On Tuesday, 8 February 2022 the world will mark the 19th edition of Safer Internet Day with actions taking place across the globe in 170 countries and six continents. With the theme: ‘All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online’, the day will call upon all stakeholders to join hands and together make the internet a safer and better place for all, especially for children and young people. Among our concerns at Imo State Business Link Magazine are online child and even adult sexual abuse, gaming, misinformation, online bullying, online challenges, ineffective parental controls, pornography, sexting and the immoral impact of the social media.
Among those whose concerns we share are parents, carers, teachers and school staffs, grandparents, school governors and trustees, foster carers, adoptive parents, social workers and healthcare professionals.
From gaming and chat to streaming and video, young people are shaping the interactive entertainment spaces they are a crucial part of. Safer Internet Day 2022 will, therefore, celebrate the role of young people in creating a safer internet, whether that is when gaming and creating content, or interacting with their friends and peers.
Using tailored learning materials, tips and resources for all ages as well as for educators and families, Safer Internet Day challenges all stakeholders to play their part in fostering supportive relationships and respectful communities online. From discussing the ways the internet can be used to communicate, to creating positive change in online groups when bullying behaviours arise, the Day empowers young people to be at the heart of creating a better internet.
Speaking with young people is the key to exploring their experiences on platforms where they can play games, interact with their peers and others, and take part in ‘live’ experiences such as video streaming. These platforms play such an important and positive role, providing young people with the means to interact with friends and as a great pastime, particularly during lockdowns.
However, there are some emerging safety issues in these spaces as well as issues young people have been navigating for some time, particularly the lack of respect individuals display towards each other, groups ‘ganging up’ against other groups, and the sense that it is easy to ‘get away’ with negative behaviour such as meanness, bullying and swearing. They speak about hate directed at particular groups on gaming platforms. They tell us the apparent lack of consequences for negative behaviour has an impact on their safety and wellbeing.
We need to address these issues so that all young people understand what constitutes respectful behaviour online, and know what to do if they encounter hate or bullying directed at them or someone else.
Each year we see a great impact of Safer Internet Day. In the UK in 2021 for example, 51% of UK children aged 8-17 years heard about Safer Internet Day, as well as 38% of parents and carers. The result was that 82% said they felt more confident about what to do if they were worried about something online. 85% said they knew what to do if they or someone else saw misleading or unreliable content online. 63% had a conversation with a parent or carer about online safety. 26% said they spoke to someone about something that had been worrying them online.
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 to inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.
Over the years, Safer Internet Day has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Starting as an initiative of the European Union SafeBorders project in 2004 and taken up by the Insafe Network as one of its earliest actions in 2005, Safer Internet Day has grown beyond its traditional geographical zone and is now celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide.
From cyber-bullying to social networking to digital identity, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.
In Nigeria, concerned stakeholders will mark Safer Internet Day by mobilizing people across the country to get “together for a better internet” and explore how they manage their online identity, and how the internet shapes how they think of themselves and others. They will probably hold a live-streamed event for policy makers and decision-makers hosted by a high-profile presenter, and featuring young people.
Also there is a need to use the opportunity to begin to educate most Nigerians on the need to be internet savvy. Many Nigerians across the country do not even have mobile phones that can browse. State and local governments can arrange to supply these to their constituents at a reduced price to encourage them to come digital and modern. They will have nothing to lose in doing just that.