Commission to step up efforts to safeguard children online

Published: 8 February 2011 y., Tuesday

On the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2011, the European Commission today announced that it will step up talks with ICT industry and children's organisations to encourage the design of safer products to help keep children safe online. Moreover, the Commission will shortly review the 2006 Recommendation on minors and how to protect them in audiovisual media and Internet and on the 2008 Communication on the protection of youngsters from harmful content in video games. Children are going online from a younger age and not just from computers, but also games consoles and mobile phones. More than 82 % of 15-16 year olds in Europe have a social networking profile, as well as 26 % of 9-10 year olds. Safer Internet Day is being marked today in more than 65 countries around the world under the slogan "Internet is more than a game, it's your life!". This is supported by the EU's Safer Internet Programme, which helps parents and their children to be safe online. Children's safety online is an important part of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: “It is hard for parents to ensure their children are always safe online, especially as youngsters now access the Internet not just from PCs, but also via smart phones and games consoles. This places greater responsibility on the ICT industry to provide products and services that protect and empower children online. We have worked productively with social networks and mobile operators. Now we call on the whole chain of ICT industry to work together to do more to safeguard children online."

In response to changing patterns of technology used by youngsters, the Commission will work with new groups and industry-sectors to better protect children online. Manufacturers of mobile devices and game consoles, Internet service providers, social networking companies, mobile applications and content providers, consumer organisations, researchers and childrens' organisations will be invited to join the collaborative platform. This dialogue will build on the achievements of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU and the European Framework for the Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children.

A recent pan-European survey shows that children go online more and more and that Internet use is becoming more personalised, with one out of three connecting via their mobile phones and one in four via game consoles. More than half of 13-16 year olds are accessing the Internet in their bedroom.

At the same time, 59% of 9-16 year olds have a social networking profile, with differences between countries ranging from 80% in The Netherlands to 46% in Romania. 26% of them have completely "public" profiles, ranging from 11% in the UK to a high of 54% in Hungary. 14% of children post their address and phone number on their profiles.

Safer Internet Day 2011 aims to remind young people that what they do or say online could break through into their "real" life even if they use an avatar or a nickname. The Safer Internet Day has been organised by INSAFE, the network of Awareness Centres and is supported by the EU's € 55 million Safer Internet Programme. It has taken place every year since 2004, with events in more than 65 countries in Europe and worldwide.

This year, for example, Ireland will launch a research project on children's use of the Internet and Bulgaria will launch a helpline where youngsters, parents and teachers can ask for personalised advice on online safety issues. In France, there will be special workshops in schools during the whole month of February. In Spain, an agreement for joint training sessions for minors at risk and their parents will be signed between the police, Madrid Municipality and several companies. Hungary, Latvia, Greece and The Netherlands will award their national winners of the Best Children's Online Content competition.

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