In 2004 the European Commission created Safer Internet Day to be celebrated on the second day of the second week of the second month -- which this year is tomorrow.
On this day, organizations in various countries conduct public events, tweet-ins, press conferences, and otherwise spread the word about how young people can use the Internet safely and securely. This year's theme is "online rights and responsibilities" with the slogan, "Connect with Respect." The event is coordinated by Insafe, a European network of "Awareness Centres," that promote "safe, responsible use of the Internet and mobile devices to young people." Initiated in Europe, there are Safer Internet Day (SID) events in 90 countries, according to its organizers.
Although there have been occasional events in the United States, the U.S. government -- and even most U.S.-based Internet safety organizations and companies -- haven't been very involved in past years. Last November, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes signed a joint declaration to "implement joint campaigns on the occasion of an annual Safer Internet Day."
I'm not aware of any Homeland Security events to commemorate this year's SID, but the U.S. Department of Education is participating in a Washington, D.C., press conference along with Google, Family Online Safety Institute, the National PTA, the National Cyber Security Alliance, and Project GOAL (Getting Older Americans onLine). Google is updating its Good to Know guide to staying safe and secure online. Security company Trend Micro is launching its 2013 "What's Your Story?" video contest that encourages young people to create short videos on Net safety issues, while FOSI's Platform for Good is promoting an online safety pledge on its website and Facebook page.
Microsoft is holding a Safer Internet Online Teen Challenge and a live "Connect With Respect" Twitter event at 11 a.m. PT tomorrow.
Of course, a one-day "celebration" doesn't make the Internet any safer, but it's as good a day as any to remind ourselves, our colleagues, and our kids about safe practices including using secure passwords, protecting your privacy in social media , avoiding phishing and other scams, and being smart in how you interact with people you meet online. If Manti Teo had paid attention, perhaps he wouldn't have fallen for a nonexistent person claiming to be the love of his life -- if indeed that was the real story.
To find out more about Safer Internet Day, I spoke with Janice Richardson, project manager for Insafe and coordinator for Safer Internet Day.
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Disclosure: Larry Magid is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives funding from Facebook, Google, Trend Micro and other technology companies.