Keeping the internet safe is posing an unprecedented challenge. Questions are swirling around regulation, “fake news”, censorship, child safety, and freedom of expression to name just a few of the hotly debated issues.
We’ll look at some of these challenges, how serious the threats are, and what is – and is not – being done to ensure internet safety.
Internet Safety: Where Things Stand
Internet safety is a broad term that encompasses many aspects of internet use, including issues such as securing online transactions and preventing fraud. For our purposes, we’ll be focusing on internet safety from a personal perspective – keeping users safe online, in a similar way that governments and societies are responsible for keeping people safe in the real world.
This raises one of the fundamental questions regarding internet safety and online toxicity: Whose responsibility is it?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear that it’s parents, governments, social media platforms, gaming platforms, and nonprofits such as the Internet Society.
The truth is that all of these stakeholders have a part to play – indeed, a responsibility to play their part – in ensuring internet safety.
The current state of internet safety does not make for happy reading. Some disturbing statistics include:
- 33.8% of students between 12 and 17 have been victims of cyberbullying
- 40% of kids in grades 4-8 reported they connected or chatted online with a stranger.
- One in three young people in 30 countries said they have been a victim of online bullying
- Nearly half of young people (47%) have received intimidating, threatening or nasty messages online
- Tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year
Online toxicity is rife. Stories of cyberbullying, shaming, “doxxing” and other forms of revenge have become all too common. Kids are exposed to many of these threats through platforms such as messaging and social media apps and online gaming platforms.
There are, of course, many positive developments too. Key stakeholders including governments and many of the aforementioned platforms are taking proactive steps in attempting to keep users protected. One such example is a recent tool launched by Microsoft to prevent chatroom abuse.
Unfortunately, these kinds of steps, while vitally important, are too few and far between when it comes to the serious challenges posed to internet safety.
Biggest Threats to Internet Safety
Where do the biggest threats to internet safety lie?
According to Norton, the biggest threats to internet safety are:
- Inappropriate Content
- Chat Room “Friends”
- Online Scams
Of these, the most urgent is the threat posed to kids. For example, teachers report that cyberbullying is their #1 safety concern in their classrooms, according to a Google survey.
Never before has so much information been available to so many people. Anyone with a smartphone – and that includes over half of children in the U.S. for example – can access anything. They can reach and be reached by almost anyone. This access to knowledge is incredible, and yet it leaves kids exposed to many dangers.
There is a global consensus that this is one of today’s most pressing issues that needs to be addressed.
Internet Safety: Greatest Opportunities
We find ourselves at a crossroads. 37 years ago, the internet was first created, and 26 years ago it became a part of our everyday lives as browsers like Netscape Navigator made access easy for almost anyone.
What will happen to the internet in the years ahead is up to us.
Will the internet belong to trolls, pedophiles and other delinquents? Or will it be a place of light, a worldwide web of knowledge and goodness?
At L1ght, we believe that the greatest opportunity when it comes to internet safety is the very technology that launched the internet in the first place. By leveraging advanced technology, we can use the assets of the internet itself to keep people safe and protected.
Especially when it comes to kids’ safety, this technology is the only way to ensure that kids are able to access the best of the internet without being exposed to its darker side. For example, L1ght’s technology analyzes and predicts harmful & toxic behavior in real-time and at scale on gaming messaging platforms to ensure kids aren’t at risk.
As this technology is implemented by platforms such as gaming platforms and social media, the internet will become exponentially safer for internet users in general, and kids in particular.
Internet Safety: The Power Is In Our Hands
The internet is a powerful tool – one that can be used to do good, create value, and connect people in the most wonderful way.
Our responsibility is to safeguard that power for future generations. To ensure that kids growing up now and in the decades to come are able to harness the incredible power of the internet to achieve incredible things, without being threatened or exposed to harm.
We could not think of a more inspiring, more important mission than this.