ConnectSafely’s successful Safer Internet Day celebration

By Hani Khan

ConnectSafely.org presented the official U.S. Safer Internet Day 2016: ‘Play your part for a better Internet’ event at Universal Studios Hollywood on February 9th. Safer Internet Day is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world.After welcoming remarks by Comcast NBCUniversal host Jim Janco and ConnectSafely CEO Larry Magid, WWE Superstar Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin took the stage to remind students that “Bullying online is not cool” and how it’s possible to overcome adversity to achieve your dreams.

Instagram activist Leo Sheng moderated the youth empowerment panel: Rejecting Hate, Building Resilience & Growing the Good Online, which featured InspirED interns Christopher Rim, Lara Mashayekh and Sergio Flores as well as #iCANHELP advocate Helen Le and Ruby Rawlinson from the Teen Board of Directors of Beyond Differences. The panelists spoke on their experiences of tackling online hate and how to advocate for those dealing with similar experiences. Then Tshaka Armstrong, CEO of Digital Shepherds, talked about the power we all have to create a better and safer Internet, whether it’s in our community or on a global level.

ConnectSafely K-12 education director Kerry Gallagher and #iCANHELP co-founder Matt Soeth ran an activity with the over 300 middle and high school students in attendance. Students broke into small groups to help resolve some critical questions that have been plaguing companies, nonprofits and government agencies involved with online safety.As each group tackled one of eight questions, industry leaders roamed the room as judges and mentors providing guidance as needed.

The judges were: Tshaka Armstrong (Digital Shepherds), Mia Doces (Committee for Children), Michael Kaiser (National Cyber Security Alliance), Kim Karr (#iCANHELP), Hemu Nigam (SSP Blue), Hallie Saber (iKeepSafe.org) Allison Smartt (CreativeFuture), Matt Soeth (#iCANHELP) and Catherine Teitelbaum (ASKfm).Judges selected a winner for each category.

Congratulations to Kennedy High School (Granada Hills, California), Nobel Middle School (Northridge, California), Taft High School (Woodland Hills, California), Olive Middle School (Baldwin Park, California), and Grossmont High School (El Cajon, California).Students also got to engage with major tech companies and organizations at the exhibitor tables, including Snapchat, Facebook, LifeLock, CreativeFuture, CyberPatriot, Digital Shepherds and Beyond Differences.The U.S. event for Safer Internet Day was streamed online with remote participation from over 20 organizations and schools. A video of the event is at YouTube.com/ConnectSafely.

Supporters and national partners for Safer Internet Day USA include Comcast NBCUniversal, Facebook, Google, ASKfm, LifeLock, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Trend Micro, and Twitter along with Committee for Children, Common Sense Media, the Family Online Safety Institute, #iCANHELP, the iKeepSafe Coalition, the Internet Education Foundation, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the National PTA.

Safer Internet Day 2017 will be on Tuesday, February 7th.

For more information, check out SaferInternetDay.us.

Hani Khan is ConnectSafely’s outreach manager.