Safer Internet Day: working together for a better internet

by Ian Heritage

Last week Facebook and Google hit the headlines yet again for the wrong reasons after they were found to have bypassed Apple’s strict approvals process to distribute data harvesting apps to users. In Facebook’s case, the firm paid users as young as 13 in return for downloading the market research app. Critics claim it was less than open about the privacy-invading purposes of the app, and that its parental consent ‘checks’ could be easily faked.

It has all served as a timely reminder of the privacy and security risks families are exposed to on a regular basis today, as we celebrate Safer Internet Day (SID) around the world tomorrow, on the 5th February.

SID 2019
The aim of the awareness-raising event is to create a debate, especially among younger people, about how to use technology “responsible respectfully, critically and creatively”. In a world of fake news, data breaches, identity fraud, cyber-bullying, trolling, privacy leaks and internet addiction, there’s plenty of work to do.

This year’s event will focus on the concept of online consent: how it is given and received. It could cover everything from awareness about how our personal data is used every day by large organisations, right down to how we should ask for permission before sharing videos and images of others online. Information is power, and nowhere is this truer than in the digital world. That’s why Safer Internet Day’s mission to empower young people to take control of their online lives is so important.

Empowering parents and kids
At Trend Micro we’ve been on a mission like this for over a decade, with our long running Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) programme. It’s been tremendously successful over that time: hosting and supporting more than 3,000 events at over 10,000 schools. We estimate that it may have already positively impacted over two million children, parents and teachers worldwide, delivering much-needed information on how to use technology safely, responsibly and successfully.

Our popular What’s Your Story? competition is a great example of the value of ISKF. Run successfully in over a dozen countries worldwide since 2010, it provides a platform for students to educate others and nurture a safer, more responsible use of the internet. Each year we run a different theme, challenging participants to design and film a compelling short video to deliver their message. There’s always plenty to get us thinking and we’re continually heartened by how switched on and aware of internet safety issues young people actually are.

Closer to home, members of the Trend Micro UK team work tirelessly on outreach efforts to spread the ISKF message as far and wide as possible. In the past this has involved sponsoring events at local football clubs, and even in businesses, like National Lottery operator Camelot Group. Most recently, we were invited to a local primary school in Oxford where he held an interactive session for around 30 students aged 10-11, plus a follow-on session for parents. Direct sessions like this are a great way to get individuals to open up about their concerns and really help empowering them with the skills and know-how they need to stay safe online.

A safer future
At Trend Micro we’ve been doing our best to secure SMEs, enterprises and governments around the world over the past three decades. But there’s a bigger picture. We also know that it’s important for companies like us to share our expertise and promote safer online behaviour, especially among young people. That’s why we’re delighted to be supporting SID and will continue to look for new ways to engage with our ISKF outreach in 2019.

Ultimately, we need to start at the grass roots if we want a safer internet. That means encouraging youngsters to treat each other with respect online, but also educating and improving awareness around privacy, and simple best practice security steps like using AV and keeping software up-to-date. As more of us get the basics right, there’ll be fewer opportunities for the cyber-criminals and fraudsters. That’s something for us all to work towards.

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