Let's Choose to Create a Better Internet

Stephen Balkam
February 6, 2015

Today is Safer Internet Day. Now in its 11th year, SID, as it is commonly known, grew from a European Union initiative to what is now a global movement with activities, events and happenings in over 100 countries on 7 continents. I’ll be joining such luminaries as Attorney General Kamala Harris, Sheryl Sandberg and Otha Thornton, the President of the National PTA along with 300 participants, many of them teens, at the US SID event at Facebook.

The global tag line for SID is “Let’s create a better internet together.” What I like about the slogan is its emphasis on creating – not simply a safer, but a better Internet. And while this is a collective effort, it so often comes down to individual choices, to do good online or not.

Today is a good day to reflect on how we, and our kids, promote a safer and more responsible use of digital technology.

In a small way, we are co-creators of the Internet every time we log on, send a text or upload a photo. In what might seem to be in an insignificant way, we add to the tone, tenor and nature of the web by our actions, by what we contribute and by what we choose not to respond to. We can do One Good Thing or we can add to someone’s hurt feelings or worse. Today is a good day to reflect on how we, and our kids, promote a safer and more responsible use of digital technology.

Do we choose to:

  • be an upstander rather than a bystander when we encounter bullying online?
  • report a problem on social media or simply pass it along?
  • use the web to confront personal and social injustice or to spread hate and intolerance?
  • life up or to tear down?

Let’s use this day to not only reflect on our actions (or inactions) but also to consciously create safer, more respectful and civil online spaces. If you have them, talk with your kids about the importance of good digital citizenship. If you have older parents or seniors in your life, check to see if they are safe and secure in their online encounters and encourage them to be co-creators, too. This wonderful documentary will provide some great ideas for connecting the older folks in your life in a fun and uplifting way.

And for all you parents out there, try out these 7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting. There are tips, tools, resources and videos on all aspects of parenting in the digital age. We need to hone our own skills and to be able to talk with confidence to our kids if we’re going to help them create a better Internet to grow up and thrive in.

Let’s do it today.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

Stephen Balkam

For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in the both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families.