Safer Internet Day (SID) celebrated its 18th edition on Tuesday 9th February, with the theme once again: “Together for a better internet”. The day called upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people.

Starting as an initiative from the EU SafeBorders project in 2004, SID is now celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide. It aims to raise awareness to emerging online issues and current concerns facing the internet, such as cyberbullying, social networking, and digital identity.

This is an important initiative and organisations are approaching this in different ways:

  • BBC encouraged younger readers to ‘be kind’, particularly through the ‘Own It’ app – an app that has a smart keyboard highlighting potentially harmful or abusive messages, encouraging the user to think before sending a message.
  • Google has continued its focus on safety, with its Safe Browsing product protecting more than 4 billion devices, Gmail blocks more than 100m phishing attempts every day, and Google Play Protect scans over 100bn apps every day for malware and other issues. In addition, its Advanced Protection Program brings heightened security to high-risk political accounts through advanced protection against account hijacking, and its new cybersecurity training initiative, Cybersecurity for State Leaders, is ensuring lawmakers and their staff’s defences are strengthened against digital attacks.
  • Microsoft runs an annual Digital Civility Index (DCI) that measures teens’ and adults’ exposure to online risks, that just ran its fifth year. The latest instalment of the survey included around 16,000 respondents in 32 geographies: polling adults and teens about their online interactions and experiences of 21 different online risks. Although overall civility has improved, global respondents reported an increase in experiences of hoaxes, frauds, and scams, hate speech and discrimination.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is starting to use child ‘avatars’ – online profiles that simulate the online profiles of children, to identify and take action against inappropriately targeted ads
  • Man Utd joined forces with the NSPCC to promote online safety for young people through an online safety workshop to parents of Foundation participants and Manchester United Academy players, helping parents and carers understand how children experience the online world. 
  • Man City delivered educational workshops and activities to various organisations through its City in the Community (CITC) team, in Manchester and in Kuala Lumpur, providing participants with the skills to support one another and speak out against harmful and misleading content online.

At MTM, we’re proud to have worked across safer internet initiatives. Here are three of our key take-outs for brands looking to help:

  1. Use your offering as the platform and engagement tool to create change. e.g. Manchester United’s Academy or Google’s Safe Browsing product. This will have more reach, create more impact on people, and create more value long-term. 
  2. Tailor content to most vulnerable people. Make it bitesize, gamified, interactive. This will have much more potential to cut-through and engage the audience it aims to serve.
  3. Empower audiences to take action. It is better not to be didactic and tell people what to do, but critical to give them the tools and wherewithal to take action themselves.
  4. Ensure action is ongoing (not just for the month of February). Behaviours and personal tools need to be embedded overtime and continuous input is fundamental. One activation won’t have lasting impact on its own. 
  5. Understand the online universe. The online world is unique, and nurtures different behaviours and needs. The threats and challenges people face there are different to that of the real world – especially for children. It is critical to explore this space to best understand how to take meaningful action.