A Year in Digital Safety
To celebrate Safer Internet Day this year, I thought I’d look back on the first year of the University of Edinburgh’s Digital Safety and Citizenship initiative. In many ways, it’s been a year unlike any other, filled with hard lessons, disruption and adaptation. One beacon of light in these dark times, for me, at least, has been that higher education is finally spotlighting digital safety and wellbeing.
I’ve said it so many times on this blog and elsewhere that I must sound like a broken record but digital safety really is more important than ever and it’s imperative that institutions take stock and consider how they can best safeguard both students and staff against a rising tide of digital threats. In 2020, articles about University communities failing to use technology responsibly abounded, indicating that far more needs to be done to promote digital citizenship across the board. A UN brief entitled “Online and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls during Covid-19” also highlighted the gendered dimensions of online harms, while numerous articles have underscored the extent of online harassment and hate crime targeting race, sexuality and gender identity, disability, and other protected characteristics. Cyber crime and online fraud are also on the rise, meaning we should all be taking extra precautions to safeguard ourselves and others while engaging online.
I remember frantically preparing our Digital Safety and Citizenship web hub for the launch of #DigitalCitizen last Safer Internet Day, February 11, 2020. It was, coincidentally, the same day the WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name for the novel coronavirus, though the virus was still a spectre here in the UK at that point. Fast forward a year and life feels very different now as we continue to adapt our lives in the twelfth month of the pandemic.
Today is #SaferInternetDay and here @EdinburghUni, we're launching our new #DigitalCitizen campaign to raise awareness about the responsible use of technology! Watch this space for up-to-date news on events and resources on #digitalsafety! pic.twitter.com/EqxbwC0LdC
— UoE Digital Skills (@UoEDigiSkills) February 11, 2020
In April, in light of the shift to online learning and teaching, we relaunched our social media campaign to continue to raise awareness about digital safety, citizenship and wellbeing at an especially crucial time. I think our hashtag still bears significance today, and hope that we can use Safer Internet Day 2021 to remind ourselves of the importance of supporting one another online during these trying times.
With the shift to online learning and teaching, it's more important than ever to support one another online. Today, we're re-launching our #DigitalCitizen campaign to raise awareness about #digitalwellbeing and using technology responsibly. Learn more at https://t.co/Ph8nWNUeTJ pic.twitter.com/zQ6xaoOC8F
— UoE Digital Skills (@UoEDigiSkills) April 28, 2020
Expanding Our Efforts and Resources
Here at the University of Edinburgh, we’ve spent the last year engaging our colleagues in discussions about digital safety and the importance of embedding digital citizenship within our curriculum and our culture. To formalise and build upon these discussions, we’ve kicked off our Digital Safety Steering Group, comprising staff from across the University, to examine best practice and hopefully influence some policy changes that will better safeguard both students and faculty.
This has been a big piece of our puzzle over the past year and I’m so thrilled the steering group is now official. If the last year of digital safety work has taught me anything, it’s that collaboration is the backbone of change. We can’t hope to instigate a behavioural and cultural shift at our institution without everyone working together and doing their part, which was the ethos behind our #DigitalCitizen awareness campaign. The same ethos also guides our collaborative efforts to reach an even wider audience than before.
We now also have a host of webinars, online courses and guidance to help our community navigate digital safety, yet there is still so much to be done. It’s not enough that we have our Digital Citizenship Guide, although this is a step in the right direction.
I also worked with some colleagues in my Adaptation and Renewal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Resources Group on a new staff toolkit for creating safe and inclusive online learning spaces (staff access only). We recently highlighted the toolkit in our latest Digital Skills Newsletter and I hope people are finding the advice and resources in it useful. I’m also developing a self-paced course for staff on digital safety and citizenship to ensure that when it comes to protecting ourselves and others, we’re all on the same page. I’ll post more details soon.
Finally, I just wanted to put out a reminder that I’m running Digital Safety and Citizenship for Students next Wednesday, 17 February, at 10am GMT. I hope you’ll join me (staff are also very welcome!) for this one-hour webinar, which covers the basics of how to keep yourself safe online, the tenets of digital citizenship, advice on creating a positive digital footprint, and top tips for how to prioritise digital wellbeing. As always, feedback is very welcome and I look forward to talking more with some of you in Collaborate.