The Commission has launched a public consultation to identify the most effective ways of making online services and mobile phones safer for users, in particular for children. The objective is to help the Commission assess the need for a follow-up to the Safer Internet plus programme, which runs until the end of 2008.

"This is a very important area of policy" said Viviane Reding Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "I believe Europe should be taking every additional measure necessary to protect children using on-line services, and to support the good work already begun in the Member States."

The consultation deals with several issues central to the Safer Internet Programme, such as fighting illegal and harmful content online, regulation of user-generated content and online communication. The consultation will run until 07 June.

The use of online technologies such as Internet, mobile phones, game consoles and digital TV is becoming more and more widespread amongst children throughout Europe. Although these technologies provide many benefits and opportunities, they also pose a number of risks to users. Adults and children alike can be exposed to illegal and potentially harmful content and behaviour. For children, the most serious risks concern exposure to bullying, harassment and strangers "making friends" with them in order to abuse them (so-called grooming). Online services have also become the primary channel for distribution of material depicting the sexual abuse of children.

There are a variety of organisations working at different levels to make the online environment safer for users. These include public administrations in the Member States, childcare organisations, industry, financial institutions, schools, parents, carers and the European Commission. In its public consultation, the Commission asks people of all backgrounds to contribute, and provide their own opinions on how to make online services safer for children.

To contribute to the public consultation or to find out more about the current Safer Internet Plus programme, please visit the programme's website.