Will Gardner of Childnet speaks to PFU about Safer Internet Day and how to protect children online
Tuesday, February 7 is Safer Internet Day 2017, a global initiative to get children and young people safe online. Under the motto ‘Be the change: unite for a better internet’, hundreds of organisations work together to raise awareness and improve child online protection. We spoke to one of the organisers fo the Day for the UK, Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet. He talked about the role that the internet plays in the life of a child and what you can do to protect them from online dangers and abuse.
- What exactly is Childnet and what is your role in the company?
Childnet is a children’s charity. Our mission is to make the internet a great and safe place for children. We began our work in 1995. We work to give young people the information and skills they need so they are empowered to use the internet safely and responsibly. I am the CEO of Childnet, and I have been working here since 2000.
- How did you come up with the idea for Safer Internet Day?
Safer Internet Day (SID) began over 10 years ago, and it has grown enormously since then. We see SID as the best opportunity that we have in the calendar year to work collaboratively to collectively raise awareness about this issue, and the response we have had from schools and other stakeholders has been extraordinary.
- What made you decide that it is important to protect children online?
We can all see how integral technology has become in children’s lives, both socially and in education, and how negatively some of the potential online risks can impact young people or even family and school communities.
On a personal note, I joined Childnet in 2000, and on my first day the story broke of the sentencing of a man who had been convicted for abusing a child that he had first met in an online chatroom. We worked closely with the family of the child in this case, and the father was determined to raise awareness in this area – he had a technology background and, as a result, felt that if he didn’t know what his child was doing in online chatrooms, most other parents would be the same. We went on to lobby Government and push for the introduction of a new criminal offence of ‘grooming’ which came into force in 2003.
- What do you see as the biggest threat for kids on the internet?
We know that there are a range of potential risks, and these have been categorised into 4 Cs, of Content, Contact, Conduct and Commercialism. There are some key issues that affect different aged children more prominently. I think if you asked secondary school aged children the same question, they may answer about cyber bullying, as well as worrying about their online reputation. We did some research earlier this year and found that online hate is a big issue, with over 80% of 13-18 year olds saying they had seen or heard something hateful online about a certain group.
- How do you get children, parents and teachers involved?
Perhaps the most important method we use is partnering with schools. We develop lesson plans, assemblies (with script), quick ideas for teachers, information for parents, posters, and more. At the last Safer Internet Day event we had over 350,000 downloads of these resources.
We also engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including the BBC, Disney, Facebook, Google, Twitter, the UK government, the police, charities – such as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) – and premier league clubs to name a few. This collaborative activity is enormously effective, and we know we reached 40% of children and 20% of parents last time for SID as a result. What’s more 87% of 8-17 year olds who heard SID messages reported feeling more confident about what to do if something online worries them.
- Where do you see the relation between scanning and internet safety?
There is a connection – for example, when we talk to children about what is OK and not OK to share, and thinking before you post/share. This relates to scanning, digital cameras and digital media more broadly too. Furthermore, we think that everyone has a role to play in helping keep children be safe online, and this involves industries too.
- What advice would you give to our ScanSnap users regarding internet safety?
I would recommend that they look out for and join in on Safer Internet Day on 7th February. There will be a wide range of things happening across the country, and use this opportunity to talk with your families about this issue.
If you want to find out more, visit www.saferinternetday.org.uk
If you would like to know about Childnet, please click the following link: www.childnet.com