The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives in the past 12 months, including how much we use digital technology and social media. We have turned online to communicate, socialize, learn, and play—with our screen time, in many cases, exceeding our offline activities.
These online interactions come at a time when we’re witnessing a dramatic rise in harmful content, unprecedented levels of hate speech, and disruptive anti-vax narratives about the pandemic, which all put those most vulnerable at risk. Our shared experience this past year serves as a reminder of the need for everyone to be able to participate safely online. This makes Safer Internet Day so much more important this year.
The 18th annual Safer Internet Day, with the theme, “Together for a better internet,” is a call-to-action to inspire positive changes online, to raise awareness of online safety issues, and to share the latest on what tech companies, policymakers, and others are doing to keep people safe.
This collaboration of tech companies, nonprofits, schools, students, and families, is a global event celebrated in more than 170 countries around the world. From cyberbullying to social networking to digital identity, Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.
After living through a year when we have all been stress-tested by uncertainty, anxiety, and frustration, we have also demonstrated an extraordinary ability to adapt and stay connected. We have harnessed what’s positive in digital technology and found opportunities to reach out to consumers with encouraging, affirmative messaging.
That’s the spirit behind Safer Internet Day—an internet where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively. The campaign aims to engage business leaders to celebrate the positive power of the internet and make the most of the internet’s potential to bring people together.
And brands have an important role to play in protecting their audiences, especially those that cater to children and young people. Regardless of your organization’s involvement with children, though, you need to be aware of the threats posed to your customers by harmful content on your brand-owned social media pages. We all need to embrace the ideals of Safer Internet Day and do our part to create a digital world that’s safe for everyone.
WHAT BRANDS (AND THE COMMUNITY) CAN DO TO PROMOTE ONLINE SAFETY
On Safer Internet Day and every day, we can all promote the positive by being kind and respectful to others and by seeking opportunities to create and connect. We can address the negative by removing and reporting inappropriate or illegal content and behavior online.
Brands can help to build a better internet by promoting positive content and safe services online, and by reviewing their brand guidelines to ensure their social media moderation policies are formalized and outlined publicly. They can also provide clear safety advice, a range of easy-to-use safety tools, and quick access to support if things go wrong.
You can also work together with organizations to support a culture where children, parents, educators, and administrators can function and thrive. Beyond your ability to moderate your brand’s owned and paid social media, you can sponsor opportunities for children and young people to learn about online safety and ensure that parents and caregivers have access to appropriate information and sources of support.
Your brand can support measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people through effective child protection strategies in the digital world. In that borderless world, you can confirm that your brand is globally compliant with regulations around online safety as you look to engage audiences, create and maintain trust, and conduct commerce across social media and digital channels.
Parents, caregivers, and educators play a crucial role in helping to create a better, safer internet, too. An open dialogue with children about technology, along with setting a personal example of positive online behavior encourages young people to be kind, respectful, and aware online. When children are equipped with digital literacy and critical thinking skills, they make better choices online and are empowered to create their own constructive, affirming content.
HELPING TO CREATE A DIGITAL WORLD THAT'S SAFE FOR EVERYONE
Creating a safe environment for internet users has been part of the Crisp DNA since the company was founded more than 15 years ago. Inspired by his first business, Crisp CEO and founder, Adam Hildreth, realized the need for greater online safety measures early on. At the age of 14, Adam founded Dubit, which made him the youngest-ever U.K. CEO. At the time, Dubit was a pioneering social media network, and it quickly became one of the most popular destinations for U.K. teenagers. As this growth happened, he discovered laws did not exist to protect children online.
Because of this discovery, Adam worked with the U.K. government in 2005 to develop the first online child protection laws. Today this relentless focus on helping to create a digital world that is safe for everyone now includes leading brands, global enterprises, and social media platforms, and contributes to secure, daily online experiences for more than two billion users, including an estimated 450 million children.
As children’s social media usage continues to climb, Crisp has been involved with a number of industry initiatives to make the digital world a safer place for everyone. We are a founding member of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), launched in April 2020 with three key aims:
Provide a voice of hope by informing policymakers, technology providers, and the general public about online safety technologies.
Create collective influence on policy, regulation, and broader support for the sector.
Provide a forum for companies contributing towards the goal of online safety.
Governing bodies around the world continue to work on regulations that protect children while encouraging their participation in digital media. The U.K. recently enacted the Age-Appropriate Design Code, also known as the “Children’s Code,” which primarily focuses on online services, such as apps, online games, and web and social media sites likely to be accessed by children.
Crisp also works with a wide number of nonprofit organizations, including WePROTECT and INHOPE, to ensure we can bring our expertise to the forefront of ensuring online child safety.
BRANDS THAT PROMOTE ONLINE SAFETY WIN WITH CONSUMERS
While we expect to see more laws in coming years intended to protect children and young people across digital channels, the urgency for brands to protect audiences goes beyond regulatory compliance to avoid fines and enforcement actions—it goes to newly empowered, emboldened consumers who are committed to holding brands accountable.
Every consumer-facing enterprise finds itself stretched to meet the demands of those consumers and protect against reputational and operational risks at the same time. Brand leaders are in a unique position to inform the content young people interact with on a daily basis.
Safer Internet Day presents brands with a unique opportunity to spread the word on social media using the hashtags #SID2021 and #saferinternetday. Like the Facebook page or follow the campaign on Instagram or Twitter to keep up with the latest news. Watch the “Industry Insight'' video series from ConnectSafely for a look at what tech companies, policymakers, and others are doing to keep people safe on apps and services.
On Safer Internet Day we take a moment to acknowledge the great strides we've made to keep people safe online, but also to challenge ourselves to remain steadfast in our relentless commitment to a safer internet for all. Creating a safe online world is not beyond our ambitions. But it will take collaboration and innovation to achieve a reality where we can protect the most vulnerable while building a better internet for all.