Today – Tuesday 7th February – is Safer Internet Day 2017. At least it is in Britain (I’m not so sure about the rest of the world).
It’s a day when we teach our children and youngsters how to be safe online – what to do when their being bullied, how they should approach explicit material (like pornography) and – most importantly in my mind – how to stop themselves from being taken advantage of.
I think it’s a terribly important message. Children these days have such ready access to the internet and its infinite resources that its often hard for them to tell what is genuine and what isn’t. Let’s face it – if the multitude of information flying about pre- during and post- the several surprising elections we’ve had this year is anything to go by – most adults don’t really know how to do that either.
It is so easy for a child or vulnerable adult to get conned into spending money, or putting themselves into situations where they can be exploited or blackmailed or groomed by some sexual predator or another that it is difficult for us to know where to begin. Do we cut them off from the internet altogether? Do we just let them get on with it and hope for the best? Or do we risk unleashing the dragon and telling them about these things, knowing that their natural curiosity will lead them to find about them sooner or later?
It’s a tough call. But one that we have to make.
I – for one – believe we need to be setting the example for our children. For several months now, I’ve been working on a project around Internet Safety and one of my latest DS Giles short stories even covers the subject (in a manner of speaking)¹. And I honestly and truly believe that we need to be setting the example. It’s not enough for us to preach to them about being nice and honest and respectful to others online whilst we go about hurling insults at each other over election results that (whatever you might call them) are at the very least legitimate. We can’t expect our children to do things that we ourselves are not capable of doing – and we can’t expect them to follow our lead and keep themselves safe when they see that we can’t even take our own advice and be pleasant to each other, no matter what our differences may be.
I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do, the good things in life never are. But it is the right thing to do. We need to educate our children about the dangers out there and we need to set the example so they don’t look at us and see a bunch of rowdy hypocrites.
Start making the change today and say something nice to someone when online – even if it’s just for one day.
Go on. Do it for your kids…
¹The short story in question, Gotcha, will soon be released as an additional bonus story for anyone who buys The Bluebell Informant, due for release this April (for free!!!). Stay tuned for all the latest updates.