Have you heard of “Safer Internet Day” which is going to be commemorated this year on the 7th of February – the global community-led initiative of working towards a safer and more inclusive internet? The “Safer Internet Day” is celebrated in approximately 180 countries and territories worldwide. From cyberbullying and social networking to digital identity, each year “Safer Internet Day” aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns.
This year marks its 20th anniversary and will focus on how to protect, empower and respect all children and young people when they go online as they are some of the most exposed to and affected by cyberbullying as there is still little awareness of this issue in the younger generations.
In this regard, one of the most important criteria for combatting cyberbullying is to teach your children how to identify it in the first place and what actions to take, all while encouraging them to share by giving them a safe place to talk about it, hereby preventing its negative impact and subsequent spread.
The slogan of the Australian governments eSafety Commissioner about being safe while online recommends that we all should:
- “Connect safely and with purpose – by keeping apps and devices secure and using social media in positive ways.
- Reflect before we act – by taking a moment to consider how what we do and say online may affect others.
- Protect ourselves and others by taking action – by telling family, friends or colleagues about eSafety and how we can help.”
This edition of Safer Internet Day, will additionally be reflecting on the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+) (“the Strategy”) adopted in May 2022, which aims to ensure the digital participation, empowerment and protection of young users, and lays the foundations and vision of the internet that we would all like to see in the future, namely, to make sure that children and young people are protected, empowered and respected whenever they go online, and that they can access and enjoy what the online world has to offer without worry. Together with the recently adopted Digital Services Act package and the Declaration on European Digital Rights and Principles, the aim is to achieve a safer, better and more fulfilling online experience for all in the future.
In this context, to make the digital world a safer place for children and young people, the European Commission will contribute to the creation of an EU code for age-appropriate design and will ask for a European standard for age verification online by 2024. It will also explore how to use the planned European Digital Identity Wallet for age verification, support rapid reporting of illegal and harmful content and ensure that the single harmonized number “116 111” provides help to victims of cyberbullying by 2023.
In order to promote children’s digital empowerment, the Commission also plans to organise media literacy campaigns for children, teachers and parents through the network of Safer Internet Centers which is the backbone of the strategy. It will also provide training modules for teachers through the betterinternetforkids.eu portal. The network of Safer Internet Centers in Member States, operating at national and local level, will strengthen support for vulnerable children and help to bridge the digital skills divide.
To increase children’s participation in the digital environment, the Commission will, for example, support more experienced children to teach other children about online opportunities and risks and organise a child-led evaluation of the strategy every two years.
To implement these key pillars, the Commission invites Member States and industry to commit to and support the implementation of relevant actions.
In this respect, the LEAGUE*1 project, funded by the CERV programme of the European Commission under Grant Agreement № 101049294, also contributes to the implementation of EU policies by focusing on the need to prevent and increase reporting of online sexual abuse of children aged 10-18 and cyberbullying. Within our project, activities are planned to contribute to increasing the competences of relevant professionals supporting victims of such crimes (psychologists, social workers, educators, etc.) but also parents and caregivers, through international and national trainings on the subject, aiming at addressing these problems as well as their prevention. The second line of the project’s activities will in turn target boys aged between 10 and 18. In order to reach them, the project relies on the internet platform as well as a chatbot where children could find more information on the topic of sexual abuse online, as well as share what they are going through.
*1 “Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.”