Focus on identity online for Safer Internet Day in the UK

The UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC) marked Safer Internet Day (SID) by inspiring people across the country to come "Together for a better internet" and explore how a better internet starts with each and every one of us.


The theme for this year's Safer Internet Day in the UK was "free to be me: exploring identity online". The campaign saw many people across the UK come together to help inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

Over 1,700 organisations signed up as official supporters and delivered activities for the day, including schools, police forces, government, companies, football clubs, charities and others. Many more also joined in to celebrate the day. The breadth of activities on social media highlighted the scope of engagement right across the UK.

Throughout the day, it was great to see the impact of Safer Internet Day on social media. On Twitter the #SaferInternetDay hashtag trended at number one in the UK throughout the day, accompanied by the hashtag emoji. On Snapchat there was a filter and quiz available right across the UK. Schools, organisations, football clubs and wider organisations made #freetobe pledges, showcasing how they are helping create an internet where everyone is free to be themselves. On TikTok, 1,800 took part in a hashtag challenge showing how they are #freetobe themselves online.

Youth events across the UK

Young people played a central role in Safer Internet Day 2020, from leading sessions and speaking at the UK SIC's youth events, to creating new resources, educating their peers and engaging with policy makers.

There were youth events across the UK which empowered young people to have their voices heard. At these events, young people met government ministers, policy makers, industry representatives and more, with opportunities to share their experiences of being online and their recommendations for how this space can be improved for young people.

In London, over 50 young people attended a special youth-led interactive event at the BT Centre, welcoming 130 policy makers including the UK's Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan, industry, charities and media from across a range of sectors to discuss how young people navigate the challenges around consent online.

In the UK parliament, the UK SIC hosted an MP drop-in session at Westminster, where two young people met MPs and launched the Youth Charter. This charter, created by young people across the UK, outlined four key demands that young people wanted from their government for Safer Internet Day. Over 27 MPs attended this event.

In Wales, the Welsh government held an online safety film competition for young people, with the finalist's event taking place on Safer Internet Day. Over 160 young people attended the event, in the presence of judges from the BBC and BBFC.

In Northern Ireland Education Minister, Peter Weir visited Ashfield Girls' School in Belfast to mark Safer Internet Day. The Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill also visited Holy Trinity Primary School in Belfast.

In Liverpool, Liverpool Football Club hosted 450 young people aged 9-10 at Anfield on Safer Internet Day. 40 schools from across Liverpool gathered to listen to the UK Safer Internet Centre's online safety experts, take part in Safer Internet Day activities.

Also in Liverpool, 120 young people attended an event at Everton Football Club and took part in an assembly and workshops on this year's theme of identity online.

Resources and films for educators

To help teachers and educators celebrate Safer Internet Day with children and young people, the UK SIC created a range of Education Packs. These packs were tailored for children aged 3-7, 7-11, 11-14, and 14-18, and included lesson plans, assembly presentations, quick activities and more, to help engage young people in Safer Internet Day activities. The UK SIC also created a pack for parents and carers to help them talk to their children about online safety, which included activities, talking points and pledges for families to use together. These educational resources were downloaded 1,010,408 times from the UK Safer Internet Centre site, with further downloads across other partner sites.

To complement these Safer Internet Day Education Packs, the UK SIC created a series of Safer Internet Day films aimed at children aged 5-11 and young people aged 11-18, and parents and carers. These are a series of films designed to complement the educational packs, the content included a film with animated avatars, young people talking about their experiences online, and advice from young people for their parents. There was also a campaign film about Safer Internet Day in the UK. In total, our videos were viewed over a million times across YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

#SaferInternetDay on social media

In the UK, #SaferInternetDay was trending at number one throughout Safer Internet Day with support from high profile supporters like James McVey, UNICEF, Google, Facebook, Twitter as well as Premier League footballers. The hashtag was used 63,831 times, with a potential reach of 498,533,060 people.

The UK SIC's #freetobe social media campaign encouraged people to make the internet a place where everyone can express themselves. Supporters were provided with a template which they could print out and write messages, tips or create a design to show how what kind of internet they want to create, and share these on social media. The hashtag was used 6,038 times, with a potential reach of 13,855,288 people.

Safer Internet Day in the media

Safer Internet Day had 304 mentions in the UK media (mainstream and alternative), with coverage in national broadcasts and media such as BBC News, BBC Newsround, BBC Radio Wales, the Evening Standard, CBeebies Radio, ITV News online, Metro, Sky News, talkRADIO, The Sun, TES, and Yahoo! News.

New research was released by the UK Safer Internet Centre on the day, "Free to be me: Piecing together identity online" which surveyed 2,001 young people aged 8-17 across the UK, as well as a further 54 who took part in qualitative research. The UK SIC also conducted an additional survey of 2,001 parents and carers across the UK. The findings explored whether young people are free to be themselves online, revealing the way young people are managing and curating their identity online.

Impact of the day

As a result of this collective day of action, the UK SIC reached 49 per cent of UK children aged 8-17 and 26 per cent of UK parents.

Children and young people

Out of the 49 per cent of children aged 8-17 who had heard of Safer Internet Day, 58 per cent spoke to their parents or carers about using the internet safely. 77 per cent of children aged 8-17 who had heard about the day said they felt more confident about what to do if they were worried about something online, with 78 per cent saying they know what to do if someone they know is targeted online because they are different in some way, or if that happens to them personally.

1 in 5 (22 per cent) of children aged 8-12 spoke to someone about something that had been worrying them online. With regards to the theme of identity, over a third (34 per cent) of children aged 8-17 who heard about the day said they talked to someone about the different ways they can present themselves online.


Of those parents and carers of children aged 8-17 that had heard about Safer Internet Day (26 per cent), 76 per cent talked to their child about using the internet safely and 26 per cent spoke to someone about concerns they had about their child.
From the many conversations, activities and events that have been taking place, it's clear that the day was such a success because of the collaborative efforts of everyone who came together to help create a better internet.

For more information about Safer Internet Day activities in the UK, visit the UK Safer Internet Centre's Safer Internet Day profile page.

Find out more information about the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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