The Commission's Communication on a "Strategy for a Better Internet for Children" was adopted in May 2012.
What is the problem? Children are not safe online
Internet has become one of the main distribution channels for material (images, films, audio files etc) depicting sexual abuse of children. Internet Watch Foundation confirmed 1.316 child abuse domains in 2009. The content is becoming worse over years: 44% of the images reported to the largest hotline depict the rape or torture of a child; 70% of the victims are under the age of 10.
More and more European children go online via mobile phones and game consoles. More than 50% of 13-16 year olds go online from their bedroom and more than half of 9-16 year olds have a social networking profile. At the same time, young people are a vulnerable group as they do not always see the risks of their online actions such as sharing personal information online or talking to people they have never met in real life.
Why is EU action required? Collective fight against the illegal content online
Online distribution of child abuse material is a global problem – abuse takes place and is uploaded in one place, the hosting might be in another country, and downloading happens all over the world - this international dimension makes it harder to detect and combat. Therefore, a collective effort supported by the EU would increase the effectiveness of fighting illegal content online.
These issues are still relatively new and require fast reaction. Despite cultural differences, the risks for children are similar all over the EU. Therefore sharing of best practice experiences in the field of awareness raising among countries is necessary to achieve large scale results in the short term.
What has the Commission done so far?
Launched in May 2012, the European strategy for a better internet for children to give children the digital skills and tools they need to fully and safely benefit from being online around the following main goals:
- Stimulate the production of creative and educational online content for children as well as promoting positive online experiences for young children
- Scaling up awareness and empowerment including teaching of digital literacy and online safety in all EU schools
- Create a safe environment for children through age-appropriate privacy settings, wider use of parental controls and age rating and content classification
- Combat child sexual abuse material online and child sexual exploitation
- Safer Internet Day, 5 February 2013 was celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide under the theme "Online Rights and Responsibilities" and the slogan "Connect with respect" reaching out to more than 10 million people and more than 16,000 schools. For more information: http://www.saferinternetday.org
- Continued to support the network of Safer Internet Centres with enhanced focus on promotion of positive online experience, youth participation and special attention to vulnerable children. Safer Internet Centres are present in all the Member States (plus Iceland, Norway and Russia) running hotlines, awareness centres and helplines to provide information and support to children, parents and educators on the safe use of new online technologies.
- Single, comprehensive web portal to provide visibility for awareness activities, helplines and hotlines: www.saferintenet.eu (INHOPE&INSAFE) and www.safetinternet.org (INSAFE)
- Organisation of Safer Internet Forum 2013 (international conference with more than 300 participants including Pan-European Youth Panel and Teachers/parents Panel meetings)
- Multilingual resources for young users and teens by INSAFE
- Collection through online platform of statistics about the awareness raising, helpline and hotline activities and the results of the Safer Internet Centres across Europe (INHOPE annual report for 2012 and Safer Internet centres statistics for 2012)
- Monitor the implementation of "notice and take down" of child abuse images: Hotlines have been supported to facilitate reporting of online child pornography, actions have been taken to improve N&TD and get better statistics on timelines and on where such content is hosted. The time span needed between reporting child sexual abuse content on the internet and taking it down has been further reduced.
- Strengthen cooperation of Child Sexual Abuse investigators between Member States: contribution to the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse online
- Encourage sharing investigation tools (software tools etc.) between Member States: launch of a new project to enhance law enforcement agencies' identification and analysis of child pornography
- Signature of Joint EU/US Declaration, committing to make the Internet a safer and better place for children by European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
- Participation of Russia in the INSAFE and INHOPE networks
What will the Commission do in 2014:
- Collect and disseminate information about the awareness, helpline and hotline activities and the results of the Safer Internet Centres across Europe.
- Continue to support the work of the Safer Internet Centres
- Follow up on the Connecting Europe Facility, the follow up to the Safer Internet Programme for the period 2014 – 2020
- Organise Safer Internet Day 2014 (11 February 2014)
- Continue to monitor the implementation of "notice and take down" of child abuse images and to strengthen cooperation of Child Sexual Abuse investigators between Member States through the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse online
- Continue to support international co-operation.