Cyber security and cyber-attacks are rarely out the news headlines. Organisations worry about it and the impact on their businesses. We, as individuals, have concerns for our own safety, our online identity and how we are perceived online, as well as what personal information is shared. Parents worry about the accessibility of the internet and all that is freely available for their children to read, view or act upon.
So while these concerns are very real, our reaction to online threats and our responses to managing them vary enormously from generation to generation. That is why it is important to keep this conversation alive, keep it really simple and raise awareness, sharing the latest and most up to date advice. Our UK Dream Connectors Programme in FY17 is focused specifically on this theme, ‘Bee Internet Safe’.
Our objective was to draw upon our UK membership to initiate those conversations within their local communities and specifically, to engage children and young adults on the importance of staying safe online.
We started by supporting Safer Internet day through our school partnerships and extended this to engaging primary school children and local youth groups, using willing and enthusiastic CGI volunteers. On 7 February, and throughout that week, our volunteers spoke to over 1300 young people across the UK. From London to Bridgend, from the age of 5 to 15 years, reaching their local community through school assembly presentations, classroom based activities, ICT lessons, group talks and by reading books. The success of this week enabled us to open registration to all CGI members across the UK, so everyone had the opportunity to be a Dream Connector volunteer, to engage and approach local schools and community groups and raise awareness of the importance of being internet safe.
Our volunteers received some great feedback. “It’s a message so important that it can’t be said enough” was one comment we had from a teacher and “It is an important subject and the CGI volunteers had the children engaged right from the start!” said a Brownie Leader.
As well as the children hearing online safety advice and guidance from our volunteers, they themselves listened to the children, their views on the internet, what they use, access, how frequently and what staying safe online meant to them. We heard from 5 year olds with daily access to their parents’ phones to surf the internet and access social media apps, such as Instagram and Facebook. Also, an entrepreneurial 7 year old who manages his own You Tube channel daily, with support from his 11 year old sister!
Our CGI volunteers found it an enlightening experience to learn how much the younger generation are influenced by technology, what they gain from it and how much it forms part of their daily lives. All the more reason to ensure they, and their parents, are totally aware of what they are accessing and how to stay safe!
Our CGI members benefited from volunteering in numerous ways, not least by breaking from their usual day job and trying something new and potentially out of their comfort zone! Being a Cyber Security expert was not a requirement. The offering was time, energy and a willingness to practice presentation skills and challenge interpersonal skills by engaging a new, young (and easily bored!) audience.
In addition to this, the Dream Connectors Programme is aiming to reach as many CGI UK members as possible with advice on a postcard to help facilitate those open and honest conversations with friends and family around what can be done remain safe online. Our Bees are supporting our programme with this effort and we hope they will reach out and land in our local communities!
The postcards provide practical links for advice and guidance to engender the right behaviours and make the internet a positive user experience. Please feel free to download our postcard and join in with the programme, Bee Internet Safe!