The internet is an amazing place for people young and old to learn, play, create and explore. It has played an unparalleled role in lowering barriers to entry, improving connectivity and enhancing education for all. However, these opportunities can only be realised if people feel safe and secure to explore the online world and discover the full benefits that it can provide.
This is why techUK has been a longstanding supporter of #SaferInternetDay. Safer Internet Day provides an important moment to reflect on the opportunities of the web, and how we can continue to work to build a better internet.
We are so pleased to see so many of our members and wider industry participate again in Safer Internet Day – whether you’re on the Google homepage or following the conversation on Twitter, Safer Internet Day is front and centre. These actions, combined with the amazing work of charities such as Internet Matters, no doubt play an important role in prompting the conversations on online safety that 85% of parents are having with their children up and down the country.
To coincide with today’s campaign the Safer Internet Centre published new research highlighting the vital role that the internet plays in young people’s lives and in developing their identities:
- 49% of young people said their online activity makes up an essential part of who they are offline.
- 54% would feel lost, confused, or as if they’d lost part of themselves if their online access was taken away.
- 38% said it was easier to be themselves online than offline, seeing the internet as a safe space to explore and grow.
- 51% have felt better emotionally or less alone because of the internet.
- 47% have gained confidence to be themselves offline.
- 31% have found support they couldn’t find offline.
- 46% better understand other people’s identities because of things they’ve seen online.
This research builds on that from Ofcom published last week which found that more children than ever before are using the internet for their social activism, the so-called “Greta effect”, and that two thirds of young people used social media in the last year to offer personal support to their friends who are having a hard time.
With such important findings on the positive role of the online world, it is vital that children are empowered and educated to navigate it safely. In recent years industry has invested heavily in people, partnerships and technology to create a better online world for everyone, but this is only half the picture.
We need to look at how we can improve the media literacy of young people so that we can equip them with the skills to engage with the internet critically and safely, ensuring they know how to report, flag and respond to troublesome content, and where to seek further support if it is needed.
techUK is committed to working with Government as it develops its online harms proposals so we can find effective and workable solutions that make a real difference to those in need. There will always be new challenges and more that needs to be done, and the tech industry is committed to working constructively with all those who care passionately about this agenda.
The reach of #SaferInternetDay helps us all speak with one voice and discover more about what others are doing to make a difference. Today, around the country, people will be starting important conversations, sharing stories and ideas. You can join in by tweeting your support using the hashtag and visiting the website which is jam-packed with resources to help start the conversation. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or young person – take some time today to discover and get involved. Together we can make a difference.