700 schools take part in Safer Internet Day
More than 170,000 students across Ireland are expected to take part in events for Safer Internet Day. This year’s theme is Together for a Better Internet.
The an-EU wide initiative aims to promote a safer Internet for all users, especially young people. It was first marked in 2004 and now takes place in approximately 150 countries worldwide.
In Ireland, Safer Internet Day is co-ordinated by Webwise, the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre which is co-funded by the Dept of Education & Skills, and the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility.
Almost 700 schools and organisations have registered for Safer Internet Day events. These include school assemblies, student mentoring, positivity weeks, online safety talks and workshops addressing topics such as consent online, digital well-being, social media use and respectful communication.
In addition to school-based activities, Webwise will be launching Connected, a curriculum-based educational resource, designed for Junior Cycle teachers exploring digital literacy, young people’s rights on the Internet, online wellbeing, Big Data and false information.
Speaking at the launch of Connected launch at Twitter’s office in Dublin, was Prof Brian O’Neill, director of research at TU Dublin. “Online safety comprises a broader set of skills that go beyond privacy settings. It’s about being digital media smart, and to be smart requires learning and awareness,” said Prof O’Neill.
“There are huge benefits to the Internet. Equipping our future generations to grasp and enjoy these benefits involves investing in their capabilities. Comprehensive, curriculum-based programmes are essential in giving young people the knowledge and skills to be resilient online citizens.
“Equally, teachers need the understanding and materials to impart digital literacy. The new Webwise programme, Connected, responds to these dimensions, and is a good example of collaborative work by many agencies and experts in the pedagogy and digital technology fields.”
Webwise has trained and mobilised 100 student ambassadors and 40 teachers from second-level schools to lead online safety events in their own schools and communities. Some of these students will take part in a youth panel discussion at the Webwise seminar, while others will lead Safer Internet Day activities in their schools and communities.
Children and Youth Charities Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, CyberSafeIreland, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four, the ISPCC and SpunOut.ie are marking the day by advocating for greater resources to be devoted to online child safety in the next programme for government.
The Children’s Rights Alliance has called for a five-year programme to consisting of he appointment of a digital safety commissioner; increased resources for An Garda Siochana to investigate crimes involving images of child sex abuse; the introduction of a digital literacy plan in formal and non-formal education; and the ensuring that digital rights and online safety are central to the next Children and Young people’s strategy.
Alex Cooney, CEO, CyberSafeIreland, commented: “Our latest survey data reveals that almost a third of young children have been upset by material encountered online should be a wake-up call to whoever emerges in government after the general election that we must get to grips with children’s internet use and access. There have been plenty of encouraging promises made in parties’ election manifestos, but the proof of their commitment will be seeing these translated into a programme for government with clear action points and timelines to both protect and empower our children in the online world.”