On Wednesday 19 September, at the Silken Berlaymont Hotel, at the heart of the EU district in Brussels, European Voice held a morning debate about how to make the internet a safer place for children.
Connected ever younger
Children are starting to use the internet at an ever younger age. On average they are going online at the age of seven. Young people are using social media before they have reached the required minimum age for registration. The internet offers great opportunities for entertainment and education. But internet use can also expose children to risks such as cyber-bullying, grooming and exposure to harmful material.
The EU has made improving safe internet use for children one of the key aims
of the digital agenda. Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, has said that the internet should be a “place of security, privacy and safety for everyone, especially the young”. She says that making the internet safer to use is a responsibility that has to be shared by parents, teachers, companies and governments.
In response to a call by Kroes, chief executives from 28 internet and telecommunications companies formed a coalition in December 2011 to make the internet a safer place for children. The coalition has pledged to take action in a number of areas. These include strengthening reporting tools, privacy settings, content classification schemes, parental controls and takedown of abusive material.
Towards new legislation?
Kroes strongly supports the coalition's work and the voluntary approach by companies to improving internet safety. She has said that if the coalition does not deliver desired improvements she will propose legislation to achieve her objectives.
The event brought together high-level policymakers, representatives from industry and child protection campaign groups to discuss how best to tackle the challenges of making the internet a safer place for children. It discussed the work of the CEO Coalition and assessed what progress has been made. It was an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of a voluntary, industry-led approach compared to binding legislation.