The European Union celebrates the annual Safer Internet Day today. Over 140 countries join together to create a better and safer online environment. This year Commissioner Gabriel will launch the #SaferInternet4EU initiatives.

A group of children in front of technical devices

Today, the European Union and the rest of the world celebrate the 15th annual edition of Safer Internet Day (SID). Organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, the call for action for this day is: Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you. This day will bring together thousands of people from over 140 countries to champion a safer and better internet. They will be calling for everyone to play their part in creating a better internet for all, in particular its youngest users. Internet users are invited to join in and engage with others over the internet in a respectful way in order to ensure a better digital experience for everyone.

The initiatives will federate efforts by different stakeholders at EU and national level, building on the existent EU co-funded network of Safer Internet Centres in 27 Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway.

They will also remind internet users to take responsibility and keep the internet safe. By fostering resilience, skills and knowledge, young people will be able to navigate any online risks safely. A better internet will also empower citizens in this fast-evolving digital world and take full advantage of the enormous opportunities offered to them online.

The #SaferInternet4EU initiatives

On Safer Internet Day (SID), Mariya Gabriel Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society will, in Strasbourg, launch an EU-wide series of initiatives entitled #SaferInternet4EU.

Throughout 2018, the initiatives will reach children, young people, parents, teachers, and other EU citizens to become empowered and responsible digital users. It will cover a wide range of topics, such as critical thinking, media literacy and digital skills necessary to identify and combat fake news and the risks brought by emerging online technologies and connected devices; and provide tips on cyber hygiene. In addition, the EU's betterinternetforkids.eu portal will be launching:

  • a European contest to reward high quality resources and inspiring initiatives pursuing Better Internet for Kids objectives. The competition will cover three categories: professionals, teachers and youth.
  • a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on child online safety with resources and activities for online learning in particular on fake news, cyberbullying and radicalisation. The course will last 6 weeks and consists of activities and resources for online learning. It will target schools across Europe.

The initiatives will focus on young people who will be given a voice and active roles in shaping the online environment. Industry, civil society, parents, carers, educators, will also be involved.

A network of national ambassadors for Safer Internet will be set up. Any interested EU citizen, including youth, parents, teachers, policy makers at EU and national level can become a #SaferInternet4EU Ambassador.

Why do we need a safer internet?

Children aged 5-15 spend more than 15 hours online in a typical week, while half of all 11 to 16 year olds have encountered one or more of the most frequent internet risks. With rapid technological developments, new risks emerge. For example, internet connected toys can offer new, important opportunities for learning in a playful environment, but they also raise questions about safety, security, privacy and trust.

A majority of parents whose child goes online tend to agree that the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks, however they are increasingly concerned about online risks such as cyberbullying, sharing personal details with strangers, exposure to content which encourages children to harm themselves, inappropriate online content and the possibility of their child being radicalised online.

51% of European citizens feel not at all or not well informed about cyber threats. 86% of Europeans believe that the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime is increasing. The low level of awareness of cyber threats and their possible impact is a serious issue that translates in the proliferation of incidents due to human mistakes. This is why the 2017 Communication on Resilience, Deterrence and Defence invites Member States to make cybersecurity a priority in awareness campaigns, including those targeting schools and universities, and it gives new impetus to the European Cybersecurity Month, the yearly campaign coordinated by ENISA, the EU Cybersecurity Agency. To further promote a safe online environment, the JRC launched a tool which can tell anyone how safe and secure their email address is.