In my opinion, Safer Internet Day has become more about white noise, sound bites and photo opportunities than anything else. There are still too many messages from too many sources, reaching too few people. So I’m not convinced that it leaves parents better informed or less confused. All of the undoubted good work is undermined in my opinion, by a lack of clarity about where to go in the midst of an online crisis.
Did you notice Safer Internet Day this year and, if so, what did you think?
Do you feel better informed, better able to navigate the online world or advise your kids because of it?
The fact is few parents, let alone children, know where to go when they need help because the online safety sector is congested with too many charities, agencies, and child protection professionals, many with competing agendas which is why confusion generally rules.
Big charities guard their ground like big business and small charities are forced to fight for funding year on year. That congestion and competition simply adds to the confusion. Someone needs to take the lead and whilst that might mean some noses will to be put out of joint, child protection isn’t an industry that should be driven by competition. It needs to be driven by mature collaboration, focused on what’s best for the child.
This government has, in my opinion, an appalling record when it comes to online protection. They seek the path of least resistance; what’s easy; what’s cheap and what rhetoric will pass for a commitment to protecting our children. They seem to find it easier to attack the internet industry, rather than critically reviewing and challenging their own performance and would rather describe issues relating to web cams and sexting as new and, or emerging problems, when the fact is, they are not. But better to describe them as new than to face the fact that too few resources are committed to the problem.
However, there is no doubt that some in government, not least the present Prime Minister are well intentioned, they are however poorly advised and their initiatives do little other than add to the confusion. The PM should pause and reflect on what works, what doesn’t and why.
With the right leadership, we could create a better internet together. So instead of reinventing the wheel, we should simply pause and plan. We need to identify the best equipped charity or organisation to take the lead and consolidate resources in one single place.
A one stop shop for our families and children is not rocket science. It has been done before, an online centre focused on getting those people who need advice, support or an easy mechanism to report into the right space.
It’s about putting children first, sacrificing individual and organisational egos to declutter the internet safety market, so that children and their families have one place, a hub that takes them quickly and effectively to the information and support they need.
One place, one brand, one purpose.
If we can do that and make it easy to access and the information simple to understand, we will have leap frogged everyone else and Safer Internet Day will be everyday and anyday a member of the public needs it.