It's a bit of a misleading title really. Shouldn't we be safe on the internet every day? Shouldn't we be teaching internet safety all of the time - not just for one day a year? Of course we should, and of course we do. However, Safer Internet Day provides schools with an opportunity to talk to pupils about a specific focus or area of internet safety, and the UK Safer Internet Centre provides schools with lots of age-appropriate resources, assemblies, and talking points to discuss with students of all ages.
I visited Charles Read Academy last week and along with Miss King, ran sessions for Year 7 pupils centred around the power of image. We were joined by governors and school leaders, which provided a great opportunity to talk about the power of online images from all viewpoints and age ranges.
Much of the discussion centred around 'selfies' - and the difference, if any, of the type of selfies posted by boys and girls. Of course we were generalising, but talk of filters, pouts, collecting likes and showing off filled the room - especially when we split into boy and girl groups for discussing the topic.
What was consistent though, and not specific to gender, was the opinion that we should all be careful what we post. Our discussions lead us to matching consequences to actions, and what happens if we post the wrong type of image. One of the adults shared a story about how his son was asked in a job interview about the song he had sung and posted on YouTube - the employer had 'Googled' him before the job interview. This highlighted to pupils the fact that no matter how temporary the app or fleeting the image on a social media account, whatever you post can be, and will be, online forever - our digital footprint.
Throughout the lessons, we talked about the need to use a 'moral compass' - because sometimes it's not as easy as right or wrong. Every online decision, just like in real life, often requires judgement calls that aren't necessarily black or white, right or wrong - and the need for a moral compass helps guide us through the decision making process, especially when deciding on posting images online.
We decided that a general, and very useful guide to what we should post online included:
Do I have permission from everyone in the image?
Would my parents/teacher be happy with me if they saw this image?
Will this image upset anyone?
Are my privacy settings locked?
Is my image misleading?
This image will be around forever. Will I be happy with that in 10 years?
And of course, as with most things online - if in doubt, ask a responsible adult.
The pupils at Charles Read were engaging, thoughtful and inquisitive. They contributed to our lively discussions and were eloquent in their responses - many had experiences of sharing images online, and were very reflective when sharing their experiences. They listened to each other and were respectful of others' opinions.
For us adults, it's important to remember that just like in real life, children do make mistakes. It's reassuring to know that there are organisations like the UK Safer Internet Centre who provide resources, help and guidance to help children and young people stay safe online.
If you have any questions or comments, or would like some advice on anything related to online safety, then please get in touch.
For all of the UK Safer Internet Centre resources, click here
If you are worried or feel unsafe about something online, visit Ceops website here