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Action 40: Member States to implement harmful content alert hotlines

Member States should fully implement hotlines for reporting illegal online content, organise awareness raising campaigns on online safety for children, and offer teaching online safety in schools, and encourage providers of online services to implement self-regulatory measures regarding online safety for children by 2013.

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 the EU action required? Improving children safety online EU-wide coordination is needed

Addressing risks and strengthening the online safety of children is a shared responsibility of individuals as much as of private and public bodies, both at home and globally.

The Commission supports the development of hotlines for reporting illegal online content (see action 36). It also encourages self-regulation by European service providers (see action 37). At the same time, while action in this field should be coordinated at EU level, it has to be implemented at national level. Thus, Member States are expected to provide the necessary financial and political support to Safer Internet Centres in their respective national jurisdictions. They should also develop a strategy on how best to teach online safety in schools.

What will the Commission do?

In 2011 :

Support the Safer Internet Centres established in all Member States and that run hotlines, awareness centres and helplines

Support Teachtoday (website for teachers developed by Industry as part of a pan-European initiative).

Support the development of investigation tools for Child Sexual Abuse investigators, e.g. for image analysis on seized computers

Support INTERPOL in connecting more Member States and countries to the INTERPOL International Child Sexual Abuse Database

Explore ways to involve Member States in the follow up of self-regulatory agreements (such as European framework of safer mobile use by children and younger teenagers and Safer Social Networking principles for the EU)

Adopted a report on the implementation of the 1998 and 2006 recommendations on the protection of Minors (based on a survey amongst the Member States) in September 2011. On basis of this report the Polish Presidency of the Council adopted Council Conclusions on the protection of minors in the digital world, which includes provisions for Member States to act in this field, including on offering teaching online safety in schools

In 2012 :

Launch a benchmarking exercise of safer internet policies and action across Europe including an analysis of the current resources used for these activities and their breakdown between the Commission and Member States

Continue to support the Safer Internet Centres established in all Member States

Contact:

patricia.manson@ec.europa.eu