On Tuesday 6th February, two Digital Champions from RMS took part in the Safer Internet Day live event from the BT Tower, London. We caught up with Cosima (Year 13) and Lauren (Year 12)  to hear more about their inspiration behind getting involved and about the day itself.

What is Safer Internet Day?

Cosima: Safer Internet Day first started more than 20 years ago as a way to raise awareness of the challenges the internet posed to young people. Since then the event has developed exponentially reaching over 190 countries.

In the UK, the event is run by the UK Safer Internet Centre to raise public awareness of the wonderful ways in which the internet can help us, and the areas in which protections need to be increased to ensure everyone has the opportunity to use its resources in a safe and regulated way.

What inspired you to participate in Safer Internet Day?

Cosima: The main thing that inspired me to participate this year is that 2024 is one of if not the biggest years for democracy the world has ever seen, more than 70% of the world’s democracies have elections including the US and the UK.

As a politics student, I am increasingly aware of the influence the online world can have on the political sphere both domestically and otherwise from the sharing of electoral advertising campaigns in the US, to the increasing use of social media as a news source for young people

- Cosima, Year 13

In light of this, for me this year it was really important to have those conversations with platforms, regulators and government to not only find out what is already in place to combat issues such as misinformation, but also how they plan to tackle the rapidly changing landscape of AI in the context of events, such as elections, and participate in the development of mitigation of the issue.

Can you give us a summary of what opportunities and activities you were involved in during the day?

Cosima: This year, I was one of the youth hosts for the national level Safer Internet Day event, live from the BT Tower. Additionally, I hosted a panel on generative AI between the Childnet Youth Advisory Board and the attending industry and government officials, and was in charge of press and political communications alongside Lauren.

I worked with Cosima and three members of Childnet’s youth advisory board to deliver a 20-minute session on online influencers to industry professionals

- Lauren, Year 12

Lauren: The theme was: Online influencers, changing the way we think, feel and act? There was a wide variety of professionals, from undergraduate students, to marketing professionals and civil servants. In our breakout sessions, we proposed real-life scenarios and asked participants to agree or disagree with the statements. We then opened it up to discussion. Some of the topics included: parasocial relationships, gambling, activism, and fiery comment sections, all within the scope of influencers.

Photo: Lauren (l) and Cosima (r) at the BT Tower on Safer Internet Day 2024.

What is this year’s theme?

Cosima: Each year, with the help of young people such as Lauren and myself, the UK Safer Internet Centre picks a theme for the UK’s celebration to help shine a light on a specific issue or topic that they feel changemakers need to focus on in the coming year to make the internet a safer place.

This year’s theme was: Inspiring change? Making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online.

Unlike previous years where the SIC has focused on one topic such as online gaming or misinformation, this year’s theme is about how young people respond to the ever-changing nature of the internet and the content we are exposed to.

Namely, this year at the national event we focused on managing the impact of influencers, generative AI, and how to respond and engage with online activism in a safe way.

In what ways do you think events like Safer Internet Day contribute to raising awareness and promoting a safer online environment?

Cosima: I think events such as Safer Internet Day contribute to raising awareness and promoting a safer online environment as they engage people across all different aspects of the online world.

Last year, more than 50% of young people in the UK engaged with Safer Internet Day and over 100,000 members of industry interacted with the event itself

- Cosima, Year 13

Additionally, the event engages with incumbent governments such as Ministers from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, as well as the Dept. for Culture, Media and Sport which helps to direct government focus directly at the issue and holds them accountable to pledges and goals on a yearly basis.

Photos: Presentations given by government officials during the event on 6th February 2024.

Can you share a memorable moment or experience from the event that had a significant impact on you? 

Lauren: We proposed different scenarios for industry members to agree or disagree with, so for me the standout moment was the first group we presented to.

It was wonderful to see how engaged the industry members were with us, making us think along different pathways and respecting our opinions

- Lauren, Year 12

The keynote speech by two members of the youth advisory board was also brilliant and incredibly motivating!

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned about internet safety in your own online activities and interactions? 

Lauren: Through doing the breakout sessions, I’ve learnt more about presentation skills and different issues that the young people I was working with felt passionate about. So, I will definitely keep those issues in mind, and the feedback we got from industry members.

A huge thank you to Cosima and Lauren for representing RMS for Girls at this event. We’re proud to to know that our students are not only aware of the importance of online safety, but are activity taking steps to ensure a better future for themselves and their peers.

Seeing how adults were thinking is really beneficial to be able to navigate the gap between youth and adult opinions and come to more conclusions on how, and where, young people need to be protected online

- Lauren, Year 12