The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Fun and Games: Exploring Respect and Relationships on Safer Internet Day


Tuesday 8 February 2022 was Safer Internet Day.
CMF Exec Group member Cecilia Weiss attended the core event

Safer Internet Day first started as an initiative of the EU Safe Borders project in 2004. It's now held across 200 countries. In the UK, Safer Internet Day is coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre, made up of Childnet, The Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL. This year was the first year without EU funding, and a variety of organisations stepped up to support - including Nominet, Amazon, Apple, DCMS, Lego, Netflix, Roblox, Samsung, Twitter and Vodafone.

The 2022 Safer Internet Day campaign focus was to spread the message of "respect and relationships online", with particular regard to more vulnerable groups, such as LGTB+. Schools right across the country got involved. The event in this report featured research, political input and films made by school children, and was attended by a youth panel. It was great that young people's voices were front and centre.

All the young people stressed their passion for gaming online, along with as passionate a desire that the world of gaming be a safe and respectful place. To achieve this, the children felt a number of key steps should be taken:

  • There should be a straightforward way to report bad chat, and consequences for bad behaviour online. (This sentiment was also expressed just as forcefully at the last Safer Internet Day.)
  • Computing education should include a bigger focus on social media a, respect in gaming, and more explanation of the rationale for age-ratings.
  • Adults need to understand that gaming is no longer solitary. It's often important to speak to others when playing, and friendships can develop - and this can happen in vulnerable communities. It isn’t helpful to simply say, ‘don’t speak to strangers’, because if it’s important for the game, kids will do it anyway. Then if something goes wrong the child be less likely to turn to the adult who took the over-simplified approach. Their plea to adults: be open-minded, take an interest, let your child introduce you to the game.

Two government ministers attended the event: Chris Philp MP, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy and Will Quince MP, Minister for Children and Families.  Their response:

  • The government is taking proactive steps, including the Online Safety Bill.
  • The new relationship, health and sex curriculum will include safely managing online worlds.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet presented a series of stats from Childnet's research:

  • 61% of young people spend more time with friends virtually than they do in real life.
  • 48% of young people say if they couldn’t game online anymore, they would feel like they’ve lost a part of who they are.
  • 52% of young people who play online games, say it’s taught them to respect others.
  • 61% of parents (with children aged 8 – 17) have been alerted to a new person within an online game that their child is unsure about.
  • 54% of parents say that their child has alerted them to friendships breaking down because of online games.
  • 78% of young people report receiving friend requests in an online game from people they don’t know.
  • Young people report at least one negative emotion in various online game situations:
    • 73% seeing someone being mean or nasty
    • 73% seeing someone cheat
    • 68% falling out with a friend when playing an online game.
    • 46% have received requests from strangers to meet in person.
    • 34% have taught themselves how to play new online games in a safe way.
    • 20% of young people learn to about safety through their friends.


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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)