by Samantha Wright
At Trend Micro, we’ve been protecting our customers from cyber-threats for the past 30+ years. And we’ve become pretty good at it over that time. But making the digital world safer is not just a matter of researching new malware and building better ways to detect, respond to and block it. It’s also about teaching all members of society how to use technology in a more responsible, critical and respectful way.
That’s where our long-running Internet Safety for Kids and Families initiative comes in. We’ll be celebrating Safer Internet Day this February 8th in the hope that more young people join the conversation, and help us to build a better online world.
Choice and risk
Post-pandemic, most of our families are now likely to live as much of their lives online as they are in the physical world. Whether it’s for work, studying, socialising or entertainment, our computers and mobile devices represent the door to a seemingly limitless universe of possibilities. However, all that choice comes at a cost: there’s good and bad out there and it’s up to us to navigate it as best we can, and steer our children in the same direction.
Because there are undoubtedly things we’d like them to avoid. We know that cyber-bullies and internet trolls can exact a heavy toll on young minds. And we know that, despite the confidence digital natives display, they are sometimes as guilty as the rest of us of reusing passwords, oversharing on social media, falling for phishing links, visiting suspect sites, and other risky behaviour.
It’s also true that what constitutes “risky” is changing by the year. Today there are so many avenues for self-expression, communication, information and entertainment that it can sometimes seem like an impossible task to manage everything in a safe and secure way. How can we make sure our children have the media literacy skills to recognise when they’re being exposed to dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation, for example? And what should they do if they witness hate speech and bullying online, or become a victim themselves?
There are no quick and easy answers, but Safer Internet Day is a good place to start. This year, the UK Safer Internet Centre has chosen the theme: “All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online.” Its website offers education resources, quizzes, virtual assemblies and loads of useful advice for kids and parents. Thousands of organisations are also getting involved, to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology by young people.
Building a safer internet
Working with children and young adults is something that is particularly close to my heart. My experience for example with mentoring kids from less privileged backgrounds has shown me the amazing positive impact that careful guidance and awareness-raising can have on their confidence and wellbeing. That’s why I’m thrilled to be involved in our ISKF initiative.
For over a decade, we’ve been reaching out to local communities to share our expertise with parents, teachers and children. Our simple message—“be safe, be savvy, and be kind online”—has now reached over three million parents and teachers, nearly one million young people and tens of thousands of schools over that time.
We have a wealth of resources on the site. Check out our new Cyber Academy series of short videos: an ideal way to kick off the conversation about internet safety with your kids or students. But whatever you get up to, Happy Safer Internet Day!