Safer Internet Day: more needs to be done in the EU to ensure online safety for children!

11 February 2020

 

Today, as we celebrate Safer Internet Day 2020, it is fundamental to stress that the internet and new technology – along with hyper-connectivity – pose new risks and threats to children and young people, thus requiring a special attention from the legislator and all actors involved. Many are the challenges ahead, spanning from hate speech, cyber-bullying, aggressive advertising to serious crimes such as child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well terrorist content that can lead to serious harm. Therefore, it is key that the European Union works out a clear strategy to ensure a safer, better internet for children and young people.

The European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights has made protection of children online a priority ever since its establishment in 2014, in the previous parliamentary term.

The scourge of child sexual abuse material on the internet has heightened at an unprecedented level. Law-enforcement authorities and other civil society organizations – including hotlines – have registered an intense spike in reports of Child Sexual Abuse Material online. Every single new view of an image depicting child sexual abuse is one too many, as it is a traumatic experience for the victim that can haunt them well into adulthood with detrimental consequences for their psycho-physical well-being. It is crucial to intensify efforts at all levels to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation online by enhancing cooperation among law-enforcement authorities, strengthening preventive measures for potential offenders and increasing cooperation with the industry”said MEP Caterina Chinnici, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights and co-author of the European Parliament Resolution on the rights of the children

Children with disabilities, migrant children, children of migrant background, children from minorities and religious groups, LGBTI children, children of LGBTI parents, stateless or undocumented children, are disproportionately exposed to online bullying and discrimination on multiple grounds and therefore require a specialised approach to address their specific needs in light of their vulnerabilities. Over the last few years, we have witnessed an enormous increase at an alarming pace over social media in online hate speech, anti-Semitism, anti-gypsism and xenophobia.

No one of us can overcome those challenges by ourselves; we need a strong partnership between the decision-makers, companies and civil society, but also parents, to build together a safer and better internet for our children. Children need role models and a positive narrative to do better. The Internet offers tremendous opportunities to empower children and young people and change the rhetoric. Children and young people themselves have an important role to play and they need to be part of the solution. Legislation alone is not enough; there is not a one-fit-all solution, but the key lies in cooperation and working together with the industry and all actors involved” – said MEP David Lega, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights.

The recent European Parliament Resolution on children’s rights on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 26 November 2020 – initiated by the Intergroup – comprises an entire chapter on protection of children online, with a number of specific provisions. It also calls on the European Commission to renew the ‘Better Internet for Children’ strategy set out in 2012.

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More Info

 

Emilio Puccio, Coordinator of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

E: emilio.puccio@europarl.europa.eu

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