February 7th is Safer Internet Day — an international education and awareness-raising effort that spans over 100 countries. In the U.S., the day was celebrated through a live event held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA. This year’s theme was “Be the change, unite for a better internet.”
Event host ConnectSafely.org brought over 200 students, adults, industry experts, and others together in the event that was streamed lives to schools and others around the world. Participants included representatives from ConnectSafely.org, Microsoft, LifeLock, Trend Micro, Comcast, Facebook, Google, After School, and more.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District,William Hite, Jr., opened the conference by highlighting indispensability of the internet in education today. Hite called for schools to allow students to have phones on campus, saying, “We put ourselves at a disadvantage if we take access away,” said Hite.
After School’s Vice President Jeff Collins participated in the “Youth & Tech Industry Issues in Perspective” panel. Joining him were Antigone Davis from Facebook, Google’s Jeff Dunn, and several students who provided insight on how they use social media. When the topic of anonymity was raised, a student asked, “Why have anonymity if it can lead to bullying?”
After School, unlike Facebook, allows users to remain anonymous while connecting and sharing with other students at their school in a private and moderated network. “Teens have embraced this as a way to connect with other students they otherwise might be afraid to approach,” explained Collins. “We’ve also seen that teens welcome an environment where they can be authentic, and avoid having to carefully curate their digital identity to appear popular or cool,” he continued.
To assist in preventing cyberbullying, Collins, explained, After School provides technical and human moderation, and allows students to immediately remove posts they find offensive. “We’re essentially empowering students to curate the network,” he said.
Microsoft used the conference as an opportunity to launch its new Digital Civility Challenge. Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere explained that the initiative would challenge kids to:
- Live the Golden Rule
- Respect differences
- Pause before replying
- Stand up for myself and others
Asked about the event, Collins said it was “a very good opportunity to hear from teens and talk to them about how the use the internet, what problems they have encountered, and what they think is needed to make the internet better.” Including them in conversations around online safety and digital citizenship provides insights to companies like After School, and helps us develop features that make social media experiences more positive. “We should not underestimate young people. We should recognize that they often drive change and listen to them and learn from them,” Collins concluded.
Safer Internet Day has provided students with an opportunity to both learn and share, and After School was proud to be a small part of this year’s event. For more information on Safer Internet Day, visit SaferInternetDay.us. For more information on After School, visit the After School About Page here.