I'm not usually fan of 'awareness days' but today is Safer Internet Day and that's one awareness-raising day that I can get behind.
Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, Safer Internet Day involves hundreds of organisations in promoting the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.
Best of all, it creates the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation with your kids. Which is vital, because many of us feel out of touch with our kids' use of technology, especially once they start getting phones of their own and using social media sites that we're unfamiliar with. As a case in point, I barely know how to switch my son's Xbox on, never mind how to check whether he's accessing the internet or able to communicate with strangers while he's playing.
I think many parents approach Internet Safety with a bit of a naive hope that our kids will somehow figure out how to safeguard themselves online, and let us know if they run into trouble. But I am increasingly convinced that that way trouble lies.
That's not to say that I think we should be policing our children's every move online but no responsible parent would let their child wander down the street without equipping them with the stranger danger basics. And equipping our kids to stay safe online is surely the 21st equivalent of teaching them 'stranger danger'. Sticking our heads in the sand won't make the problem go away, and snooping over their shoulders every time they venture near a screen won't help either.
On that note, Peter Coe, barrister and Lecturer in Law at Aston University comments believes there's scope for parents and teachers to help equip young people for better online health.
"While the basics of safety online – don't give out personal information, for instance – are well known, and closely match the 'stranger danger' advice of years gone by, there is little by way of advice to help develop a positive online presence."
To combat this, Coe has developed a 'green cross code' for young people to adhere to when engaging online.
The code is as follows:
• (P)Remember that everything you put online has the potential to be seen by anybody and everybody, and that it can be PERMANENT.
• (A)Before posting, tweeting, sharing, texting or uploading think about your AUDIENCE and how it could affect them and/or their opinion of you and others, now and later on.
• (U)If you are still UNSURE ask for a second opinion from somebody you trust. Equally, if you receive a text, tweet, message or picture that you are UNSURE about - tell somebody you trust.
• (S) STOP AND THINK what impact your online activity may have on your privacy or reputation, or the privacy or reputation of others. Remember (P).
• (E)If you are uncomfortable with anything that's been tweeted, posted, shared or uploaded, END your involvement immediately and tell somebody you trust.
Coe comments further:
"The acronym, PAUSE encourages young people to detach from the immediacy of social media and avoid the potential pitfalls of a fleeting or emotional response. An awareness of the permanence of posts is vital, so that the seemingly acceptable or inconsequential doesn't undermine your reputation down the road."
As a parent of pre-teens I find this really practical, helpful advice which I will definitely be sharing with my kids.
How do you feel about internet safety? Is it something you feel equipped to teach your kids? Come and share your thoughts or concerns over on our Facebook page.