A better internet is up to all of us

Opinion piece published on Scoop.co.nz, 11 February 2016

By Vanisa Dhiru, Executive Director – 2020 Trust

Whether we like it or not, the internet is part of our lives. I spent 30 minutes on Skype this weekend with a friend overseas, helping him set up a new iPhone he had gifted his mother.

In minutes we had set up her iCloud, Find My iPhone, email, What’s App, banking and local news apps. Together, we checked online that her contacts had synced in the cloud and we created new folders for her photos. Her online life was sorted out in just a few minutes. We even downloaded a few games for her – and in my travels around the App Store, a new ‘zen’ online colouring book app!

Electronic devices, multimedia and computers are things we now deal with daily. The internet is becoming more and more important for nearly everybody as it is one of the newest and most forward-looking media for the world.

However, as setting up  your online life takes only a few minutes,  you have to think to yourself… how long does it take to have someone hack into my ‘online stuff’? Not long.

As we learnt when growing up to “lock the gate when leaving the house” and told “don’t lose the house key”, we now need to teach our children (and maybe ourselves) to logout from chat rooms, not share our usernames and passwords with others and monitor access to our photos.

Earlier this week it was Safer Internet Day – a day dedicated to celebrating and encouraging safe and positive uses of the internet and digital technologies, especially among families and young people.

Children and young people need support to be thoughtful and respectful to others online, and to seek positive opportunities to create, engage and share online.

As caregivers, parents, teachers – we can help to create a better internet by maintaining an open dialogue with our children about their ‘online lives’, support them with online activity, and seek ways to engage with our children online.

Our educators and social care workers need to help empower children and young people to embrace the positive – by equipping them with the digital literacy skills they require for today’s world, and by giving them opportunities to use and create positive content online.

We need those that work with our young people to respond to the negative by supporting young people if they encounter problems online, and to give them the resilience, confidence and skills they need to navigate the internet safely. They must be skilled and confident to do this with the growing online world. Most of all, some of them still need opportunity and access.

This week, consider promoting digital safety and security messages to your family and colleagues, to your customers and friends. Or at the very least, take some time to change your passwords!

Safer Internet Day 2016 was on Tuesday 9 February this year, and is coordinated in New Zealand by NetSafe. The 2020 Trust is an official supporter of the event.