Safer Internet Day: Improving internet safety for young children and teenagers
Tuesday, February 6 is the fourth Safer Internet Day in Europe. The organizers are calling for greater protection of children and young people exposed to new media. The campaign is being conducted under the patronage of the EU Commission, which has set aside 45 million euros for its Safer Internet Plus project, scheduled to run for four years from 2005 to 2008. The original campaign ran from 1999 to 2004 and had a budget of 38.8 million euros. As the EU's Media Commissioner Vivianne Reding explains, this time the Commission has placed special emphasis on mobile communications.
According to the Insafe website, this year 44 countries are taking part in the day of action as part of a coordinated campaign to defend "children's right to a safer Internet".
In the UK the 2007 Safer Internet Day Conference for schools is being held at the Barbican Centre in London. The conference is being hosted by the University of Central Lancashire Cyberspace Research Centre, a key player in plans to develop a campaign around internet safety.
UK Home Office Minister Paul Goggins says that he welcomes this important event which will highlight some of the Internet safety materials that are available to children, parents, carers and teachers in the UK. He said he was delighted to hear that a group of children and young people are to be present to open the conference and share their experiences of using the Internet, because it is extremely important to remember to listen to their views and ideas.
Richard Swetenham, who heads the EU Commission's eContent and Safer Internet Department, says that a total of more than 200 schools in 25 countries are taking part. The result of these campaigns will be presented in the next few days in a Blogathon.
The project's homepage will also be listing other campaigns that took place elsewhere on Safer Internet Day, most of them after the fact. Reding announced on the klicksafe website that Dutch Princess Maxima will be the guest of honour at an event on "safe Internet", while young people will be presenting art projects in Slovenia. Swetenham says that the biggest change since the Safer Internet program began is the addition of a number of communication channels. "Chat rooms, blogs, social networking - all you need is a browser." The EU official says that the greatest danger remains the dissemination of child pornography. "We need to work more closely with industry in this area", he stated. In addition to the Internet, more attention is now being paid to mobile phones as a platform for the sharing of images and videos.
Reding emphasized that she was determined to act here because 70 percent of young people aged 12 and 13 and 23 percent of children aged eight or nine, already have a cell phone. "I have worked with mobile communications operators, the content industry, organizations for the protection of children, and other parties involved to create a document that sets forth the industry's obligation to make cell phones safer for our children." On Safer Internet Day 2007, 15 leading mobile communications operators will therefore sign an agreement to demonstrate their determination to make cell phones safer for our youngest citizens.