Safer Internet Day!

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Today is Safer Internet Day and it’s brilliant to see all the support that has been drummed up via Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Safer Internet Day is all about making the internet a better place and here are a few ways to stay safe online.

The Internet is an amazing tool, it’s undeniable. It allows us to connect with people on the other side of the world and send messages, video chat, play games and many other awesome things.

Phrases like “Googling”, “retweeting” and “upvoting” have become common parlance. “Text chat” slips into conversation often, okay so not everything about the Internet is great.

It’s the freedom that the Internet represents that pulls people in and doesn’t let them go but there’s a sting in the tail.

With the freedom to discover, play and interact with a big wide world, comes the freedom to abuse that world and those who inhabit it.

Keeping Safe Online

It’s an unfortunate truth that the Internet can be a really nasty place to be. I’ve had my fair share of fights, or heated discussions, in the comment section of YouTube with perfect strangers for example.

Often however it’s the people who we let inside our little internet bubbles who can be the most damaging: “Friends” on Facebook or “Followers” on Twitter.

With that in mind I have put together a little list advising you, and by proxy your kids, on how to defend against the Internet’s more unsavoury denizens.

  • Don’t let them in. A friend should be a friend: if you don’t know someone or you only vaguely know them then simply don’t accept the request.
  • Not a popularity contest. Social Media isn’t about having a huge number of friends or followers, it’s about meaningful connections, conversations and pictures of your lunch: don’t treat your number of friends as a high score.
  • Not the be all and end all. Social Media should never become a substitute for real-world friendships. It should augment your friendships not define them.
  • A step to far. Sometimes what can start as a joke can go too far and this isn’t unique to the Internet. If you feel it’s going to far then say so: a big problem with the Internet, email and text messages is that it can difficult to gauge how someone is feeling behind the keyboard.
  • Know how and when to block. This is probably the most important point: if things are going way to far then unfriend, block, or remove that destructive person. Social Media makes it exceedingly easy to do so.


Why sling abuse online in the first place? Why try to ruin the wonderful world wide web? I’ve put together another little list which runs down a few reasons why we see online abuse.

  • Anonymity. When posting online there can be an implied anonymity, a feeling that no one knows who you are online and that you can hide behind a username.
  • It’ll never get back to me. Similar to a feeling of anonymity, some folks just believe that there is a disconnect between their online persona and themselves. Of course this isn’t true, if you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face then don’t post it online.
  • Behind the keyboard. There is a significant difference between being abusive to someone’s face and writing an abusive message that’s posted online. If you can see a negative reaction to something you do then you’re unlikely to do it again, this isn’t the case with online abuse, you don’t get to see the result of your actions.
  • Part of the crowd. Being part of a social group is important to kids. This can be completely innocuous and is a normal part of growing up. Sometimes, however, it could mean joining in with bullying, be it online or otherwise.

I love the Internet. It is a brilliant tool and it should definitely be a part of the education and development of our kids. But that has to be tempered with good user education, common sense and most importantly used in moderation.

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How will you make the Internet a better place?