To us at the UK Safer Internet Centre, it’s clear that young people’s experiences have to be at the forefront of how we work together to achieve a better and safer internet for all young people. When we spoke to young people during 2020, many of them told us that they were navigating different types of unreliable content, particularly during national lockdowns as they were spending more time online for learning, socialising and entertainment. So, this year, we decided to focus on this issue and the theme in the UK was "An internet we trust: exploring reliability in the online world".
The campaign saw so many people come together to help inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. Over 2,100 organisations across the UK delivered activities for the day, including schools, police forces, government, companies, football clubs, charities and others. Safer Internet Day was profiled on national TV and radio, and coverage included young people across the country being interviewed about their experiences and hopes for the future of the internet.
This Safer Internet Day we conducted brand new research looking at how young people are managing reliability and misleading content online. From surveying over 2,000 children, the report reveals that young people of all ages, from as young as 8, are regularly encountering misleading content and have experienced approaches, such as friend requests, from people they don’t know.
The research found that misleading content is an increasingly significant feature of young people’s online experience, with 51 per cent agreeing that they saw more misleading information online than they did before during 2020. 48 per cent of young people are seeing misleading content every day and more than 1 in 10 are seeing it more than six times a day. 60 per cent also report seeing either their peers or influencers, bloggers, celebrities or people in the public eye share misleading content.
This voice of young people was championed in virtual youth events across the UK, placing them at the centre of what needs to be done. At these events, young people met Government ministers, policy makers, industry representatives and more, with opportunities to share their experiences of being online and their recommendations for how this space can be improved for young people.
We also worked with young people to develop a Young People’s Charter for Safer Internet Day 2021 on how government and online stakeholders can help create a more trustworthy internet. We have produced this Charter from speaking to primary and secondary age children in focus groups, consulting members of the Youth Advisory Board, Childnet Digital Leaders and Digital Champions, surveying young people, and reviewing the findings from our latest research.
Throughout Safer Internet Day it was inspiring to see the impact of the campaign on social media. On Twitter we saw the #SaferInternetDay hashtag trending at number one in the UK throughout the day, accompanied by the hashtag emoji. It was amazing to see the huge number of schools, organisations, and even the Pope tweeting about the day! The #AnInternetWeTrust campaign also trended on the day with young people across the country sharing their offline templates decorated with the ways they could help create an internet they can trust.
We also saw millions engage with the day online in fun and creative ways from a unique emoji on Twitter, a filter on Snapchat, our Guinness World Records Attempt, and a #besafebehappy TikTok challenge. We saw schools, organisations, football clubs and wider express what they wanted from a better internet, including what they can do to help create #AnInternetWeTrust.
In the weeks leading up to and on the day itself, our educational resources have been downloaded thousands of times and used in schools across the country as well as the Safer Internet Day Films being viewed and our quiz being played. In fact – so many people took part in our virtual celebrations, it broke the UK Safer Internet Centre website!
Find out more about Safer Internet Day in the United Kingdom. Alternatively, find out more about the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.