We love hanging out online as much as the next person (have you seen our Instagram account yet?), but we also know that sometimes the online world is not so friendly.
While social media, online gaming and forums are all great ways to meet like-minded people, build community and have some fun, it’s super important to be mindful of some of the risks that come with being online.
From online bullying to data hacking, Safer Internet Day is an excellent opportunity to build awareness, support each other, and keep making sure online is safe for everyone.
What is Safer Internet Day?
Safer Internet Day takes place on the 8th of February every year and has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar.
Starting as an initiative in 2005, Safer Internet Day is now celebrated in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. From cyberbullying to social networking to digital identity, each year, Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.
The overall aims of the day are to help everyone learn more about staying safe online and how we can all do our bit to ensure online remains a safe place for all – especially young people.
What Does ‘Safe Internet’ Use Really Mean?
Being ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ online can mean many different things, from making sure everyone is respectful of differing opinions to keeping personal information safe and secure.
Unfortunately, some people seek to misuse the internet, and this can make it an unsafe space for others. And with so many of us spending more of our time online due to the pandemic, it’s even more critical that we don’t become complacent around staying safe online.
While you can’t control what others do online, you can make sure you behave in ways that keep you and those around you safe, and that reduces your risks of having to deal with problematic situations online.
6 Tips to Stay Safe Online
There are lots of easy, practical ways to be safe online, and some of them won’t seem immediately obvious!
Using guidance from the Safer Internet Day website and campaigns, we’ve pulled together six quick and easy tips that you can action right away to keep staying safe online:
1. Check your privacy settings.
With so many options across different platforms, it’s worth making sure your privacy settings are up to date and secure.
This includes setting personal accounts to private, making sure your username or bio sections don’t include any personal information (like date of birth or postcode) and that your passwords are all up-to-date and not too easy to guess!
Having a private account gives you lots of control about who gets access to your online space and is well worth doing.
2. Be savvy about who you connect with.
Part of being online is the opportunity to meet new people who share the same interests as you – and that’s great!
We’re not saying never add or connect with people you haven’t met in person, but it’s really important to do a little bit of checking before blindly accepting new friend requests.
Things like whether they have an appropriate profile photo, whether you have any other friends in common, and their username can all help build a picture of whether this is a genuine person or something more suspicious.
If in doubt, seek help from a trusted adult who can offer guidance.
3. Don’t fall for fake news.
It’s really easy to hit ‘like’ and ‘share’ on content online, but with so much misinformation doing the rounds it pays to be diligent.
Learning to be apply some analyse and critical thinking when reading content online can help you make better decisions, develop greater understanding and prevent you from falling victim to fake news – which is usually designed to antagonise and divide people.
Before liking and sharing something, ask yourself; how do I know this is true and factual? What other information do I need to make an informed opinion about this? What would others think if I share this? How does it reflect my personal views?
4. Never give out passwords or security information.
Common sense but it totally pays to remind yourself of this one regularly!
Sometimes we give out small details without realising it – a birthday, a pets name or our favourite childhood movie character! – these are popular things for passwords and security questions so make sure you stay savvy.
Some scammers are getting even more sophisticated so double-check credentials and details from any emails or messages that seem legit. If it seems suspicious, don’t give any details and call the organisation directly.
5. Report cyber-bullying.
One of the biggest concerns for many people, young people especially, is around online bullying and sad to say it’s something that’s been on the rise.
Many platforms and websites are cracking down on this and you can help by making sure you report any bullying behaviour – even if it isn’t directed at you personally. This includes comments, videos and posts that contain offensive or bullying content.
If you are experiencing bullying directly, mute and/or block the perpetrator and report them to the platform. If you know the bullies, you can also let your parents and school know as they will want to support you through this.
Never be afraid to speak up.
6. Balance your time online.
And last but by no means least, make sure you’re taking lots of breaks from being online.
Safer internet use isn’t just about how you behave online, it’s also about giving yourself time to engage in other activities, spend quality time with friends and family and make time for all the other good stuff.
So grab your mates and hit the beach, organise a picnic, play some board games – whatever it is, do it offline.
Safer Internet Day 2022: Some Great Resources
Safer Internet Day is a great chance to check in on yourself and around you. What does your school do to teach about safer internet? Who can you speak to you to make sure there’s more information about these things and where to get support?
By taking action you can create the safer environments you and your friends want to be a part of.
Here are some great resources to help out if you want to take this further: