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Digital Differences: A better internet for whom?

5 Feb 2019 4:00PM

The University has hosted a conference to mark Safer Internet Day.

Digital Differences brought together experts from across the country who addressed a regional audience of over 100 delegates from schools, colleges, healthcare providers, social services and safeguarding organisations.

The University has been recognised as a pioneer in research, which addresses topical issues, particularly those affecting young people, such as peer-on-peer abuse, revenge pornography, sexual abuse online and cyber security. This work continued with the Digital Differences conference which addressed the question ‘A better internet for whom?’.

Professor Andy Phippen, from the University of Plymouth, delivered the keynote address. He is regarded as a national expert when it comes to social responsibility in IT and is a research partner with the UK Safer Internet Centre and a Member of Parliamentary IT Committee.

Professor Phippen said, “It was a pleasure to provide the keynote for the second year running at the University of Suffolk’s Digital Differences conference. Last year I thought we really started to a move toward more progressive approach to online safety and this year’s line-up was, once again, broad and diverse. The audience were asked to think differently about how young people, and adults, can be supported as they engage with online technology so they might do so in a resilient manner.”

Professor Steven Furnell, Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Plymouth gave the second keynote address entitled “Connect Connect Connect: Have We Forgotten Stop and Think?”.

Professor Furnell said, “The key message of my presentation was that while digital technologies and services are readily adopted, we rarely see much upfront recognition of the risks.  We have been using them for long enough to know that none are risk-free, and so we ought to be getting better at thinking about this alongside embracing the benefits.  Unfortunately, it seems that things we should have thought about in advance are only getting attention when the inevitable problems emerge.” 

“My talk looked at examples of things we should now be familiar with, spanning safeguards such as passwords and patching, threats such as malware and phishing, and behaviours such as data sharing.  Although all have been faced many times, they continue to appear afresh in new devices and services and often find us just as unprepared as we were in the first place.”

Professor Emma Bond, Director of Research at the University of Suffolk and Katie Tyrrell, Research Associate, presented findings from their Digital Civility project, funded by the Office for Students.

Katie Tyrrell said, "The University of Suffolk is really proud to be leading the way in online safeguarding for their students, our year long project clearly shows that students are entering university with diverse digital footprints that are often littered with adverse experiences, abusive content and sometimes indecent images. Our project has clearly demonstrated that by working in a holistic way across the student community we can mitigate the risks that students face.”

Tim Holder from the Suffolk Community Foundation said, “There is no point on Suffolk having the greatest understanding about what being safe online is about. What we need to do is to take that knowledge out, into the communities and for it to make a real difference. We need to make sure people have the skills they need to live safely and happily.”


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