What are your plans for this coming Tuesday? This is a rhetorical question, but whatever they are, I have one more thing to add. February 7 is Safer Internet Day, when people around the world pause to think and talk about how to make the internet a safer and better place for their families, communities, workplaces and schools. There are both in-person and virtual events in the US and other countries, but even if you don’t attend, you and your family or colleagues can get involved simply by talking about how you can use connected technology more safely. and is a more effective way.
Safer Internet Day (SID) started in Europe in 2003 and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries. Globally, it is coordinated by the Brussels-based Insafe/INHOPE Network with support from the European Commission. ConnectSafely, the nonprofit I lead, has been the official US host since 2014.
Tuesday’s plans include individual events at schools across the country, a national virtual event at 4:30 PM PT, and a virtual local Bay Area event co-sponsored with My Digital TAT2 at 7:00 PM PT. The national live event is co-sponsored with the National PTA and is primarily aimed at parents. The national event features digital parenting experts Kerry Gallagher from ConnectSafely and Carrie Neill from National PTA. A local event features a panel of tech-savvy teenagers. There is also a school program expected to reach more than 20,000 students from Maine to Hawaii. Educators can learn more at sidusa.org/students.
What you can do at home, work or school
Whether you’re attending a virtual live event or not, there are things you can do at home, work or school on Tuesday. It doesn’t have to be a big formal thing. A conversation, even for a few minutes, can go a long way in helping you and others think about how you use connected technology and what you can do to practice and encourage good digital habits.
You can talk about anything that interests you, but for our programs this year, we are providing resources on five key issues: Media Literacy and Critical Thinking, Culture, Peer Selection (Cyberbullying), Health, Identity and Self-Esteem, and Scams, Predators and Reptiles ( online security).
All it takes is a simple conversation
A simple conversation, perhaps over lunch or during breaks at work or school, can go a long way in reminding everyone to think about what they can do. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in the conversation. Don’t turn it into a lecture or open them up with invasive questions. Instead, ask them what apps and services they use, why they like them, and how they maintain their privacy, safety, and security. The children’s answers may surprise you. Contrary to what many adults believe, surveys have shown that most children care about privacy and security, although they think differently than adults. While adults worry about their data being misused by businesses and governments, children worry more about how adults and peers might react to what they write. And if it makes them think before they post, that can be a good thing. Young people also told researchers they were concerned about safety and avoiding online creeps.
Safer Internet Day is a great time to ask your kids how they use technology. Get them to share their excitement, and consider trying out some of the apps and services they use to get your own experience. But if you do, don’t follow them. Think about how you felt about adults inserting themselves into conversations when you were a teenager. Parents and grandparents should refrain from commenting on the teen’s social media posts or interacting with the teen’s friends unless they have permission from the teen.
Resources for families
ConnectSafely offers many resources to help families have these conversations at sidusa.org/family-program. Resources include video interviews with experts, discussion points, parent guides, and short “Quick Guides” to popular apps your kids are using, as well as topics like disinformation and media literacy, fighting hate speech, cyberbullying, online safety for seniors, and LGBTQ cyberbullying. , secure online shopping and more.
One of the videos is from Dr. American Psychological Association senior researcher. Mitchell is with Prinstein. It’s no secret that the pandemic and its aftermath have had a huge impact on the mental health of teenagers, and there has been much debate about both the positive and negative effects of social media on mental health and well-being. Prinstein argues that “screen time itself is not the problem. It really depends on what you do with screen time.”
We have additional health resources from Dr. Michael Rich, pediatrician and CEO of Digital Wellness Lab, who argues that social media is neither good nor bad. What matters is how you use it.
If you’re interested in the metaverse, you’ll find the insights of human rights and virtual reality expert Brittan Heller, who says that “the way your brain interprets an immersive experience is very different from the way it interprets your Facebook feed or what you’re reading. Everyone’s posts on Twitter. The immersive experience is based on presence and your brain interprets it as if you were actually there.” Another video offers practical tips on using Meta’s popular Quest VR headset.
Many other resources are available at Sidusa.org and ConnectSafely.org, but parents and other caring adults do not need to visit the website for the most important information. You already have decades of experience in the real world. Young people can learn from your wisdom, and you can learn from their experiences. We are all in this business.
Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely, USA’s host of Safer Internet Day. Official events are supported by Google, Meta, TikTok, Twitch, Amazon Kids, Discord, Roblox, Zepeto and Trend Micro.