Fun and Games with SID

  TODAY is the second day, of the second week, of the second month of the year…  That can only mean one thing…  No, not just that it’s Tuesday 11th February 2014, it’s also Safer Internet Day (SID).  Celebrated in 100 countries across six of the world’s seven continents, SID has a shared mission – they want schools, businesses, governments and charities to come together – exploring, playing and learning online in safety.  This year’s aim:  ‘Let’s create a better internet together.’

But surely you’re safe in your room, chilling out on your bed and hanging out online?   You know how to handle yourself on the computer right?  You’re no fool?  Think again.  However savvy you are, being more aware of what the internet has to offer and more importantly how to navigate it safely, will not just increase your digital confidence but give you a better online experience as well.

Not being averse to a challenge myself, I had a go at the SID online safety quiz.  I’m ashamed to admit I scored a pitiful zero out of five!  You may think you are already making good decisions online (I did) and that things like cyberbullying are easy to avoid:

Q:  A few of your friends have been leaving mean comments online about someone you know. What do you do?

A:  Join in – they’re only having a laugh!
B:  Report the comments to the service provider
C:  Support the person being targeted
D:  Tell someone
E:  Do nothing

I just chose D) Tell someone, and I was wrong.  To really combat cyberbullying you need to choose B), C) and D).  Issues like this – especially when they involve your friends and school life – can be hard to navigate, and solutions may seem a million miles away when you’re suffering online bullying.  The quiz looks at other issues including what to do if an online conversation is making you feel uncomfortable, how to protect your online reputation and how to avoid leaving a negative digital footprint.  SID would like to see an international network of hotlines and helplines to tackle these sorts of issues head on, and by working with major IT companies they are helping to create simple robust reporting tools, better content classification and more effective parental controls.

So should there be internet safety lessons at school?  Should you be given as much guidance in the virtual world as you are in the real one?  We've all been told not to accept lifts from strangers, but do we exercise the same caution when chatting with someone online who we've never met, and might not be who they say they are?  By raising awareness through education SID hopes to make the internet highway a safer place to travel (including mobile internet devices), and to shape our online experiences and safety on the net.

There is a central event taking place in each country, and this year in the UK they've got a brand new channel playing all day today with programmes for SID TV, looking at issues like standing up to bullying and supporting your friends, how films and video games are age rated and how to use Facebook, Twitter and Xbox safely.

There is also a youth panel made up of seven young people aged 13-15, who will meet at Microsoft's offices to discuss what steps the UK has taken to create a better internet, and what more could be done to ensure that young people use technology creatively, responsibly and safely.  Speakers include the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport Maria Miller MP and Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, who has also pledged her support in an online video.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron has got involved with SID, saying:

“I’m delighted to support Safer Internet Day and the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre. As a father of young children, I know how much parents worry about what their kids can see online... There is nothing more important than protecting our children; Government, industry, charity and parents all have a part to play.”

And if you fancy yourself as the next Alfonso Cuarón or Steve McQueen the Childnet film competition launches on Monday 24th February- ask a teacher or youth leader to email for more information.

Safer Internet Day aims to empower young and old alike and use the internet as a unique arena where children, parents and grandparents can learn together and from each other, at the same time as making the net a better place to play and learn, interact and explore.



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