Over the last few days I’ve been looking at presentations about social media that I did in early 2017. It seems (quite a lot has happened since then) that on the agenda were loads of statistics about social media usage, plenty about the ethics of online behaviour and a huge amount about safer internet use. I also committed many, many crimes in the use of different fonts and far too many colours.
Whilst much of what I was talking about then remains the same ethically, the way we’re using the internet at the moment has shifted massively – partially due to innovation and obviously due to coronavirus. My view on what determines a ‘safer internet’ has evolved too; my children are now in their teens and as much as they have chosen not to engage much on social media, they are being educated online. I’m also not face to face volunteering so I’m not getting that ‘live’ feedback from the young people I work with about what they’re discovering online. From being so determined that kids need to get off their computer and do something different, my only option of catching up with my Guides is to do it via Zoom – and they are, quite frankly, zoomed out.
However, I am working with the Youth Panel from the charity Youth Talk here in St Albans as we build their new website. They are a delight to work with and, as so often is the way with young people who volunteer to get involved with such things, eloquent, insightful and more than willing to cut through what has been politely called the “generic fluff”.
‘The’ Safer Internet Day email
This morning I’ve received the ‘safer internet day’ email to everyone from school and (possibly more through professional interest than from a parent view) I’ve read it. I’ve looked at it from a branding and messaging point of view – trying to see where it aligns with our DigitalJen ethos and whether we should be adapting anything within the business.
We are still 100% behind promoting safe and responsible use of the internet. Covid has shown us some of the best and worst of the internet. Although I probably would have been slightly more productive if not down the rabbit hole of watching the casts of different musicals all perform from home – they have been something that I have enjoyed. I’ve also found it strangely compelling to read the comments on some posts where people have (in my opinion) lost the concept of ‘if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it online’.
In my 2017 slides, I was strongly recommending that schools and other organisations thought really hard about the online behaviours they were encouraging. Setting homework to watch a YouTube video for primary children didn’t make sense when they were putting the age limits for social media platforms on their newsletter each week. Secondary school pupils were easily able to track down their teachers on social media and, as teenagers occasionally test a boundary or two, getting up to less than appropriate behaviours on those accounts.
The messaging on my 2021 Safer Internet Day email is almost identical to the ones I’ve received in previous years. As much as the foundations remain the same, the children seeing these emails and the parents trying to have the conversation will have seen and heard it all before. Yes, you need to lock down your security settings and activate parental permissions. Yes, don’t talk to people you don’t know and don’t give out any details about yourself. Yes, be kind.
As it’s repeated over the years, the messaging, I think, is beginning to lose impact. It blends into what the Youth Panel called ‘generic fluff’ – something that the kids who really need to understand the messaging see as being churned out year on year. Oh, and it’s come from school so therefore it’s boring. And it’s an ‘awareness day’ and we are totally over those unless it’s Nutella day in which case can we eat it straight from the jar…?
How do you do it differently?
That’s the big question. From what we’ve seen here at DigitalJen and how we’re seeing people work at the moment, here are a few ideas
- Talk to your target market. Really talk to them – don’t just send a questionnaire that you’ve written to get ‘feedback’. Talk big questions, cut through the small talk and listen to their replies.
- Rephrase. We are seeing time and time again that when people offer to help their clients or users do something they get far better results than when they tell them they have to do something. Change is good (unless you want to eat that Nutella out the jar with a fork instead of a spoon).
- Share the skills that people need to achieve what you’re suggesting. “Talk to an adult about…” – well, that’s great if the adult knows what to do next. “Talk to your child about…” – I can talk to mine about social media and internet use because I do it every day. If you don’t have the tech, the skills, the finances or the brain space to have those conversations it’s going to be really difficult. Offering skills and knowledge readily builds trusting relationships.
- Stop identifying the pain points and the doom and gloom elements. I’ve sat through the sales and marketing training sessions where you’re urged to highlight what’s wrong with something in order to get the sale. Quite frankly, things are tough and bizarre enough at the moment as it is without being made to feel even more rubbish. Helping your child enjoy their online experience in a safe and age appropriate manner is a far better outcome than telling me that my child will be groomed and abducted because I have let them use Google to look something up.
- Lose the generic phrases – especially “now, more than ever” and “unprecedented” (add to these as you will) and the generic images – we have seen them all before.
- Share your core values and messages
As I dug through the presentations, I found this analogy that I’d adapted;
I’d say the core values of Safer Internet Day should be
- To help schools, families and businesses create the next generation of skilled internet users and innovaters
- To help make everyone aware that there is a sinister side of the internet and to understand the risks
- To share the skills that people need to use the internet as a force for good
- To help young people reap the benefits of living in a digital age and improve their skills as online learners in a safe and appropriate way
Let’s use today to encourage our young people to be safe and creative online.
If you need some help establishing your core values and messaging – do get in touch