Another Safer Internet Day is upon us, and it is always a good time to reflect on our children’s online behaviour and relationships. This is a positive time of the year, when schools and key stakeholders come together to think about ways in which we can inspire children to consider how they interact online and to ensure they are kept safe from harm.
Our children’s mental health is so important to their overall wellbeing, and a healthy mental outlook allows them to excel in other areas. I was chatting recently to a group of parents who told me how they try to fill their child’s every waking moment after school with various activities to try to keep them off their devices. When I asked if that worked, they admitted they were still having issues managing appropriate amounts of screen time. We do want our children to be well-rounded with hobbies and interests, and to enjoy and possibly even excel at sport or music, but we also need to ensure they are not just constantly busy ‘doing’ things just for the sake of it. Maybe a bit more face-to-face interaction, family games, family meals or family walks could be the wellbeing boost they need.
That’s not to say that we don’t need some more concrete steps taken to keep our families safe online. One of the most important pieces of legislation for the digital age, the Online Harms Bill, is currently being hammered out by a parliamentary joint committee after the draft bill was published last year. Covering everything from tackling online bullying to strict new regulation for the big tech firms, the bill is hugely important for our children’s welfare. Please, take a moment this half term to contact your MP and let them know that you are in support of the Online Harms Bill and that you, too, want our children to have the safest and healthiest online experience. This year will mark eight years since my son’s life was taken by an online predator- isn't it way past the time when these changes need to be made?
I wish a very happy Safer Internet Day to you all. Let us hope 2022 brings us a little closer to our vision of a world where children can enjoy their time online free from harm.