James McVey Talks About The Importance of Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and over 1,200 organisations are supporting the day. This year’s Safer Internet Day will take place today, 7th February, with the themeBe the change: unite for a better internet. To mark this, young people across the UK are joining Government ministers, celebrities, industry figures, schools and police services to inspire people to ‘Be the Change’ and unite for a better internet today.

One of the celebrities supporting the cause is James McVey from the Vamps. James is supporting Safer Internet Day and is an Ambassador for The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign. We had a short chat with James about the importance of today, him being cyberbullied, and how young people can “be the change”.

Why is this cause so important to you?
“Today, technology is everywhere. It’s become extremely accessible and a hell of a lot more people are on social media than even three years ago. Consequently, it’s important to ensure that we are doing all we can to promote a safe and positive experience for all users. I suffered from online bullying when I was first getting into music. I stuck out as ‘different’ from the norm – I had piercings, long hair and didn’t really play sport at school. A group of guys picked on me for my songwriting online. I don’t think they realised the damage that they caused me (I very nearly quit music). I want us to all recognise the importance of thinking about what we say online to make the internet a happier and safer place for everyone.”

How would your life on the internet have been if you had had the Safer Internet Day while you were at school?
“I would’ve 100% benefitted if the guys bullying me realised that what they were sending to me online was in fact very real to me; a lot of people feel detached when sending messages online and they feel that their words can’t be harmful. That’s wrong. I want people to appreciate that a joke is only a joke when everyone’s laughing and just because you’re not physically saying something to someone, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get offended or upset.”

How do you think young people can “be the change”? 
“Young people are the future and if we all apply the human consideration we to do people ‘in real life’ online from an early age, I hope we’ll get to a place where using social media is predominantly a positive experience. The internet and social media have so much to offer us when used safely and we need to do all we can to encourage young people to ‘be the change’ by striving for safety and positivity online.”

The statistics

If we look at the research the UK Safer Internet Centre has commissioned, it is clear to see that there needs to be made some kind of change. The research show that more than 1 in 5 have been bullied with images or videos online and 70% have seen images and videos not suitable for their age. Almost 2 in 5 (38%) have received negative comments on a photo they have posted; this can have a real impact on young people’s expression, as 2 in 5 (40%) said that they sometimes don’t post images because of worries about mean comments.

Our image-focused digital culture can mean young people face pressures, including body image concerns. According to the study, on average young people take 12 selfies before they are happy to post one online and 43% said they worry about how attractive they look when they share photos online. The rise in social media platforms where you can broadcast your life has increased the need to be perfect. Today, many teenagers feel pressured into being “the perfect person” online. It is, therefore, important that we guide these people when it comes to the use of social media.

Safer Internet Day 2017 in action 

To explore the power and influence of images in young people’s digital lives the UK Safer Internet Centre has delivered a range of activities. Schools across the UK are using the Education Packs and SID TV films to empower young people to use images and videos safely and positively. Young people across the UK have been taking part in a youth photo campaign to create engaging photos to explore the power and influence of images in their lives, with images being exhibited at youth events across the UK today and in an interactive online gallery. People across the UK have been joining the #giveasmile social media campaign to use the power of emojis and selfies to help make the internet a more positive place.

Will Gardner, a Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre and CEO of Childnet, says about the day:

“It is fair to say that in 2017 the internet is powered by images and videos. This can magnify the risks and pressures that young people face, while also offering fun new opportunities for self-expression and creativity. Today’s findings remind us that with an ever-changing landscape, it is more important than ever to equip young people with the skills, knowledge, confidence and resilience to communicate using images and videos responsibly and positively. This Safer Internet Day young people around the UK are uniting to inspire a better internet. We need to harness this enthusiasm and empower them to ‘Be the Change’ and use the power of image to help create a better internet.”

Edward Timpson, Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, says:

“The internet is a powerful tool that gives children and young people many fantastic opportunities – but protecting them from the risks they might face online or on their phones remains absolutely vital. That’s why I’m pleased to be able to support Safer Internet Day again this year, and look forward to hearing how schools and pupils take part. At the department for Education, we’re continuing to work hard to make sure that young people, parents and teachers, are actively involved in promoting safe online practice, and we’ve been providing training and resources to support teachers in delivering the new curriculum, which includes e-safety.”

For more information about the activities taking place to celebrate Safer Internet Day, plus resources and advice for young people, parents, carers and teachers, visit the UK Safer Internet Centre website.

How are you planning on being a part of the change? Let us know on Twitter by using the hashtag #SID2017.

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