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📝Show notes:

We are joining hands with thousands of organisations around the globe to celebrate the 19th Safer Internet Day. This year’s theme is “All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online”.

Michala Liavaag shares what organizations’ leaders can do to help making the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people.

👉 Cited in this episode:

UK Safer Internet Day: Children’s code by the Information Commissioner’s Office:

Our episode on Data Protection:

Safer Internet Day Advice for Parents and Carer, download the activity pack for the online family safety plan and more


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✍🏾Written and produced by Michala Liavaag

🎦Co-produced and edited by Ana Garner video

🎵Music by CFO Garner



Read the episode transcript

Welcome to Cybility Savvy, the show that demystifies cyber security for not-for-profit boards and leaders

Hello. I’m your host, Michala Liavaag, founder of Cybility Consulting. Today I’m going to shed a little light on Safer Internet Day, what it's about and there will be celebrations all across the world in over 170 countries, learning about this year's theme: All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online. In the UK this is coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre. There are thousands of organizations that get involved to promote the safe, responsible, and positive use of digital technology for children and young people. And I’d actually extend this beyond children and young people, say it also affects vulnerable adults, and people in general, whether you are parents, guardians, carers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, chances are that you have some influence on children and their use of the internet, So this is important for you to participate in as well.

What does this actually mean for you and your organization? This year's hashtag is #playyourpart and, as I’ve already mentioned, it's about celebrating that young people's role in creating a safer internet, and the ways that you know the interactive entertainment spaces are being shaped. You can just sort of look at Augmented Reality and the future of the Metaverse as great examples. The places that people are using are really about connecting with others, creating that sense of community, and collaborating. And once again, this also applies to adults in our spaces too. One of the challenges I think on both sides is about fostering the supportive relationships, respectful communities, but also equipping people with the skills that they need to keep themselves and others safe. This is something that organizations working with whether it's children or vulnerable adults, need to be considering about creating that sense of safety as well. Earlier last year, the UK Safer Internet Centre conducted research about the time that young people are spending online and, not surprisingly in a pandemic, found that 77% of young people had spent more time playing online games and apps during the pandemic than ever before. I’d be interested in that stats for adults too, because I’m pretty confident it'll be higher. I saw an interesting program around that increase in adults, from a point of view of helping their mental health. More worryingly I think, is that 41% of young people had either blocked or reported another user because of their behaviour. That could be anything from insults to harassment on an ongoing basis with cyber bullying, and there is obviously work happening around legislation to look at giving the platforms more accountability for the content that other people share. There's quite a bit of a debate around whether it should be the platforms or people, and I think ultimately it's a combination of both.

But again, bringing it back to you and your organizations: are you receiving regular online safety reports from senior leaders? Do you have children being taught about online safeguarding, both through teaching opportunities that there may be or part of a curriculum? What if you sort of host children and vulnerable adults for events, for example, do you have some considerations around digital safety there, in terms of what you're creating? Do all staff have access to and complete appropriate online safety training that's actually relevant to their role? And that last bit is really key, about making it relevant to their roles so they can understand this ‘so what’, the why behind it. And I’d strongly recommend, if you hear from your senior leaders, “oh we have this mandatory e-learning training that staff complete once a year”. You can challenge that, because it's not effective, it does need to be ongoing throughout the year, as a sort of campaign and drip feed. And that's one of the reasons that we bring these sort of days to your attention, so that you can reiterate that message.

The Safer Internet Centre provides a wealth of resources, and I’d strongly recommend that you take a look at the educational resources if you're in that space. Now, one of the other areas that's really important is about system design. We've spoken on this channel many times about the importance of building privacy and security in from the start at the concept stage, and is particularly important around web applications and mobile app development. A lot of organizations are creating mobile and apps to make their services more accessible. When implementing these new systems, have you actually thought about the data protection implications, the privacy and security implications? Does the company that you're using to do the development understand these things and are they aware of them? If not, you might want to look for another company.

In terms of resources, take a look at one of our previous episodes, a chat with our data protection officer Hannah Nacheva where we do go into this in a bit more depth. Also take a look at the Information Commissioner's Office Children's Code, and that goes through both all sort of considerations that you should be thinking about, and the impact that could happen if you don't, explanations on the things that you can do to address those. It's a quite a substantial piece of work. Again, if you're working with people who aren't familiar with this, please sign post them to it.

And the final point I’d like to reiterate on Safer Internet Day is that during the pandemic, people have been working from home, working remotely, students have been working from home, learning through these systems. That means that quite often web filtering that was in place in an organization or in a school is not actually in place in the home. What level of filtering are you doing now that people are in the home? There are solutions out there, generally there is cost attached to these, but if you can't afford those, you can do some basic things through education. Like, for example, resetting the admin password on a router, so it's no longer the default. That's probably one of the biggest things that you can do straight away. And then the other thing just to mention again, around particular children moving into the home space for the remote study, is that many didn't even have IT equipment to study. And a lot of charities and groups got together to pull together IT kit and get it out to people. Now some of those were good and went through a rigorous process around wiping those drives and making sure that they were safe to go out, but others didn't think about that. They perhaps weren't aware and just got the kit out there. There might be something about reminding people of anti-malware software on their devices. That could really again just help with that online safety piece.

One of the resources again from the UK Safer Internet Centre that I think is really good, is their advice for parents and carers. They've got an activity pack that you can download, and within this pack, is an online family safety plan. And I think that's a really great thing to share across your organizations, to get people thinking about the devices that they own, what protections are in place. Almost like a kind of IT based Health and Safety assessment.

And whilst I said that was my final message, I just have one little bonus tip for you. If you do have internal social media such as Yammer for example, or a community group, a Facebook group, or something like that, then what you can also do, is share some of these social media snippets that Safer Internet Day are putting out today and retweet them, post them on LinkedIn, etc. And if you're doing it on internal social media in an organization, I’d strongly recommend that it be the chief exec or somebody else in the exec suite, that actually sends those messages out. It really should not come from IT. It's not an IT problem, it's an organizational-wide problem, a people problem. So, have your leaders at the top and set that tone. It's again another opportunity for you to demonstrate that leadership.