Safer Internet Day 2017: ‘Be the change: unite for a better Internet’

Today we celebrate Safer Internet Day. The theme this year is ‘Be the change: Unite for a better Internet’. And being here with all of you young leaders and inventors, I am convinced the brightest future lies ahead. Your generation will do great things that will improve the world for everyone.

It’s been an action-packed day. I just had a walk through the ‘Power of Image’ exhibition you created and I am so impressed. I think you are already superheroes and I want to congratulate you. You should feel very proud of your work.

In my job as UK Minister for Internet Safety & Security, I meet a lot of young people and one thing consistently true — you know more about the internet than most adults! I am continuously inspired by your creativity. You are growing up in a remarkable time when the world has never been more connected and a wealth of knowledge is available at your fingertips.

These small gadgets we carry around in our pockets have incredible computing capacity. Actually, your smartphone is more powerful than the computers which NASA used to land people on the moon back in the 1960s and 70’s! Today, you while chatting with friends via Snapchat, you can keep up with the latest news and learn incredible things, like how astronauts celebrating the Superbowl last weekend showed how to throw a football 285,000 miles in space! Incredible. Thanks to these little supercomputers, we have an entire world of information in our back pockets. And the incredible thing about all of this innovation is that it can help you become who you want to be. Each and every one of you has the potential to do fantastic things and you can use the power of technology to become a legend in your own way.

There are over three billion people using the internet today; that’s almost half the world’s population talking to each other, learning and experiencing life in completely new and remarkable ways. People who would never ordinarily meet each or exchanging ideas and expressing themselves. And it’s wonderful to see young people like you use technology to shape your world, to get more from the opportunities it has to offer, to make informed choices and to help one another. But while experiencing all of these opportunities, it’s vital that you know how to to stay safe.

Sharing moments in selfies, photos and videos on social media is all part of your normal routine but have you ever taken a selfie then decided it wasn’t quite right and asked your friend not to post it? Or you might have posted a photo of someone else that was embarrassing or someone has posted one of you that was unflattering. It can be just a bit of harmless fun but it can also hurt.

And it’s important to remember that whilst we can change our images online, other people can too and not everything on the internet is as it seems.

Some people you talk to online aren’t being honest about who they are or why they want to talk with you. And it’s not easy to tell how old someone is, what they look like and if what they are saying is the truth.

That’s why it’s important that you are aware and that you develop the knowledge and the confidence to make good choices when using the internet.

Our lives are much easier and more fun because of the internet but have you ever thought about what information you are sharing; maybe even without knowing.

When you click on a website and accept its terms and conditions you might not realise that you are consenting to giving insight to others into your hobbies, your personal preferences and your friends.

If you are not careful, people you don’t even know might be able to see where you are, what you like and don’t like and how to get in touch with you.

Not everyone uses the internet to learn and to explore with the best intentions and it’s important that you know what to share and when, and with whom online, in order to protect yourself.

If you were being bullied at school or you see someone else being hurt, you would probably alert your parents or teachers. But for some reason, when it’s online, it becomes more private. You might feel isolated or afraid to let others know. It’s important to recognise that what is not acceptable behavior in the real world, is not acceptable online.

If something you experience online doesn’t feel right or makes you feel sad or upset, use the report abuse function and please talk with someone you trust. And if you notice something bad is happening to a friend online, similarly encourage them to do so, and ensure they to speak to an adult who they trust.

We’re here today to help everyone develop the skills and confidence to feel safe and enjoy the wonderful and exciting places the internet can take you. And to understand where some of the information you share in these places could end up.

We want to empower you to make the right choices so that you can ‘be the change’, and together, make sure that your experience and the experience of your friends is safe and enjoyable.

Safer Internet Day is a powerful platform proving year after year that when we come together, we can achieve really awesome things. We are all here together to ensure life online is a safe as possible, so you can dream, explore, learn and create amazing things.

Be kind to each other, use your power for good and there will be no limits to where this remarkable, connected world can take you.