While the Internet is an invaluable resource for children, it is also one of the newest, constantly changing and fastest growing threats to keeping children safe.
Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, and the campaign sees over 1,600 organisations unite to raise awareness of online safety issues and run events and activities right across the UK. The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community.
It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together in helping to create a better internet.
This year's Safer Internet Day celebrations took place on Tuesday (February 6th), with the 2018 theme being ‘Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you’, a call for every stakeholder to play their part in creating a better internet for everyone, in particular the youngest users out there.
As a result of this collective action, Safer Internet Day last year reached 3 million children and 2 million parents across the UK. and an evaluation found that the majority of children spoke to their families about staying safe online while 79% felt more confident about what to do about any worries online. As a result of the day, 1 in 4 young people said they spoke up about something that had been worrying them online.
It is great that Safer Internet Day is producing such positive outcomes, but the fact of the matter is data, released last year by the NSPCC, showed a 33% year-on-year rise in the number of child sex offence allegations. This rise demonstrates that abusers are increasingly using online platforms to target children who are often naïve and vulnerable to their methods.
We cannot afford to become complacent. More needs to be done to protect our children and young people and I have long been calling on the Welsh Government to take action to improve internet safety.
We need to see internet safety embedded into the new schools curriculum in Wales and more family friendly access to the internet in public sector funded organisations and indeed in private organisations.
Children urgently need to be educated in online tell-tale signs of their would-be attackers, who we know are becoming more brazen and determined in their approaches.
The fact that technology is now part of everyday life for children and young people is a great thing, but we must never get complacent about promoting the dangers of the internet.
For advice on keeping safe on the internet visit https://www.saferinternetday.org/