Taking stock of the state of online safety ahead of Safer Internet Day 2021

On Tuesday, 9 February 2021, we will join “Together for a better internet” to celebrate yet another edition of Safer Internet Day (SID) - though this time in a starkly different digital environment, compared to previous editions. Almost one year after the advent of the COVID-19 crisis and the changes it has brought about in our online habits, we review the new realities with regards to safety and well-being in the online sphere.

2021-01-18

Grasping the new realities of the digital environment

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered wide-ranging transformations in the digital environment, both in terms of risks and opportunities. It has shown us first-hand that digital technologies are an excellent medium to enable the greatest number of citizens - especially children and young people - to find information, communicate, socialise, learn and play, often in ways that are not possible to the same extent in their non-digital lives.

Yet, with this overnight realisation that our societies are more digital than ever, came a growing awareness that most online tools and services are often not designed with the best interests of children and young people in mind. This observation manifested itself concretely as a range of online threats and issues rose in prominence in the early days of the pandemic, as we collectively became increasingly dependent on digital means of communication. To quote only a few examples, economically-motivated cybercrime (ransomware, phishing, payment fraud) rose, along with predatory behaviours against children online and the volume and circulation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Issues pertaining to misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories - particularly with regards to public health matters - took centre stage. As we collectively spent an increased amount of time online, privacy concerns also gained more attention from the general public.

As a celebration observed by the full array of stakeholders involved in online safety, Safer Internet Day offers, every February, a forum of exchange and discussion on these ever-changing safer and better internet issues, along with potential solutions. Safer Internet Day offers you the possibility to make your voice heard on these issues, regardless of where or who you are - to share what you love so much about the online world, and what needs to change.

Changing your online habits for the better

When it comes to the online world, the saying “if you want to change the world, change yourself first” has never been more true. Beyond the opportunity to get involved in a global debate about your aspirations and concerns for a better internet, Safer Internet Day is also the occasion for you to reflect very concretely on the part which each of us - including you - play in this regard. 

This means reevaluating our online habits to be more kind, respectful and mindful of the information we share online. This means becoming the digital role models our children deserve, in order to enable them to make positive and responsible use of digital technologies through dialogue and education. This means taking the necessary steps to ensure digital literacy and online safety are properly embedded in all school curricula, in order to give every citizen the tools to better navigate the online world early on in life. This means, for those in the ICT industry, providing positive online content for children and young people, safe services online and efficient reporting mechanisms if things go wrong. This means promoting greater awareness of safer and better internet issues in the local, national and international political arena, in order to impact governance and legislation in a constructive way.

Convinced? If you’d like to join the movement and get involved in Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, 9 February 2021, visit www.saferinternetday.org/join for a wealth of resources to show your support for a better internet and spread the word about SID. Together for a better internet!

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