Safer Internet Day (11th February 2020) is celebrated globally to inspire a conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. This year the UK Safer Internet Centre have centred the day around the theme of ‘together for a better internet’.

Teachers will educate students the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology. It is important to discuss online safety with young people at an early age, so they’re made aware of the potential dangers and how to avoid the risks.

Internet safety is proving to be a particular concern in the UK, according the first-ever global Child Online Safety Index (COSI) in light of Safer Internet Day. The study surveyed 145,426 children and adolescents in 30 countries over a period of three years. Overall, the UK ranks 19th out of 30 countries surveyed for child online safety.

The international league table for online safety among young people places the UK behind nearly all of the other developed countries in the study, including Spain, Italy, the US, South Africa and Australia. The overall COSI ranking includes six measures: cyber risks; disciplined digital use; digital competency; guidance and education; social infrastructure; and connectivity.

The results ranked the UK second from last overall for children’s “disciplined digital use” – based on excessive screen time, high social media and gaming use, and mobile phone ownership. Only the Dominican Republic ranked lower than the UK, while Japan is ranked first.

On average, eight to 19-year-olds in Britain are spending almost two days (44 hours) per week looking at screens, including computers, mobile phones and televisions.  This is the second-highest figure of all the countries surveyed, and almost twice that of Japan – where children spend 24 hours per week looking at screens.

In terms of social infrastructure, the UK comes in 2nd, accounting for government policies and ethical industry practices for online child protection. The UK also comes in 16th place for guidance and education, which evaluates the protective support and direction students receive from both parents and schools.

Yuhyun Park, founder of the DQ Institute, said “Primary schools also must teach students digital citizenship as part of their standard curriculum.”

How To Teach Internet Safety In Schools

1. Discussion around what a digital footprint is, for example your search history, and how it can affect their future prospects.

2. Explanation of when online abuse can become illegal, such as forms of hate crime and blackmail.

3. Inform the role of social media influencers, including the fact that they are paid to influence the behaviour (particularly shopping habits) of their followers.

4. Disinformation and why individuals or groups choose to share false information in order to deliberately deceive.

5. Discuss the impact that excessive social media usage can have on levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

6. How data is farmed from sources which look neutral, for example websites that look like games or surveys that can gather lots of data about individuals.

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