoming a good citizen.
The 2017 student activity titled “Signers and those who weren’t at the table for the US Constitution” offered a discussion-based exercise for older students. During the session, students are asked to read about prominent historical figures and their beliefs about media, justice, and using their voice. Students then answer thoughtful questions about how those ideas apply to our modern society.
Safer Internet Day happens in nations around the world. Don’t feel limited to U.S. activities. Other countries use stimulating and thoughtful exercises and programs, too.
One of the previous programs involved using an interactive poster-making kit to create an internet safety poster. You don’t need a dedicated poster package. Poster sheets, stickers, images, glue sticks, and scissors will do.
Before jumping into the poster-making session. Prepare for the activity by using internet safety lessons. The #Up2Us Anti-Bullying lessons are a great resource, but feel free to choose an issue most prescient for your group of kids.
The poster preparation portion of the class is crucial because it helps focus kids on positive messaging and proactive ways they can make the internet better. You’ll find the lessons have more meaning when you avoid scare tactics and other negative connotations and focus on giving the kids agency and control.
Once you complete the lessons, divide your students or kids into small groups to encourage teamwork (and finish the posters in a set amount of time). Walk around and help facilitate conversations about the messages of their signs.
When everyone finishes, it’s presentation time. Let each group present their poster one-by-one and help them share not only what their poster means for internet safety but what their sign means to them.
Share the posters online using the relevant hashtags!
Want to practice internet skills while participating in the national conversation about what it means to use the internet safely? Do both at the same time by joining in on the discussions using the official event hashtags. Next year’s hashtags are: #SID2019 and #SaferInternetDay.
Head over to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or another preferred platform and enter the hashtags in the search bar. Share your ideas, but don’t forget to engage with the other ideas out there, too! Remember, the internet is the world’s most significant enabler of conversation – don’t forget to use it that way!
Conversations about internet safety tend to skew towards scary among adults, but the internet shouldn’t be something to be afraid of when you’re thinking critically and protecting yourself.
Many of the themes involve suspicious, distrust, and bullying.
Instead of repeatedly cautioning them of the dangers on the internet, discuss how to proactively protect themselves online so that they can live happy, healthy lives and use the internet to learn, grow, and be good citizens. Remind students that they’re in charge of the way they experience the web.
The “You Are an Internet Activist” lesson is an excellent tool for facilitating this conversation. It teaches kids to access, act, analyze, create, and evaluate when they see something online so that they can make the best choices for themselves.
Will you participate in the next Safer Internet Day? How can you be a better internet citizen? Share your ideas in the comments below.