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Multi-agency strategy to promote safer internet use

Multi-agency strategy to promote safer internet use

Global Safer Internet Day was marked on the Rock yesterday, with members from the Royal Gibraltar Police, Youth Service, Childline, Citizens Advice Bureau, Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and the Department of Education coming together to support promoting respect and kindness online.

The theme for this year was ‘Together for a better internet’.

Detective Inspector Cavallo Soane from the Public Protection Unit of the RGP said: “The UK contacted our Commissioner [Ian McGrail] and asked if we would participate in this and that cascaded to myself and a multi-agency approach to help stimulate conversation about the internet and giving people safer guidelines.”

“We want to get out the message that the internet is a good thing but we just need to be using it responsibly.”

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Cyber-crime, cyber-enabled crime and cyber-dependant crime all form a “huge area of crime” and are overtaking traditional forms of offending.

“If we put safeguards in place we can prevent a lot. Awareness and education is important especially to young people and their parents and teachers, in fact to the community in general,” Detective Inspector Soane said.

The RGP’s message and that of other agencies he explained is to inspire a conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

The annual event has been growing ever since its inception with the focus now on getting people to talk about technology and to realise that it should only be used in a safe, responsible and positive way.

This will “help create a kinder environment and online community,” he added.

Annie Green, chairwoman and a trustee of Childline Gibraltar, was also helping man the stall.

“We always want to support any initiative like this, this is a great initiative, and it coincides with children’s mental health week,” she said.

“It is a great collaboration because we get the chance to meet up and chat informally with the police officers who are present in the schools and we often share a platform in other regards with them.”

Safer Internet Day has a very high profile in the UK, where the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, and the UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, are set to meet to discuss measures to remove content that promotes suicide and self-harm, and how children can be safer online.

“I think this is as a consequence of the father of a 14-year old girl [Molly Russell] who sadly committed suicide and he has now started to speak out more publically and this is the kind of thing that needs to happen,” Mrs Green said.

Laisun Liu, from the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, was in the Piazza to help support the message of internet safety with regards to privacy in particular.

“In my department, the information rights division, we work with the new general data protection regulations and the newly amended data protection acts. We work a lot on privacy matters,” Mr Liu said.

“Privacy is certainly one of the key topics when it comes to using the internet.”

“Youngsters, I am talking from the ages of seven, eight upwards and even to the teenage years, know it is a trend to use the internet and to use all of these social media apps, but what they do not realise is that they might lose their privacy when they send things out without thinking and so forth,” he added.

Mr Liu believes that on a day like Safer Internet Day it is obvious that there is a common ground for all the agencies to work on together.

“It is great to come and support, while at the end of the day we look at the privacy side of things, the police at the law enforcement side of things, the youth group would tackle it at another angle,” he said.

“But at the end of the day the message is exactly the same and we need to make people, the youth especially, aware of the dangers of using the internet when they do not use it properly and appropriately.”

From Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) was advisor Michael Recagno who also deals with the IT side of the agency.

CAB started Internet Awareness Day four years ago when it was raising awareness of children being left alone with the internet and how surfing the net unsupervised can be dangerous.

“We have Stop, Think, Connect,” Mr Recagno said.

Stop before you use the internet and take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.

Think, take a moment to be certain that the path ahead is clear, consider how your actions online could impact your safety or your family’s.

Connect, enjoy the internet with greater confidence knowing you have taken the right steps in safeguarding yourself and your computer.

“Be careful on Twitter, Facebook etc and don’t post anything you are not sure about. If you are on holiday don’t post that you are at the airport already because people will know and they will know that your house is empty,” Mr Recagno said.

“It’s common sense.”

The CAB sometimes receive calls regarding internet use and bullying in schools and aims to educate young people and their parents on what can be done about it.

Rebecca Figueras a senior youth worker at the Youth Service was in the Piazza to drill home the message that “the Youth Service firmly believes in safeguarding children – it’s the cornerstone of the work that we do and there is a lot of work to be done around safeguarding,” she said.

“The use of the internet is just one part of the safeguarding work that we do but we firmly believe in doing multi agency work with all the relevant agencies that deal with the different areas of safeguarding children, young people and even adults with safer internet use,” she added.

The young people that attend the clubs run by the Youth Service or are involved in any of its projects all have “very good relationships and trust” with youth workers that work in the clubs.

“They [young people] usually do open up and talk about the issues of concern and many times they do reflect the situations that they are in or have heard that other people are in,” Ms Figueras said.

“I think that young people are exposed to a lot nowadays, especially pressures with social media and the issues that arise from that, mental health and emotional wellbeing being one of the long term side effects.”

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Eyleen Gomez
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