Every February, Safer Internet Day serves as an effective first “checkpoint” in each new year. How far have we come since last year, and what changes and new priorities are steering the course? In 2018, we find ourselves in challenging times. There are profound political, social, and cultural difficulties unfolding around the globe, and we see the best and worst of it playing out across our screens. Our children see it, too.
But these difficult times are also an opportunity. An opportunity for us as adults, parents, teachers, industry leaders, and even politicians, to go back to basics.
Today, as we celebrate this day dedicated to online safety, it would be good for us all to pause and take a moment to ask ourselves: How am I creating a better Internet for myself and the next generation? What steps can I take to better protect myself (and my kids) while also building trust and civility in what I post, share, or participate in? Who can I support or connect with to show respect or overcome personal differences?
It is as simple (though still challenging) as following the Golden Rule:
Do onto others online, as we would want others to do onto us, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and the rest.
Don’t just think before you post. Feel it, too. Develop your empathic skills. How will this other person receive what I’m about to upload? What impact will I have with my words, photos, videos, shares and tweets?
It may mean that you’ll have to slow down your reactions and responses. Take an extra moment to check in with your head and your heart. Is what I am about to post true, as far as I can tell? Does this feel right? Is it golden? If so, send. If not, delete.
An important part of this year’s Safer Internet Day message is “create.” Can we combat the ugly things we see online by contributing positive content and messaging of our own? Most importantly, can we teach children to be positive creators as part of their development as digital citizens? As parents, this would be a good time to consider how you can better protect your kids online, while also modeling good behavior yourself.
Follow the “7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting” and keep an ongoing, open dialogue about their activities online. Get their ideas about what rules should be in place, then sign an online safety contract and keep it visible for all to see. Ask them to teach you things, and find opportunities to use technology together.
Go back to the most important basic: Look up from your phone or tablet or laptop long enough to reconnect in real time with your children. They learn far more by what you do and how you do it, than what you tell them to do.
Thoughtful tweeting, conscious posting and empathic responses are just the beginning. I am hopeful that this Safer Internet Day we will all take the time to explore the vast resources of the outstanding online safety community, and put them into practice for creating a better and empowered digital world for all.