This year, the theme of Safer Internet Day is Together for a Better Internet.
The internet is something that is part of all young people’s lives across the UK.
Most parents probably enjoy the fact that their children can use the internet like an encyclopedia to help with tricky homework questions.
But what if the questions being asked by young people are much darker and much more dangerous such as; how do I kill myself?
Unsafe Content Online
Would we want the answers to questions about suicide method revealed so freely and instantly to young people or, indeed, anyone feeling vulnerable to thoughts of suicide?
Recently we have seen a lot of media coverage about how young people are affected by social media. There have been front-page stories about young people who are viewing images online that seem to promote and glorify suicide.
Our CEO Ged Flynn argues that by allowing this content to appear online, social media companies and websites could be seen as complicit in the deaths of vulnerable people.
The internet unfortunately has many sites that overtly and directly encourage suicide.
As we have explored in our #BedtimeStories campaign, social media also means that bullying no longer stops at the school gates but continues into young people’s homes.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. How many lives could be saved if harmful and abusive content is removed from public viewing?
Opportunities for a Safer Internet
There are also many positive aspects to the internet. It gives young people a platform to share their experiences and stories. Some young people also talk to us about supportive communities, with shared values, that they have found online.
PAPYRUS believes in building suicide-safer communities. In today’s modern world, part of our community is a digital one and therefore we need to talk about how to make a suicide-safer internet that promotes hope and safety rather than hopelessness.
We’ve put together some PAPYRUS tips for a safer internet:
- If you find content that concerns you on social media platforms you can report this via that channel’s reporting process.
- If you come across any content online that includes information on suicide method, or appears to encourage suicide, you can contact PAPYRUS who will follow this up and ask for content to be taken down.
- If you are worried about someone online, perhaps because of posts they have shared or comments they’ve made, you could let them know about our helpline HOPELINEUK or other avenues of support (see our page ‘Places to Turn for Help’).
- To understand the reasons why we work to encourage an open, but safe, discussion of suicide, have a look at our media guidelines. You can also share these with media outlets or individuals who may be reporting on suicide.
- You can lead by example online – be supportive, be informed and be aware. This can help create a sense of safety and community. If you’d like to bring together people with similar experiences, perhaps you could find the right platform to create a supportive group or community and help people to get involved.
It’s really important that we don’t lose hope that things can change. Today, as the world thinks about working together for a safer internet, we will work alongside you to make the internet a suicide-safer place for all. A place where suicide is talked about sensitively. A place where dangerous content is removed and replaced by helpful and supportive resources. This is achievable if everyone works together. The lives of so many young people depend on it.