Celebrating Safer Internet Day

Educating the Leaders of the Future

by Dr Guy Bunker.

Can you imagine a world without the Internet? Even if you don’t use it on any one day, I suspect that your children (or your parents) will have. While the Internet is a power for good, there are also the well-publicised less good aspects. Safer Internet Day is growing each year - and whilst its focus is on children of school age, it is a positive reflection of the IT security industry. Technology in education is a springboard to higher value skills and a more prepared “cyber army” for the future. 

Promoting safe and responsible use of online technology and mobile phones for children and young people is essential in today’s climate. Those that don’t understand the technology or how to use it risk potentially damaging their career prospects later in life – and even if it is not a career, ‘life’ is now inextricably linked to the Internet. As I have mentioned before, social media risks damaging our next generation of future leaders.

Over the years, Safer Internet Day (SID) has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Starting as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004 and taken up by the Insafe network (www.saferinternet.org) as one of its earliest actions in 2005, Safer Internet Day has grown beyond its traditional geographic zone and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide, and across all continents.

The emphasis this year is on cyber bullying, with a focus on “connect with respect” and creating a “better internet together”. It’s important that the next generation understands how to embrace technology for positive and effective progress, communication and education. Users need to understand the importance of data protection at a younger age than ever, with “leaky apps” and personal images being unwantedly shared.

In 1999, the European Commission (EC) created the Safer Internet Programme, with the aim of promoting safe, responsible use of the internet by children and young people, and protecting them from illegal and harmful content and conduct online. The programme is managed by the Directorate General for Information, Society and Media and highlights the shared responsibility of NGOs, educational establishments, law enforcement bodies, industry and families in online safety initiatives across the European Union member states. In 2004, the Insafe network was set up to spearhead awareness activities within the Safer Internet Programme.

The cyber war doesn’t just begin in business, it begins in the classroom. With coding being introduced into the school curriculum this September, technology is becoming even more integral to our children’s’ lives. So, it’s the responsibility of all of us - including teachers, IT experts and parents, to ensure that the correct codes of conduct are understood and that the technology risks, and benefits are clearly communicated- in the words of SID- to “create a better internet together”.