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February 11, 2020 New programme addressing emerging technologies launched for Safer Internet Day 2020
New programme addressing emerging technologies launched for Safer Internet Day 2020

Supporting young people to use the internet in a positive way is an integral part of empowering them to become competent and responsible users of the digital world. That’s according to Webwise, part of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), which is leading activities to mark Safer Internet Day.

Safer Internet Day takes place today (11.02.20).  It is an EU initiative to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people. It was first marked in 2004 and is now celebrated in approximately 150 countries worldwide.

According to National Director of PDST, Ciara O’Donnell: “Digital media is rapidly changing and continues to provide new opportunities for young people to engage, connect, create and learn.  It is vital for young people to develop digital skills and an understanding of how these new technologies work.”

To mark Safer Internet Day, Webwise launched an educational resource – called Connected – which is designed for Junior Cycle.  The resource introduces students to key areas of digital media literacy, and also aims to highlight the importance of digital wellbeing, including resilience and respect in the digital world. It is available for schools to download on www.webwise.ie/connected.

Ms O’Donnell said: “Our new programme – Connected – will give students an appreciation of the role of digital technologies in their day-to-day lives, as well as helping them to develop key digital media literacy skills to responsibly navigate the online environment.”

Students take a lead in Safer Internet Day

In addition, Webwise has trained and mobilised 100 student ambassadors from second-level schools to lead online safety events in their own schools and communities.

Over 170,000 young people from almost 700 schools and organisations have registered Safer Internet Day events on the Webwise website. Registered activities range from school assemblies, student mentoring and positivity weeks to online safety talks and workshops addressing topics like consent online, digital wellbeing, big data, false information and respectful communication.

Speaking about the ambassador programme, Ms O’Donnell said: “I commend our Safer Internet Day Student Ambassadors who, again this year, play a leading role in marking Safer Internet Day while supporting awareness-raising campaigns in their clubs, schools and communities. The Webwise Safer Internet Ambassador Programme has proved to be an effective tool in achieving an active involvement of students in anti-bullying prevention and internet safety through building a positive school climate.”

Digital Literacy Experts gather for Connected launch

Among the speakers at the Connected launch, which took place in Twitter HQ today, was Professor Brian O’Neill, Director of Research at TU Dublin.  Professor O’Neill said: “Online safety comprises a broader set of skills that go beyond privacy settings.  It’s about being digital media smart, and to be smart requires learning and awareness.

“There are huge benefits to the internet.  Equipping our future generations to grasp and enjoy these benefits involves investing in their capabilities.  Comprehensive, curriculum-based programmes are essential in giving young people the knowledge and skills to be resilient online citizens.

“Equally, teachers need the understanding and materials to impart digital literacy.  The new Webwise programme – Connected – responds to these dimensions, and is a good example of collaborative work by many agencies and experts in the pedagogy and digital technology fields.”

All second level schools will receive a free copy of the Connected programme pack and user guide, which is also available to download from www.webwise.ie/connected.

Also addressing today’s seminar was Ronan Costello, Public Policy Manager for Europe, Twitter.  He said: “The first Safer Internet Day was held in 2004, two years before Twitter was created. Now, 16 years on, we’re delighted to work with partners around the world, and Webwise here in Ireland, to mark #SaferInternetDay2020 and play our part in fostering a better internet for all. Education is a critical component in the effort to encourage healthier online behaviour, and build a better, safer online environment. We commend the work that Webwise has done in developing a programme to champion digital media literacy skills for Junior Cycle students.”

For further information about Safer Internet Day visit www.webwise.ie/saferinternetday.

Webwise is the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre, which is co-funded by the Department of Education and Skills, and is co-financed by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility.

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