“Be the change: Unite for a better internet”: Safer Internet Day 2017
Safer Internet Day (SID), started as an initiative of the European Union with the purpose of raising public awareness of the importance of safety on the internet, especially among children and the younger population, is this year marked on 7 February.
Every February over the last 14 years in many countries around the world various educational programmes, lectures, workshops, public debates and encounters are organised with the aim of drawing attention to potential safety risks related to using the internet and inform the wider public about how to protect personal safety in the dynamic and in many aspects challenging web environment. This year’s theme, Be the change: Unite for a better internet, calls for the active participation of the entire society in improving internet safety.
The marking of Safer Internet Day is particularly focusing on younger internet users and their parents, so most of SID programmes take part in primary and secondary schools. Considering the overwhelming popularity of social networks among the younger generation, special emphasis is put on protecting safety in this specific environment. Some 2016 surveys indicate that a large number of young users of social networking services make online friendships with people that they do not know, not to mention that a roughly equal number of them become users before they reach the age limit set as a condition of use, thus deliberately violating proscribed age-based restrictions. With a marked overly intense emotional attachment of the young to the online environment, a widespread occurrence of online bullying through private messages, public comments, ill-intentioned denying of online friendship, and worst of all – the grave problem of online child sexual abuse and child pornography, it is more than clear that it is necessary to systematically encourage safe and responsible internet behaviour.
The marking of Safer Internet Day is organised by Insafe, a European network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs), and INHOPE, an International Association of Internet Hotlines. The Croatian Safer Internet Centre was established in 2015 as part of Safer Internet Centre Croatia: Making internet a good and safe place, a current European Commission project whose activities are coordinated by the Croatian Centre for Missing and Abused Children based in Osijek which has been successfully tackling problems associated with the protection of children against any kind of online abuse since its setting up in 2006.
Apart from countless possibilities and an unrestricted access to information that the internet is offering, our presence in the online environment also implies responsibilities. One of the certainly more important such responsibilities is to act without delay in case we happen to witness any kind of abuse on the internet, especially when it is directed at children, and do our best on a daily basis to improve the quality of our direct interpersonal relations as a true basis for healthy relations and safety in the online environment.