Safer Internet Day (SID), a 12 year old initiative promoting safer and more responsible use of online technologies, was marked across the world.Google Africa marked SID with more than 600 learners in day-long workshops in
South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal. In these workshops learners discussed and formulated their own ideas on how to make the internet a safer space.
Responding to the core theme of SID 2015, “Let’s create a better internet together,” Public Policy Manager for Google in South Africa Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda says Google is committed to empowering young web users.
“Google has provided tools for parents, teachers, and most importantly young people to learn more about staying safe online. The aim of today’s cross-continent event was to reach out to young internet users and share information with them on how they can enjoy the multiple benefits offered by the internet, while at the same time staying safe from harm and exposure to age-inappropriate material. ” Mgwili-Sibanda says.
To ensure that lessons were shared by all those who took part in the day’s events, all learners in the four participating countries took part a virtual plenary and report back session. Also showing the learners how technology can be used positively, this session was held over Google Hangouts.
In the plenary session, a spirited discussion took place with learners both being pro and anti-anonymity as a
solution to online safety.
Those in the pro-anonymity group argued points such as whatever information an individual posts online can never be used against them in the future. Other pro-anonymity positions argued that an entirely anonymous internet would protect young people’s’ identities from potential abusers and molesters.
The anti-anonymity group argued that anonymity was often the very thing which led to bullying online. They also pointed out that if anonymity was the default setting online there would not be real interaction on the web. Much to the entertainment of the gathering, one learner pointed out that when using internet for online dating one could fall in love with your cousin were anonymity the default.
Google Africa also wants to ensure the day’s messages of internet safety reach as many young people as possible. In that regard they have also partnered with key organisations.
In SA, Google Africa has partnered with the Film and Publication Board (FPB), to further address and publicise the issue of internet safety for young people.
“As an organization, the FPB also seeks to protect children from exposure to harmful materials. To achieve this, we raise awareness of the regulatory framework, through programmes and outreach activities such as the Back-2-School Campaign. In so doing, we ensure that learners, educators, caregivers, parents and ultimately South Africans, are sensitised about the risks of the cyber world, the existence of child pornography, and the associated dangers to children exposed and involved in the creation, possession and its distribution,” says FBP CEO Themba Wakashe.
Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Public Policy Manager for Google in South Africa, appeared on SABC Newsroom on the 10th of February to discuss Safer Internet Day