Q&A UK Safer Internet Centre Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, Will Gardner, offers his advice

Safer Internet Day 2018 falls on the 6th of February and this year the theme is “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you", focusing on the topic of empathy and the ways we can show empathy online.

Will Gardner, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre (the team behind Safer Internet Day), spoke to Am I Normal about the thinking behind the theme, as well as what we can all do to stay safer online...

For anyone who isn’t aware, could you tell us what Safer Internet Day is?

On Safer Internet Day, over a thousand organisations across the UK get involved in helping young people feel empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. Throughout the event, young people across the UK will be standing up for kindness and respect and playing their part to make the internet a kinder place. This collective effort can make a huge difference – last year we reached 3 million young people and as a result thousands of young people spoke up about things that had been worrying them online.

The slogan for this year’s Safer Internet Day is “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you.” What is the thinking behind it?

Technology provides incredible opportunities to connect with our friends and families and showcase our creativity. However, we all have a responsibility to make it a positive place for everyone to be. Every one of us can make a difference by sharing respect and looking out for our friends.

This Safer Internet Day you can join the #SID2018 social media campaign(This link opens in a new window) by making your #ItStartsWithUs pledge to show what you will do.

What are some simple things that teens can do to make the internet a better place?

  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes - Showing empathy online is really powerful and builds positive relationships. It can be hard to understand how people are feeling online, often messages can be misinterpreted when you can’t actually see someone face to face. Put yourself in their shoes, listen, don’t judge, and reassure them.
  • Be the best version of you - What does your digital footprint say about you? Ensure you are posting positively and respectfully about yourself. If someone posts something about you that you aren’t happy with, ask them to take it down.
  • Be in control - Remember that you are in control of your online activity, it’s not in control of you! Start with updating your privacy settings and ensure that you always keep your personal information safe.
  • Think critically - Don’t be fooled… not everything or everyone online can be trusted. Before you believe what you read online think carefully about where it comes from, who’s written it and whether you can find a similar message on other trusted websites. By trusting people they have met online, some people have been let down, even hurt, through being persuaded to share personal information or images, or through meeting up offline.

Are there any common misconceptions when it comes to ways to stay safe on the internet?

Staying safe on the internet isn’t just about ourselves – it’s also about thinking about the impact our own behaviour has on others. We can all help to create a better internet!

What is the biggest mistake you see people making when it comes to internet safety?

We’re connected to technology 24/7 and it’s so easy to share something in the moment that you later come to regret. We would always encourage people to take a moment to think before they share.

What can I do if I feel that I’m being cyberbullied?

The most important thing is to speak up. What is happening to you isn’t okay and you do not have to face this alone. Speak to a parent, carer, teacher, friend or other trusted person. It may not feel it now, but it will get better. You can always speak to a helpline like The Mix to have a confidential conversation about what you are experiencing and get advice about what you can do.

How can I best recognise and avoid falling for a scam email?

Be a detective! Sometimes scam emails try to pretend to be from an online service you do have a login to. Check the email address it has come from and check for typos. Never enter your password or other personal information from an email you’re not sure about. The safest way is to go directly to the website to login, rather than following a link in an email.

And remember, if an email is offering you something that seems too good to be true, then it probably is!

Where would you suggest teens go to find out more about staying safe online?

There are lots of places you can go to find out more. Check out the following links.

Plus you can always speak to a parent, carer, teacher or other trusted adult.

How can I support a friend if they’re being cyberbullied?

We know that young people are most likely to turn to each other if they face any issues online. Friends play a really important role in standing up for each other and being there for support.

If you’re worried about a friend:

  • Show them kindness: let them know you’re here for them
  • Help them get support: you can help reassure them about speaking to an adult
  • Report online abuse: use the reporting tools available to flag any cyberbullying you witness

Remember that you and your friends don’t have to deal with this alone. It’s always best to involve a trusted adult who can help ensure your friend gets the support they need.

How can I speak to my parents about something that’s worrying me online?

It can be daunting to speak to a parent or carer about something that is worrying you online, but it is definitely the right thing to do. Young people often tell us they are worried about their parents overreacting or that they might get into trouble. It can help to explain how you want to be treated at the start of the conversation, to help prepare your parent for what you want to speak to them about. Perhaps you could say something like “I don’t want you to get angry or upset, but I really want to talk to you about something. I need your help.”

Remember they care a lot about you so they obviously want to protect you, and may be shocked if they think you have had a worrying experience online, but they definitely do not want you to deal with this on your own. It is always best to speak up.

Safety First

Follow the link for a list of organisations that can assist you in staying safe online.

Channel 4 support (This link opens in a new window)

Do you have a question you'd like to see here?

Is it normal to...

We are not able to provide individual answers to questions submitted through the site. This form is only a means of suggesting broader topics you would like to see addressed here in the future and is not monitored daily. If you are distressed we recommend talking to a family member or visiting our 4Viewers (Opens in a new window) for further information on a range of topics.