Many young people live their lives in both the virtual and physical worlds, and they rarely differentiate between the two as they are so intertwined.

It is difficult to imagine how much more challenging the pandemic would have been for young people without online platforms, be that for their education, well-being, recreation and for maintaining their relationships and friendships.

However, our responsibilities to keep children safe and protected from harm are no less important in the virtual space as they are in the physical one. There is an onus on us as adults to keep ourselves informed and abreast of new and emerging online developments. We must not shy away from keeping an eye on children’s behaviour in an age-appropriate way or be afraid to challenge behaviours if they are not appropriate or healthy, in the same way as we would in the physical world.

We have a responsibility to ensure that our education and information initiatives on sexuality, relationships and potential harms also include online activities. This is essential so that young people learn about healthy relationships, that are based on equality and respect and understand the importance of reporting if these are breached. We do our young people a great disservice when we say “they know more than we do about the internet”. We must play our part and make every effort to ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep them safe, no matter if they are behind a screen or in our living rooms. That is why initiatives like Safer Internet Day are so important and why NICCY is supporting it.