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Safer Internet Day 2018 – bigger than ever - as millions take part in global celebration of a better internet for all

Image of Safer Internet Day 2018 – bigger than ever - as millions take part in global celebration of a better internet for all

by Will Gardner

07 February 2018

Will Gardner is a Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre and CEO of Childnet, one of the three charity partners in the centre. He sits on the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. 

Will Gardner, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, reflects on the huge success of Safer Internet Day 2018.

Yesterday saw the celebration of Safer Internet Day across the world in over 140 countries. As organisers of the day here in the UK it was absolutely incredible to see the range and variety of activities that took place right across the country.

The theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day was ‘Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you’. The campaign saw so many come together to help inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. Over 1700 organisations across the UK delivered activities for the day, including schools, police forces, government, companies, football clubs, charities and others – more than ever before.

The day began with #SID2018 trending as the Thunderclap went out, having a social reach of over nine million people. The Twitter custom emoji for the #SID2018 hashtag and the Snapchat filter were fantastic ways to celebrate the day.  Celebrities such as Diana Award Ambassador James McVey of The Vamps also pledged their support, while young people, organisations and others shared their #ItStartsWithUs pledges, showcasing how they were playing their part in building a better internet.

In the weeks leading up and on the day itself, our educational resources have been downloaded and used in schools across the country as well as the films on SID TV being viewed and our quiz being played. The message at the heart of all of these resources was about promoting healthy relationships online by developing children’s digital empathy and inspiring kindness and respect.   ​

Young people’s experiences highlighted across the UK

To us at the Safer Internet Centre, it’s clear that young people’s experiences have to be at the forefront of how we work together to achieve a more respectful, kinder internet for children and young people.

Our new research, ‘Digital Friendships: the role of technology in young people’s lives’ found that the majority of young people’s time online is positive, with 88% of young people aged 8-17 saying they had sent a kind message to a friend who was feeling sad or upset. However we also saw that some young people are having a negative time, with almost half (49%) of young people saying someone had been mean to them online in the last year. The report shows the nuances and complexities of navigating friendships in a digital world and that we have to listen to young people if we are to effectively support them. Safer Internet Day was a perfect moment for us to do just that.

Young people met Government officials and the UK Safer Internet Centre at events in all four nations of the UK, giving young people the opportunity to speak to key policymakers, industry and wider about their online experiences and what they want for their future.

  • In London, England: Minister for Digital, Margot James, met young people ahead of their afternoon event at the BT Centre hosted and led by over 50 young people and attended by 100 policymakers and guests.
  • In Cardiff, Wales: Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, awarded the winners of the Safer Internet Day creative competition for Welsh children and young people
  • In Edinburgh, Scotland: In Holy Rood RC High School, Maree Todd, the Minister for Childcare and Early Years met young people and discussed their online lives.
  • In Antrim, Northern Ireland: The UK Safer Internet Centre joined the Education Authority’s livestreamed event featuring the children and young people who had created the winning entries in their online safety video competition.

Safer Internet Day in the media

Safer Internet Day was profiled on national TV and radio, including The One Show, BBC Breakfast, Sky News Sunrise, BBC Radio 4 You and Yours, BBC 5 Live, as well as regional radio and TV, and a range of articles including The Guardian, The Independent, Huffington Post, The Times, Mail Online and The Sun.

The Impact of Safer Internet Day

We know that Safer Internet Day can have a hugely positive impact. As a result of the collective action last year we reached 42% of UK children and 23% of UK parents, with the majority going on to speak their families about staying safe online and feeling more confident about what to do about any worries online.

As we compile the numbers, it’s too early to say how many we have reached this year, but we do know that together we will have achieved a real difference to the digital lives of children right across the UK.

From the many conversations, activities and events that have been taking place, it’s clear that the day was such a success because of the collaborative efforts of everyone who came together to help create a better internet.

Creating a respectful and positive internet for children and young people is essential and we hope that the momentum of Safer Internet Day will help us in our collaboration to make this happen. Thank you to everyone for taking part and helping to make a better internet.