10 February 2015 marks Safer Internet Day, an annual event led by the UK Safer Internet Centre that celebrates all of the good stuff about being online. This year’s theme is 'Let’s create a better internet together' and we don’t think online type themes get much better than that.

On Safer Internet Day our small team will be out and about in Torbay delivering esafety presentations to pupils in primary and secondary schools and academies. We’ll also be at a few parents evenings talking about what esafety tools can be used at home (like parental controls), but just as importantly we’ll be discussing online behaviours.

With our project we always try to focus on the benefits of being online as well as the risks. Being online provides us with so many opportunities but just like offline, there are things that we need to do to keep us and our families safer. We also have to take responsibility for how we conduct ourselves online, just as we do offline.

Offline we are surrounded by risks on a daily basis. When we’re younger we are taught how to manage some of those risks. We also learn (sometimes) by experience when we make mistakes, when accidents happen; when the risk turns into a reality.

Just like offline, online we are surrounded by risks on a daily basis but for some parents, guardians, and carers who haven’t grown up with these risks, or been taught anything about them, it can all seem really alien. How can you protect a child from something you don’t really understand? Just the thought of trying to wade through so many different technologies and so much information can seem like just too much.

When we give our presentations to parents we open by using the analogy of a car. Many parents and guardians can safely drive a car, without ever understanding how their car actually works. Online safety is a similar deal. You really don’t need to have a lot of knowledge about internet and digital technology to be able to support a child to stay safer online. Other than the practical stuff like protecting devices, staying safer online is a lot about how we behave and interact with other people.

A recent comment to a member of the Virtually S@fe team was “you can’t talk with a child about online gaming if you don’t understand the games they’re playing”. This type of comment isn’t rare but the reality is, as a parent or guardian of course you can talk with your child about gaming, or any other online issue. In terms of gaming, depending on the age of your child you can ask things like:

This can then open up conversations around what type of information your child might be sharing online with other players. It also gives you a non confrontational way of exploring the games content to see how appropriate it is for your child.

This Safer Internet Day we look forward to talking about all the positive bits of being online, and we hope that it gives parents, guardians, carers, teachers and anyone working with children and young people the opportunity to talk about staying safer online too.

To find out more about Safer Internet Day and to download resources visit the UK Safer Internet Centre website. You can talk part in the Safer Internet Day conversation on Twitter #SID2015.

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