More than ever, we need a safer internet
Safer Internet Day has never been more important. Living under lockdowns, social distancing, working from home… we’ve never had to rely on streaming entertainment and other online resources more than in the past 12 months.
Online access to culture and information has been one of the saving graces of the past year. But our reliance on the internet to keep us working, playing, connected and entertained deepens concerns about keeping families and society safe from online harms.
For example, families worry about malware, identity theft, fraud and the exposure of children to fake or inappropriate content and advertising. We’ve even seen stories of people being sent fraudulent links to schedule vaccination appointments.
Safer Internet Day has brought with it smart ways to raise awareness about these issues. This year’s theme is ‘An internet we trust: exploring reliability in the online world’ and to celebrate 2021’s day, the Welsh Government, in partnership with the UK Safer Internet Centre, invited entries from children and young people across Wales to enter the Tackling Misinformation Digital Storytelling Competition.
The competition aims to encourage children and young people to use their creativity in a visual, written or auditory format to explain what misinformation is, why it might be a problem, how we can recognise it, what we can do to protect ourselves and to contain it.
I was proud to be a judge on this competition, and delighted to see so much creative flair. There was great use of humour, music, poetry, and other storytelling tools to get across an educational message. It reminded me that while adults too often fall into the trap of talking down to children, the kids themselves have a knack for communicating with each other as peers.
A safe and constructive internet is vital for children and the whole family alike, and these strange and difficult times have thrown that need into sharp relief. More than ever, we need efficiency in our remote working lives, comfort in our home entertainment, and confidence in our online safety.
Milestones like Safer Internet Day are an important opportunity to take stock and open our eyes to what an internet that works for everyone might look like.
Governments and policymakers are taking notice too – the UK Government is due to tackle harmful content online through a new regulatory framework, to be set out in a new Online Safety Bill in 2021, which should draw lines in the sand on what a safe internet, forged through shared responsibility should look like. Similarly, the EU is considering measures to strengthen the security and trustworthiness of digital services.
More to come about all of this, and why it matters to the MPA, in another blog post tomorrow…