Recently a woman told me a funny story. She bought a special dog camera, to keep an eye on her dog while she’s at work all day. The model she bought is wall-mounted in the living room. It has a speaker, and she can use the smartphone app to see her dog, talk to him and keep him reassured until she gets back. Some of these cameras have a food dispenser too, so you can give little Rex a treat to keep him going till teatime.

Anyway, the funny story was that this woman was out for the evening and left her teenage daughter at home. Using the app a little while later, she saw her daughter and boyfriend canoodling on the couch. So, she shouted at them through the dog camera. Both the daughter and said boyfriend leapt up in fright. They’d had no idea they were being watched. Cue laughter all round.

OK, so let’s talk about consent. This anecdote shows how our engagement with technology is evolving, with implications for our privacy and online rights. Consent – or lack of it – is at the heart of some big technology stories: think fake news, clickbait, persuasive technology and data breaches.  For Safer Internet Day 2019, we’re delving into the issue of consent. 

You may not have heard of Safer Internet Day, but it’s an annual event celebrated in over 140 countries. For Safer Internet Day on 5 February, we’ll ask young people to explore how they ask, give, and receive consent online. There are free education packs and videos to facilitate discussion with young’uns from five to 18. Last year our messaging reached 45% of UK children.

But Safer Internet Day is not just for those who work directly with children and young people. It’s relevant to every organisation, including yours.

Safer Internet Day (SID) reached 30% of UK parents in 2018, which is pretty amazing. But that means it didn’t reach the other 70%, not to mention extended family. There is a tendency to rely on schools to engage parents, despite dwindling attendance at the annual online safety talk. But imagine if every third sector organisation messaged their staff and volunteers saying: “It’s Safer Internet Day: have a conversation with the children in your life about their online lives.” This is potentially impactful: three quarters of the parents who heard about SID in 2018 talked to their children about it, and nearly a third spoke to someone about concerns for their child on the internet.

This is where the power of the third sector kicks in. Charities and community groups engage with a huge range of stakeholders.  Your voice is powerful, raising awareness of ignored issues, sparking change and connecting the voices of communities with the decisions of policy makers. You plug the gaps. You support the communities. It takes a village to raise a child, and all that.

Join the Safer Internet Day campaign by registering as a supporter, signing up to the newsletter, using the education packs and joining the #SaferInternetDay2019 and #OurInternetOurChoice social media campaign. Spread the word to your networks, donors, followers, service users, employees and volunteers. Let’s work together to empower young people to take control of their online lives. 

I wrote this article to support Safer Internet Dayy in Scotland, on behalf of the UK Safer Internet Centre. It was published at Third Force News.