Here in the U.S. we observe the day every February with two events – a daytime event for high school students and 8th-graders and an evening family event for all ages. The event moves around the country, but this year, the daytime event on Feb. 11 is at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View with the evening event at the TikTok facility in downtown Mountain View. Most of the students during the daytime event come by bus in partnership with their schools.
The president of the National PTA will be on hand with other speakers to be announced soon. Past speakers at the daytime event have included senators Chuck Schumer and Kamala Harris (then California Attorney General), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
If you know of a high school or 8th-grade teacher who wants to send students to the daytime event, there is still room, so have the teacher or administrator send an email to leaders@ConnectSafely.org with information about the school or class. You’ll find more at saferinternetday.us/schools/. Families can register for the evening event at saferinternetday.us/familynight/.
Free food and prizes will be provided at both events and schools will have access to free bus transportation to the Computer History Museum thanks to support from sponsors, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, NortonLifeLock, TikTok, Comcast, Twitter, Snapchat, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, and Trend Micro.
The family night event is co-presented by ConnectSafely along with the National PTA and My Digital TAT2, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that works with schools and young people to “build the healthy habits, critical thinking, and thoughtful online behavior.” High school students from the group’s teen advisory board will be on hand to mentor adults on the apps and games their kids use and teach younger children about internet safety. Teens will staff stations built around popular youth-apps including TikTok, YouTube, Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, Instagram and YouTube Kids. Some of these apps are only for people over 13, but others, like Roblox, Minecraft and YouTube Kids, are suitable for younger children with parental permission and supervision.
Themes and evolving issues
The global theme this year is “together for a better internet,” emphasizing that bringing all stakeholders together – families, young people, adults, businesses, government, nonprofits and more – is the way we can help make the internet work for everyone. Here in Silicon Valley, we’re adding a sub-theme, “2020 Vision: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” in recognition of our venue and that this is the first Safer Internet Day of the 2020s. Being at the Computer History Museum reminds us that we’re standing on the shoulders of innovators going back centuries, but our role is to think about how we can shape the internet of today and tomorrow.
Like the internet itself, Safer Internet Day has evolved over the years. Although it was once mostly focused on appropriate content and conduct – such as avoiding cyberbullying, it now includes broader themes such as wellness and authenticity, including how media literacy can help combat fake news. There are times when you need to put down that phone or step away from that computer or game console to focus on the people in your life or just take a break, go for a walk or – perhaps – do your work, meditate or get some exercise.
There are other big issues as well, including privacy, hate speech and basic digital civility. We can’t fix the internet in one day, but we can help young people develop strategies to use it wisely by building up resilience against its downsides and honing the tools we all need to harness the great power of the internet as a force for community and positive change.
Of course, not everyone in the U.S. can join us in one of the Mountain View venues but there are plenty of other ways to acknowledge Safer Internet Day. The National PTA is sponsoring more than 200 regional events across the country where families can talk about internet safety. Many companies are sponsoring activities ranging from events to blog posts on the subject. Schools across the country are using ConnectSafely’s lesson plans to help elementary and middle school students think about the internet, how they use it and how they can make it better.
For most families, the best place to commemorate Safer Internet Day is your dining room table. Put in on your calendar to talk with your family that night about how they use apps, devices and online services. Don’t lecture or interrogate, just talk. Even if you’re not tech savvy, your kids — or grandkids — can learn from your wisdom acquired from decades of experience dealing with many of the same issues, albeit in perhaps non-digital environments. And even though you already know that your kids are tech savvy, you might be surprised by how much they already know about privacy, security and digital citizenship. You’ll find conversation starters at saferinternetday.us/get-involved/.Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, which hosts Safer Internet Day and receives financial support form some of its sponsors.