Show your colours: we can all take responsibility and play our part on Safer Internet Day
By Marc Allera, CEO, Consumer division, BT
We’ve all spent much more time online dealing with what the past couple of years has thrown at us. In fact, demand for data has doubled on our networks since the pandemic, meaning the need for the internet to be a better and safer place for everyone has never been more pressing.
That’s one big reason why Safer Internet Day is more important than ever. It provides an annual focus for something that should be front of mind every single day in our digital-first world: promoting the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people across the UK.
The theme for this year is, 'All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online', spotlighting how crucial it is to stimulate conversations about online safety between children and their parents and carers, especially as the age of those accessing technology becomes younger and younger.
A focus on gaming and interactive services also provides an opportunity to ensure that young people are listened to and supported when using these platforms, and to celebrate their role in creating a safer internet.
Gamification is an incredibly effective and engaging tool for learning, an approach we used with the EE PhoneSmart Licence. An online programme in partnership with Internet Matters, PhoneSmart helps children getting their first phone learn how to stay safe and be kind online. It’s also free to everyone, on any network – not just EE customers – because access to these tools is an essential part of creating meaningful change and because we believe everyone should have the skills they need for a brighter future.
The next phase of the PhoneSmart campaign is designed to support parents and guardians in navigating the world of video streaming – supporting their children to stay in control of what they share online and who they share it with.
Paving the way for change
Our research shows that nearly 1 in 3 (31%) of us have witnessed online hate whilst gaming, with 1 in 5 (20%) of online gamers having personally experienced it. As a parent of avid gamers, that’s not something I want my children to worry about when enjoying their time online.
Education paves the way for change, yet 43% of all those who play online games say they don’t know how to deal with online hate if they experience it. We have a duty to help provide people with the knowledge they need to take a stand against hate.
That idea is at the core of BT and EE’s Hope United campaign, formed to make a stand against hate speech online, educating people on the effects of online hate and how to be a part of the solution. The campaign brought the UK’s top footballers together to shine a light on the issue of online hate and the digital skills needed to tackle it.
This year, we’re taking Hope United to amateur football clubs across the UK with a roadshow and online workshop. We’ll also be adding the Hope United kit into the FIFA 22 video game - so not only can players show what side they’re on by wearing the shirt in the real world, their FIFA team can too.
Through the BT Skills for Tomorrow programme which aims to help 25 million people in the UK make the most of the digital world, campaigns like Hope United help us make real change; educating young people, empowering them, and giving them the tools to share our message: hope can beat hate if we all stand together.
But perhaps the most important message to get across is that words can be impactful and powerful. The effects of online abuse and hate speech should never be underestimated; hate speech online can have a real impact on someone's life.
We want to enable everyone to stand against online hate. We want everyone to feel empowered to do that in their favourite games, and we want everyone to have the skills to do something about online hate wherever they see it, because hate has no place in any game.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @marcallera