Today on Safer Internet Day, we’re being asked to ‘create, connect and share respect’ to create a better internet. I think this is a great call to action. We can all do our bit to ensure that we continue to safely and responsibly enjoy the wonderful advantages we have through the amazing inventions of the internet and the world wide web.
These inventions have been and continue to be the most transformative inventions in our time. Thanks to Sir Tim Berners Lee for the world wide web and Vint Cerf, the father of the internet, we can communicate across the globe within seconds. If we don’t know something we can look it up instantly and educate ourselves, we can access Government services online if we so wish, navigate at the touch of a button and entrepreneurs have been quick to take advantage of the connectivity to develop their online businesses.
When Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web he said “I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”
The web has been described as the ‘illustration of the power of software’ and ‘a collaborative medium’. We hold the future of the web and internet in our hands and this is why the idea of creating, connecting and respecting each other online is so important.
For parents, teachers and children, this means sharing the space collaboratively, understanding each other, monitoring usage and keeping each other safe. Today, this isn’t a new element of parenting, it’s an extension of it. We all work hard to keep our children safe in the real world, we now need to apply the same rules in the virtual world, especially as the virtual world becomes more and more an integral part of the real world. There are many ways to do this, from ensuring you know what your child is looking at, to talking about issues such as online bullying and using parental controls built into devices.
For those working in technology, it’s a great and exciting career with almost endless possibilities as technologies develop and, like any career, it’s one where we have a professional responsibility to consider the impact of developments on users to ensure we get it right. As Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, recently said, “Technology by itself doesn’t want to be good and it doesn’t want to be bad either. It takes humans to make sure that the things you do with it are good. And it takes humans in the development process to make sure the creation of a product is a good thing.”
So, as we celebrate Safer Internet Day, I’d like to see us not only protecting children online but also inspiring them. They are growing up as digital natives and I would like to see us inspire them to be the creators of our future technology based on their experiences. This is an exciting prospect and we need to help them understand that this is something within their capability.
Sir Tim Berners Lee, speaking in 2017: “It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone.”
The UK Safer Internet Centre was established in 2011 to provide advice and support to children and young people, parents and carers, schools and the children’s workforce, as well as professionals working with children and young people with online safety issues. It not only runs Safer Internet Day but it also offers an anonymous and safe place to report and remove child sexual abuse imagery and videos, wherever they are found in the world.