Safer Internet Day, teenagers on the net: the most frequent dangers and how to defend yourself

Today February 7, 2023 is Safer Internet Day, the World Day for Safety on the Net promoted by the European Commission and celebrated simultaneously in over 180 countries. From cyberbullying to social networks and digital identity, every year Safer Internet Day aims to raise public awareness of the problems of online navigation. According to data from the Italian movement of parents (Moige), 22% of minors exceed 5 hours a day connected, 63% connect to the internet without any supervision (in 2021 it was 59%).

The day

As stated on the website of the appointment, the Day was born as an initiative of the SafeBorders project of the EU in 2004 and was later taken up by the Insafe network as one of its first actions in 2005. Insafe is a European network of Safer Internet centers (SIC). Each national center implements awareness and education campaigns, operates a helpline and works closely with young people to ensure an evidence-based, multi-stakeholder approach to building a better internet. Safer Internet Day has grown over time and in the world: in 2009 special committees were introduced which aim to strengthen ties with countries outside the European borders.

In Italy

In Italy, the Ministry of Education participates with an event for schools in Rome, in the presence of Minister Giuseppe Valditara. The initiative is organized by the Directorate General for Students, Inclusion and School Orientation which, since 2012, has been coordinating the Italian Safer Internet Center “Generazioni Connesse”. It is possible to follow the appointment in streaming: all Italian educational institutions can therefore participate remotely.

The threats

The dangers of unsafe online browsing are many and especially affect teenagers, as the site of the postal police station points out. Among these is online grooming: adults who use the Internet, social networking services and online gaming apps to hook minors in order to be sent erotic and sexual images, often posing as peers in love with their victims. This is followed by the dissemination and possession of illegal material, cyberbullying and the online challenge. The latter is a widespread phenomenon among young people which consists of filming themselves while performing actions which at that time are trend topics on social networks and circuits frequented by them. In the majority of cases these are not very dangerous actions but – underlined the police – it is necessary to make young people aware of the fact that some challenges can still represent a danger if undertaken with the aim of increasing their popularity, without assessing the real risks.

The advices

The postal police has identified some advice for parents who want to protect their children from the dangers of the web. First of all, it is necessary to teach younger children the importance of not revealing their identity online, as well as other personal information about the family (name, surname, age, address, telephone number, name and school hours, name of friends ). It’s important to educate about Internet safety even if the kids in question don’t seem interested in surfing: they could find themselves doing it at a friend’s house or at school. It is then necessary to set the “history” of the tablet or smartphone they use, in order to keep track of the sites visited. As for emails, it’s a good idea to read them with them, checking each attachment to the message. Above all: teach not to open emails that don’t expect by themselves. If you do not recognize the sender, it is better not to open the e-mail or any attachments: they may contain viruses, troyans or spyware that can alter the functioning of your computer. In this regard, the postal police underlines the importance of using a good antivirus. Then try to explain to children that it can be dangerous to fill out online forms without the help of a parent and tell them to do it only after consultation. Finally, stay close to children when they create nickname profiles to use chat programs and determine how much time they can spend surfing the internet.

The data

According to what emerged from the surveys of the postal police in 2022, the pandemic has produced a sort of forced modernization and “increased exposure to the aggressions of cyber-crime”. There are 533 cases of online solicitation, 136 minors have been reported for cyberbullying; 120 people investigated for revenge porn, 4 arrested; and again, 3,441 suspects for online scams. Furthermore, the Operations Room of the National Anti-Cyber ​​Crime Center for the Protection of Critical Infrastructures (CNAIPIC) managed 213 attacks on the IT systems of national structures of strategic importance.