Safer Internet Day 2011 seeks to make young people aware that what they do online can have consequences in the real world.
The Internet has introduced a whole new world of communication that children explore everyday using computers, mobile phones and game consoles. 74% of 9-16 year olds in Europe play games online, and 60% have joined a social network.
The Internet is an inexhaustable resource and powerful medium. But it also carries risks for young people: objectionable content, harassment, pornography, misuse of personal data... the list is a long one. Young people's health is also at stake: spending more time online than 10 years ago, they sleep on average 2-3 hours less at night.
Every year since 2004, Safer Internet Day has sought to make children, parents and teachers more aware of these problems. More than 60 countries will participate this year.
National awareness centres across the EU will be organising activities and workshops, with help from the Commission's Safer Internet Programme. In the United Kingdom, the UK Safer Internet Centre is encouraging and empowering parents to support their children's online activities, especially around online gaming.
This year, Safer Internet Day is focusing on "virtual" lives: the time children spend on the Internet, how they manage their online identities, avatars and aliases, the difference between the real and virtual worlds, the fact that our actions in cyberspace can leave a permanent trail.
6 key tips have been prepared for parents, such as putting the computer in the living room rather than the bedroom and using parental-control tools. Today, just 25% of parents use software to filter content and to see what webpages their children have been viewing.
These efforts to make the Internet safer and Internet users more empowered are all part of the EU's Digital Agenda for Europe, which seeks to enable everyone to benefit from what the Internet has to offer.