Safer Internet Day focuses on Net safety for families

Today is the ninth annual Safer Internet Day, a European initiative designed to "make the Internet a safer and better place."

Safer Internet Day is marked mostly in Europe, but there are events around the world Safer Internet Day
You don't hear much about it in the United States, but today is Safer Internet Day across Europe, with some events planned in Asia, Latin America, Australia, and the United States.

The annual event started in 2004 as an initiative of the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme. It features school assemblies and major conferences in many countries.

I'm in Moscow to speak at Russia's Safer Internet Day conference. Several members of Russia's parliament, along with other government officials, are expected to participate along with educators, Moscow area schoolchildren and representatives of technology companies including Google and Microsoft. Here's a transcript of my speech.

This year's theme is "connecting generations," and to that end, Microsoft is releasing a study it conducted with the AARP that found that 83 percent of teens, young adults, parents, and older adults said going online is helpful in terms of family communication," according Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft's director of Trustworthy Computing. "For some," she added, "that translates to a deeper understanding of one another." Beauchere, as you might expect, is bullish on Internet for youth and seniors, but stresses the importance of "thinking before you post online and being very cautious about your personal information." Microsoft provides safety and security advice at its Safety & Security Center.

Goolge is using Safer Internet Day to launch its new digital literacy portal called ThinkB4U. The project, which is a collaboration between Google and its nonprofit safety partners, Common Sense Media, and the National Consumers League, features "choose-your-adventure" style videos along with targeted safety tips from the nonprofit groups. The videos depict a family's use of media throughout the day with a variety of scenarios that could turn out OK or not so good, depending on members' choices. The viewer gets to pick the choices and help determine the outcome.

"The Parkers"is a stereotypical extended family that makes its share of online mistakes. Users get to determine how their day turns out. Google

Here in Russia, as in the United States, there are some in government who want to put restrictions on the Internet to limit material that is "harmful to children." At a conference ahead of Internet Safety Day, several legislators and government officials questioned whether sites that depict pornography or advocate the use of drugs, alcohol, or political extremism should be blocked for all Russian citizens. Other speakers, including a representative from Google, advocated self-regulation and consumer education.

(Disclosure: Larry Magid serves as co-director of, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives funding from Google and consulted on the development of Google's ThinkB4U program.)
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