Today, together with the rest of the world, Malta is celebrating Safer Internet Day. It is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people. It has grown beyond its traditional geographic zone and is now celebrated in more than 140 countries across all continents reaching millions of people worldwide. With the theme “Together for a better internet”, the day calls upon all stakeholders to come together to make the Internet a safer and better place for all, especially for children and young people.
The Safer Internet Day activities are being organised in Malta under the umbrella of the BeSmartOnline! project. The project concerts the efforts of national stakeholders working towards the safer use of the Internet by children and youths. The primary objective of the BSO project is to raise awareness and educate minors, carers and educators on the safe use of the Internet; establishing, operating and promoting reporting facilities for Internet abuse; and support respective victims. On this day, virtual activities will be taking place in all schools around the island. For this reason, a number of digital resources have been produced for both primary and secondary students.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, children are spending more time at home and often online. For this purpose, guidelines including useful tips for parents and carers were created. These safety tips encourage parents and carers to keep up-to-date with current online trends; to talk to their children about what they are doing online and the risks they might face; to encourage children to create a balance between online and offline activities; to encourage children to respect themselves and others even when they are online; and to seek advice for issues related to their wellbeing and report any abuse encountered online.
A tip sheet was also created for educators describing ideas on how to adapt to new ways of teaching remotely and ensuring that this is done safely. This can be done by following guidelines and policies set up by the school management to ensure that no personal information is on display; to give clear instructions to students regarding behaviour, conduct and attire; to refrain from making students download apps or access websites that require students to be of a certain age; and to report to the helpline 179 for any illicit behaviour.
The internet offers many opportunities for youngsters and we all should take an active role in encouraging them to discover these opportunities and to use new technologies to develop their interests and their talents whilst ensuring their safety.