Safer Internet Day 2014: Creating a better internet together 

Safer Internet Day – SID to its friends – takes place on 11 February 2014. Organised by the European network Insafe in collaboration with national Safer Internet Centres, this annual awareness day promotes the safe and responsible use of online technology and mobile phones for children and young people.

This year’s theme is Let’s create a better internet together, emphasising the need for collaboration and co-operation on the part of all the different stakeholders: parents and teachers, governments and law enforcement as well as, of course, the many companies that now provide us with access to and services in cyberspace.

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From little acorns mighty oak trees grow and the same is true with SID. When it all began back in 2003, barely a handful of European countries took part. Media interest was limited. Nobody could have guessed what it would become: a worldwide event drawing in people, companies and groups from over a hundred nations on all five continents. In many places, journalists are now extremely keen to cover the vast array of activities which SID has prompted.

Not every country manages to have SID on exactly the same date but it’s the thought that counts. Last week in Albania, there was a national conference on online safety, sponsored by the Ministry of Innovation and ICT. Several major players from Albania’s high tech world signed up to a code of practice and it was great to see Vodafone among them.

Vodafone Spain and Vodafone Egypt are also supporting SID activities. In Spain, a National Congress on being Young and Networked will be held at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, with Vodafone taking part in a high level round table discussion about New Challenges and New Solutions. In Egypt, one of the world’s leading authorities on the psychological impact of new technologies on children’s and young people’s mental health and personal development will be talking to a range of key stakeholders, as indeed will I.

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Television coverage plays an important role in raising awareness of SID – the Hungarian children’s channel M2 is running special features about the internet throughout the week and all three national TV stations in Iceland are carrying a SID spot every day. In the UK, the BBC is building messages about staying safe on the internet into radio drama, children’s TV programmes, consumer affairs content and its flagship BBC1 programmes The One Show and Breakfast. It has also created a new suite of online films and guides about online safety at BBC Webwise.

The USA is joining in for the first time, thanks to the engagement of Connect Safely. Their plan is to encourage people to go to the One Good Thing website and put together a little text or a video about how they have used the internet to do something good or kind. They want to make kindness go viral and who can argue with that?

Like a number of countries, Iran hasn’t yet formed a national Safer Internet Day committee but lots of schools are tuned in and are going to be engaged. Volunteers have been asked to step forward and get things moving on a more co-ordinated basis for next year.

From the industry side, it’s not just Vodafone that is involved. AT&T, Cisco, GSM Europe, Facebook, Google, IBM, Kaspersky Lab, Lego, Microsoft, MovieStarPlanet, Myspace, Vivendi and Yahoo are also pitching in. SID is going from strength to strength.

For more information and to find out what is going on in your local area, visit the Safer Internet Day website and the special supplement in The Parliament Magazine.