Given it’s such a key part of the fabric of everyday life, it’s difficult to imagine what it was like before the internet. Today, the ‘world wide web’ has around 3.2 billion users who send around 200 billion emails each day and perform somewhere in the region of 3 billion Google searches. In its current state the internet requires 50 million horsepower just to keep running. And it’s speeding up; in 2005 broadband speeds were at 2 Megabits per second maximum, today that number has jumped to 100 Megabits per second. Experts are dubious about additional capacity but who knows, technology is developing all the time.
However, as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben famously said “With great power comes great responsibility” and the internet does undeniably have a somewhat darker side. Apparently, 30,000 websites are hacked every single day, 70% of all the emails sent are spam and in China the government has set up treatment camps for people termed as ‘internet addicts’.
So how can we harness the power of the internet and digital technology in a way that’s safe, responsible and positive? Safer Internet Day, which will be celebrated globally on Tuesday 7th February, is a good place to start. Their slogan ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’, tells you what they’re about in a nutshell but here are three more reasons to support what they’re trying to achieve:
IT APPLIES TO EVERYONE:
The internet is used by people from all walks of life and therefore reflects each and every one of us. That’s why Safer Internet Day is calling on everyone to think about their behaviour online; young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies and even policy-makers.
Children are at the heart of Safer Internet Day but adults need to lead by example, highlighting positive uses for the internet rather than negative behaviours. We can all take part in Safer Internet Day’s #giveasmile campaign, to make the internet a more positive place.
GET YOUR KIDS THINKING ABOUT THE POWER OF IMAGE:
The power of image in digital youth culture today cannot be underestimated. Online, it’s become the norm for photos and images to be photoshopped, cropped, filtered, edited and distorted and children need to understand that what they see on the internet isn’t always an honest portrayal of real life.
We all need to make sure children have the skills, knowledge, confidence and resilience to communicate with images and video creatively but safely too. The idea isn’t to hamper self-expression but to help young people to guard against peer pressure and negative feelings that come through viewing doctored images and emotionally harmful interactions.
AWARENESS IS GROWING BUT WE CAN DO MORE:
As a result of massive international support last year, Safer Internet Day 2016 reached 2.8 million children and 2.5 million parents. The campaign last year was all about ‘doing your part and sharing a heart’ along with the hashtag #shareaheart. This trended throughout the day on Twitter, with a mass tweet reaching over 4 million people on the morning of Safer Internet Day itself. In the UK, the Safer Internet Centre took a group of young people to 10 Downing Street on Safer Internet Day, so important people are really taking notice of the issues at stake.
So, how much do you know about internet safety? This quiz about internet safety is a great way to put your knowledge to the test and get your kids talking about internet safety in a way that’s fun and accessible. It allows you to see what choices you’d make when faced with a series of dilemmas, as well as offering tips and advice. Topics it covers include cyberbullying, trolling, looking out for your friends and online pressures.
This February 7th take some time to connect with friends and family and give some thought to your reliance on and attitudes towards the internet. Because at the end of the day the internet is just one big global community and it’s up to us to make the choices to shape that community from within. If we don’t it could have a negative impact on future generations but if we do it could help us all to learn and grow and make the the internet a feel-good place for everyone.