The Safer Internet Day is an annual event organized internationally. The aim is to promote safer and more responsible use of the web and new technologies.

On Safer Internet Day 2019, Microsoft released the results of this year’s Digital Civility Index edition. This research analyses attitudes and perceptions of adolescents (13-17) and adults (18-74) compared to digital civic education and online security. Research is conducted in 22 countries, including Italy.

Microsoft, however, does not just expose the search results. The company also offers users some useful tips for good use of the Internet. But let’s start with the Digital Civility Index 2019 research, with the results released on Safer Internet Day.

Digital Civility Index 2019, results

According to the study, Italy ranks 9th in the ranking, out of a total of 22 countries, for exposure to online risks.

64.5% of respondents say they have been directly victimized, or know at least one friend or family member who has experienced this type of experience, at least one of the three main online risks: unwanted contacts, fake news and bullying.

In Italy, the most common type of unwanted contact is that a person insists on wanting to socialize with his interlocutor against his will. This is seen by 48% of Italians interviewed, compared with 36% globally.

Fake news in Italy is more likely to occur than in the rest of Europe. 62% of Italians come across false news against 57% globally.

Bullying is also one of the three most common risks in our country. 52% of respondents (compared to 51% worldwide) said they had been offended online. In particular, to have been defined by denigratory names.

From virtual to real risk, Microsoft points out, the step is short. 53% met with the author of the threat in person. In 26% of cases, threats are perpetrated by family and friends (+8% compared to last year).

Online risks and reactions

The study also highlights the reactions of victims of online risks. It reduces the trust of victims in people online (48%) and offline (34%). 28% of victims reduce activities on social media, blogs and forums.

At the same time, the desire to take positive action has been reduced compared to last year after being exposed to online risks. In fact, it decreases by 2% the inclination to treat others with respect and dignity. In addition, the propensity to use more rigid privacy settings on social media decreases by 5%.

Millennials and adolescents are the demographic categories that suffer most from online risks. This, even with respect to their peers in the world. 69% of the children born between the 80s and 90s and 69% of the teenagers in fact say they feel very uncomfortable about this type of experience.

The Digital Civility Index also shows that 44% of teenagers are looking for help from their parents (+2% compared to the global average). According to Microsoft, the effectiveness of awareness campaigns by institutions and companies on the subject is demonstrated.

What to do: Microsoft’s tips

To help young people engage in responsible online behaviour and educate them to use digital tools consciously and safely, Microsoft has created a chatterbox. It is downloadable at this link and offers some useful tips on how to avoid the dangers on the Net.

In addition, Microsoft also offers a summary of useful tips for good Internet use, which we present below.

Use complex and different passwords for each account

Too often we choose very simple passwords that are easy to remember on the one hand but that on the other can be quickly identified by cybercriminals. Especially if we use the same password for all accounts that require one.

You must therefore make sure that each password has the right level of complexity. Use at least 10 characters that are a good mix of letters, capitals and small letters, numbers and special characters. There are also tools that help you manage your passwords safely.

Do not accept invitations or contact requests from strangers

Not all people who meet online are the ones who claim to be. It is normal for cyber criminals to create false social media profiles to foster relationships with unwary users. And to act undisturbed in order to have access to sensitive data.

If you are contacted by an online stranger, who insists that you share personal information or ask for money, this should trigger alarm bells. If possible, it is always better to search the person to see if the account is authentic. If you are not yet sure of the identity of the person, but you still want to accept his request for friendship, it is better to limit the information that the person can view on the profile. This, using the privacy settings found on different platforms.

Online the same rules as the real world apply: do not share confidential information with strangers.

Actions you perform online can also have consequences offline

You have to think of the Internet as the square of a city. It is a public space, where anyone can see or share anything that is published, whether it is thought for these people or not. We must therefore always reflect on the information that is shared online.

Protect your sensitive data and personal information

With few exceptions, unfortunately there is no way to permanently delete content posted online. Any image, comment or photo that you post online is as if it stayed there forever. Even if you remove the original post, you cannot be sure that others have not made copies or shared that content on other networks. So it’s good not to make that information public that you want it to remain private.

Always be careful where you click

A proven cybercriminal tactic is to induce users to download malware that allows them to steal information. From a popular game to an email offering technical support, malware can be masked in a variety of different ways.

It is therefore always best to avoid downloading apps that look strange or come from an unknown site. And avoid clicking on links within emails containing for example many spelling errors and coming from a strange email address. If you are not completely sure, it is advisable to contact the brand through official channels. It is always better to do an extra check than risk compromising security.

Always update your antivirus and privacy settings

If you don’t update your defenses, you’re more vulnerable to cyber crime. It is important to update your operating system and check the privacy settings of your applications and browser that you use.

Always use a secure connection

When using a public Internet connection, such as WiFi in a shopping mall, you have no direct control over its security. In such cases, it is therefore appropriate not to share confidential information. It is safer to wait until you are at home or are sure to be connected to a secure network.

Ask for advice from trusted people

You don’t have to hurry to click on a link or post. There is nothing more important than our online security.

Having to pay attention to online threats may be stressful, but there are many resources that can help. Whenever a user is in a suspicious situation, it is good to always turn to a trusted person, a friend, a parent, a teacher or even a technology expert.

As for Microsoft, this link can be accessed the Windows Security Guide on the support site.

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