Safer Internet Day 2019 - driving widespread change online

This week millions of Australians joined together to help celebrate Safer Internet Day, an annual day encouraging a better, safer internet for everyone.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated in more than 140 countries and in Australia we have the opportunity to kick things off and set the tone for the rest of the world, thanks to our time zone. This year we certainly did that in style!

The global theme for 2019 was ‘Together for a better internet’. This recognises that every one of us, regardless of our age, experience or expertise, has a unique and important role to play in contributing toward an online environment that we can all share and enjoy.

At the eSafety Office, we extended the theme to include the ‘4Rs’ because we believe the most important skills Australians need to create a safer, more positive online environment: respect, responsibility, reasoning and resilience.

This means when using the internet we demonstrate respectful communication, responsible use of technology, the ability to reason and critically evaluate the things we see and hear online, and the resilience to withstand harmful conduct or contact online. These are the behaviours and skills that will help us all thrive in a connected world.

For this year’s Safer Internet Day, we had an unprecedented level of support from the Australian community in promoting these important messages. Over 500 organisations from the corporate, government, law enforcement, not-for-profit and education sectors came on board as #SID2019 champions, collectively helping us reach over 10 million Aussies.

The eSafety team kicked off the nation’s celebrations with the students at Clifton Hill Primary School in Melbourne, where we were privileged to welcome Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and history-making teen explorer Jade Heimeister. They shared their own thoughts on what a safer, more positive internet might look like, and what each of us can do to help make this happen.

At 16, Jade became the youngest person to complete a polar hat-trick, reaching both the North and South Poles as well as crossing Greenland. Apart from conquering the elements, she made a meal of the online trolls who told her to “make me a sandwich”, a common sexist insult against high achieving girls and women. When Jade reached the South Pole she showed her resilience and sense of humour by posting a picture with a ham and cheese sandwich, inviting the trolls to ski 37 days and 600km to eat it.

The kids at Clifton Hill were introduced to our Safer Internet Day mascots:

  • Rex the dog, who treats himself and others with respect at all times.
  • Karlie the koala, who takes responsibility for her friends, just like she’s got her mother’s back.
  • Zara the Zebra, who has learnt the importance of reasoning and critical thinking.
  • Terry the Turtle, who shows resilience by getting back on his feet when he’s taken a tumble.

The students were also treated to an eSafety presentation on how to use their ‘digital super powers’ to create positive online communities. Tens of thousands more school kids across the country learned this same lesson by participating in our Virtual Classrooms.

It was inspiring to see the #SID2019 buzz unfolding across Australia, as supporters got behind the call for cultural change. In Brisbane, Queensland Police launched a campaign with an important safety message for parents, caregivers and educators. Meanwhile in Adelaide, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion launched a new app to improve digital literacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

With the infectious energy of the events and activities happening across the country, and the championing of all our Safer Internet Day supporters, it came as no surprise that we trended #1 on Twitter that morning. It was truly overwhelming and uplifting to witness a chorus of voices spreading positive messages across social media as #SID2019 went viral.

We know that a safer internet is ultimately a shared responsibility. It is our genuine hope that by bringing people together on Safer Internet Day, whether at events or connecting online, we can empower everyone to play their part and make the online world a kinder, more positive place.

While we are sincerely grateful for the immense support we were able to galvanise for Safer Internet Day this year, we are now setting our sights on what we might be able to accomplish next year. We dare to dream that not only could #SID2020 be even bigger and better, but that ultimately we could make every day a safer day online for all Australians.