by Larry Magid
This coming Tuesday, my nonprofit, ConnectSafely.org, will host the official U.S. Safer Internet Day event at Google’s Seattle headquarters plus an evening event for families at a Seattle Housing Authority facility. We’re having it at the housing facility, with interpreters for six different languages, in part because it’s about time for the internet safety movement to reach out to communities often not served by our messaging.
To that end, we’ve just translated some of our quick guides (connectsafely.org/quickguides) into Spanish and are working on other languages. You can learn more about Safer Internet Day at SaferInternetDay.us.
Data privacy and security plus internet safety go hand-in-hand. You can’t have privacy without security, and you can’t truly be safe if your data is at risk. And some of the same safeguards for personal security also apply to privacy, starting with strong, unique passwords and a “clean machine” with an up-to-date operating systems, browser and apps and anti-malware software, where appropriate.
But even the most sophisticated technology can’t fully protect us. We also need to be aware of what we post, where we click, how we use our app and device privacy settings and how we treat ourselves and others online.
But Safer Internet Day isn’t only about caution. It’s also about using technology to improve our lives and the lives of others. To that end, we’ve invited former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and March For Our Lives movement founder Cameron Kasky to speak at ConnectSafely’s student event in Seattle on Tuesday. He’ll talk about how he and his fellow students used social media and mobile technology to organize the march and other activities as well as how he was able to cope with the massive harassment that he received as a result of his much publicized activism.
One of our goals is to promote dialog, which can of course include disagreement over issues such as gun control, but it’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Kasky will be in conversation with ConnectSafely’s newest adjunct staff member, Brittan Heller, founder of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society and former U.S. Justice Department and the International Criminal Court prosecutor for human rights violations.
Not everything on Safer Internet day is happening in Seattle. There are events at schools across the country, sponsored by National PTA and a Bay Area event at Keys School Middle Campus in Palo Alto, sponsored by our local partner My Digital TAT2, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The event, which costs $15, includes food and a screening of the movie LIKE along with lessons about apps and games from My Digital TAT2’s teen advisers and a Q&A with its founders. You can register at https://smarterinternet.org/local/.
ConnectSafely’s Seattle student event will be streamed live starting at 10 a.m. PST at Saferinternetday.us/livestream. In addition to remarks by Cameron Kasky, there will be a panel featuring Seattle high school students and executives from Google, Facebook and Microsoft. There will also be a panel looking at the possibilities and challenges of virtual reality, featuring executives from Oculus and Google and Eva Hoerth from the Virtual World Society.
Of course, not everyone can attend a Safer Internet Day event, but everyone can use this coming Tuesday to think about and talk about how you, your family and your colleagues can be safer online. Notice we don’t say “safe.” There will always be risks associated with almost all technologies, but we can minimize and manage those risks.
Tuesday evening is a great time for parents to bring up the subject with their kids. Don’t hammer them over the head with it or interrogate them, but ask them to talk about their own use of technology, including their favorite apps, and ask them what they do to protect their privacy and security and what advice they can give you. Engaging youth in a conversation and asking them to share their expertise is usually a lot more effective than lecturing them on how they should behave.
It’s also a good time for parents to think about how they are modeling good online habits, including knowing when to put down the phone or walk away from the computer. “Do what I say, not what I do,” has never been an effective means of parenting so, if you want your kids to develop good habits, make sure they see you practicing them as well. Putting away phones at dinner time and bedtime is a good start as is engaging in family activities that don’t involve technology.
And, if you feel a bit inadequate because you don’t know as much about apps and tech as your kids, don’t worry. When my kids were younger, I didn’t know as much about video games and music as my son or soccer and track as my daughter, but that didn’t stop me from supporting their interests and helping them pursue them safely. But if you need a primer, feel free to visit ConnectSafely.org for advice about all sorts of subjects including cyberbullying, teen sexting and popular apps