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Google and Barnardos, helping parents and children navigate the online world

This article reflects the authors own views and not that of MLI.

Author: Ryan Meade

Ryan is Government Affairs & Public Policy Manager for Google in Ireland and is a member of the National Advisory Council on Online Safety.

The internet has provided an essential form of communication and entertainment during the Coronavirus pandemic. Families have had to face a new reality, of juggling work, school, and play from home. It has become evident that online tools can make the adjustment a bit smoother but as we are all spending more time on our devices, it is now more important than ever that we know how best to stay safe online.

For many children and young people, mobile phones, apps and games are a constant presence, with the distinction between offline and online relationships becoming increasingly blurred. While online apps and games provide many opportunities and benefits for young people, they also potentially expose them to risks.

At Google, we think deeply about these issues - and we want to ensure that everyone has positive experiences online. We run education programs all over the world together with non-profits and expert partners to make the internet a safer place for young people. More broadly, our goal is to make useful products that enhance people’s lives - and it’s important to understand the different roles different technologies play. It’s more important than ever that we ensure we are knowledgeable about issues like cyberbullying, being accountable online and the potential effects of children spending a lot of time online. At Google, we’re finding ways to help children make smart choices and protect themselves online, and helping parents find the right balance for their families.

Last September Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD with our CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a €1 million Google.org grant for online safety training with Barnardos, Ireland’s largest children’s charity. The grant is helping Barnardos bring its Online Safety Programme workshops to more than 75,000 Irish children over the next four years.

Barnardos Online Safety Programme Online Safety Programme provides interactive classes for children and young people, teachers, parents and professionals on internet safety and cyberbullying. One of the goals is to promote ongoing communication between children and adults on these topics. Google and Barnardos have a shared concern about internet safety. By working together we can reach more children, parents and teachers to support better internet education and improved communication.

Google has also created an online resource for parents, children and teachers called Be Internet Legends, which is now available to everyone in Ireland. The program provides teaching resources, family guides and interactive online games, all focused on the five fundamentals of an Internet Legend: being sharp, alert, secure, kind and brave.

In response to the restrictions in place preventing in-classroom workshops taking place Barnardos have created a series of videos for parents on online safety tips, looking at topics including general online safety tips, screen time and digital wellbeing, parental controls and how to encourage critical thinking online. We also hosted a Google Digital Garage webinar on online safety, 'Helping to keep your family safer online' delivered with Barnardos.

At the webinar, our speakers including Cliodhna Purdue, Barnardos Online Safety Programme Training Executive advised us on essential tips on how to create healthy digital habits, safeguard your family online, and explore the tools available to protect family devices and accounts.

We recognize our responsibility as a company to ensure that the internet is accessible and used in a positive way. Through Barnardos program and the rollout of Be Internet Legends, we intend to make the internet a safer place for young people in Ireland and around the world. The programme aims to give children the basic skills to help them build up good media literacy as they grow and make informed decisions as families on online safety.

In September Barnardos will be offering their Online Safety Programme as live online workshops where they will connect with schools via a link and deliver the workshop to children and will also offer online parent workshops.

Under the Irish Government's commitment to build stronger and safer communities, Ireland will introduce legislation to establish an Online Safety Commission. We look forward to continuing work with our Industry partners, Irish NGOs and our Government to ensure that we take a collaborative approach to creating a positive, safe online environment for all.

Be Internet Legends