The European Union has been at the forefront of protecting children’s digital rights for over 30 years. The European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children aims to expand online opportunities and actively tackle online risks for our children. It does so through a set of complementary measures, including funding, coordination and self-regulation.
At the heart of our actions is a European network of Safer Internet Centres, supporting minors, parents and teachers: Their main task is to raise awareness and foster digital literacy. Free helplines provide specific advice and information. The fight against online child sexual abuse material is led by the INHOPE network of hotlines, in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies, supported by an EU-funded IT tool.
The www.betterinternetforkids.eu portal brings together all resources and shares best practices across Europe.
For years, this network has been striving to foster a high level of digital and media literacy among young Europeans and to raise awareness of the risks they may encounter online, actively tackling major issues affecting children and young people's wellbeing.
Educating and raising awareness among young Europeans is key to addressing fundamental concerns such as tackling online hate speech and disinformation, and online stranger danger.
- Every third internet user is a child
- Almost 21 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide by 2020, including smart toys, watches, TVs, health trackers etc.
- The majority of European parents believe that digital technologies can help their children study more efficiently and that ICT use will help their child find employment
- 1 out of 3 parents do not implement child control tools at home
- Discussing online risks with parents decreases significantly with age - only 1 in 2 students attending secondary schools regularly discuss online risks with their parents
- Only half of parents with secondary school age children feel they know enough about their child's computer use
- Around half of European teenagers have encountered one or more of the most frequent internet risks, such as cyberbullying, sexting or violent and disturbing content
- The online content that children disliked most is unwanted sexual content, followed by violent content
Safer Internet Centres
With an annual budget of around EUR 11M,the Commission co-funds Safer Internet Centres in Member States as well as Iceland and Norway. They exchange resources and good practices on online matters and risks and cover these core tasks:
- National awareness centres focus on raising awareness and understanding of safer internet issues and emerging trends. They run campaigns to empower children, young people, parents, carers and teachers with the skills, knowledge and strategies to stay safe online and to benefit from the opportunities offered by digital technologies.
- Helplines advise children, teachers and parents on any concerns they face online. They also hold regular presentations in schools, libraries and youth organisations about children's use of technologies and provide parents and teachers with information and educational advice. Almost 44,000 contacts were made in 2018 with main concerns about cyberbullying, harmful content and online relationships.
- A network of hotlines allows members of the public to anonymously report online child sexual abuse material. Reports are then passed on to the appropriate body for action. In 2018, 58% of such material was removed from the internet in less than 3 days.
- Youth panels allow young people to express their views and values, and exchange knowledge and experiences concerning their use of online technologies, as well as tips on how to stay safe online. They advise on internet safety and empowerment strategy, help create innovative resources and disseminate safety messages to their peers. Over 5,000 events involving youth participation were organised in 2018 across Europe.
The leading EU-funded online safety hub. This portal offers free of charge, regularly updated information, resources, advice and tips on online safety for children, parents, teachers and other interested users across Europe. The portal also supports coordination and capacity building for the Safer Internet Centres network.
Safer Internet Day
European Commission's flagship event on online safety is now celebrated in over 150 countries across all continents and reaches millions of people every year through new resources, events, and other activities.
- On Safer Internet Day 2017, The Commission launched the "Alliance to better protect minors online", a multi-stakeholder platform including leading media and ICT companies aiming to improve the online environment for minors tackling harmful content and behaviour through self-regulation.
- On Safer Internet Day 2018, the Commission launched the #SaferInternet4EU campaign, to promote online safety, media literacy and cyber-hygiene. In 2018, the campaign reached nearly 30 million Europeans, providing them with more than 1,800 new resources on subjects including fake news, cyberbullying, privacy concerns, grooming, sexting and cyber-hygiene.
- On Safer Internet Day 2019, the Commission announced the creation of a new Safer Internet for Children Expert Group with representatives from all Member States, as well as Norway and Iceland. The group meets regularly to discuss and exchange experience and best practices, on aspects as diverse as online advertising aimed at children; and connected toys.
Safer Internet Forum
The key annual international conference in Europe where policy makers, researchers, law enforcement bodies, youth, parents and carers, teachers, NGOs, industry representatives, experts and other relevant actors come together to discuss the latest trends, risks and solutions related to child online safety and making the internet a better place for minors.
The 2019 theme is digital respect, with a particular focus on girls.
In the next multiannual financial framework, the Commission will aim to:
- Scale up awareness-raising efforts by creating more partnerships, fostering synergies, and spreading online safety messages more widely
- Further improve the detection and removal of online child sexual abuse material, using AI
- Support EU-wide qualitative and quantitative research on children's use of technologies, risk prevalence, and children's and carers' levels of knowledge and confidence on tackling these challenges
- Measure the efficiency and impact of existing child online safety policies to ensure optimal future policy responses
- Address emerging risks and challenges such as mental and physical health issues related to the use of technologies (self-harm, addiction, perception of self-identity and self-image)
- Promote accessibility and inclusion of more vulnerable groups, to overcome the digital divide
- Reach out to more stakeholders and especially promote greater youth participation to support fully informed policy-making
The EU helps children and young people become responsible digital citizens by offering EU-wide tools and resources to minimise online risks and maximise the opportunities offered by the digital transformation.
Doing so is a long-term and multi-partnership endeavour, due to the highly dynamic nature of the digital landscape, and it requires sustained efforts over time to respond in the most appropriate ways to emerging trends and issues.
It is our responsibility to make sure that young Europeans thrive, as studies, play, and social communication move increasingly online in the 21st century. The European Commission will continue to work with industry, experts, civil society, decision-makers and young people to ensure a fair, inclusive and empowering Digital Europe.