Posted by: Jacqueline Beauchere, Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

Each February, the world recognizes Safer Internet Day (SID), an event dedicated to promoting responsible use of the Internet and mobile technology, particularly among youth. Organized by Brussels-based Insafe and co-founded by the European Union, Feb. 7 marks the ninth installment of SID. This year’s theme, "Connecting Generations and Educating Each Other,” once again finds Microsoft playing an active role.

The company was part of the first SID, and has been a long-standing advocate ever since, particularly in Europe. Last year, the Trustworthy Computing (TwC) Group expanded Microsoft's involvement in North America by hosting three online gaming-related events in as many U.S. cities, keeping with SID's 2011 theme. This year, we're building on that success, and partnering with AARP.

Microsoft and AARP today released results of their first-ever "Connecting Generations" research study focused on technology and Internet use among teens (13-17), young adults (18-25), parents (39-58) and older adults (59-75). Eighty-three percent of each age group, according to the survey, considers going online to be a "helpful" form of family communication. For some, that translates to a deeper understanding of one another. About three in 10 grandparents, as well as teens and young adults, say connecting through technology has helped them forge closer ties. And, one in four parents say online communications have assisted children in better relating to them.

Unfortunately, the generations are not discussing how to stay safer and more secure online. While most respondents wish they knew more about how to keep personal information private (58 percent) and how best to safeguard their device (50 percent), it's the younger generation (38 percent) that wants more guidance about using social networks more safely compared to older respondents (27 percent). There's also a discrepancy between how teens deal with online content that makes them uncomfortable, and how parents think teens are confronting such information. Nearly half of parents say teens know to approach them if something online makes them feel uneasy. Meanwhile, less than a third (29 percent) of teens say they would even know to go to their parents.

So, what can we glean from this work? It's further evidence that online safety is truly ageless – and it's everyone's responsibility. Teens need to share technical knowledge; parents and grandparents need to impart wisdom in helping to recognize and deal with risks, and we all need to use technology appropriately and responsibly. That’s what we refer to as being good “digital citizens.” 

Microsoft can help you make Internet safety a family affair. Teach yourself and your family using our interactive Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit; visit http://www.microsoft.com/security for other advice and guidance, and follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/Safer_Online and Facebook www.facebook.com/SaferOnline