How the EU protects your children online

© European Union 2019
Hans Martens © European Union 2019

What are the biggest risks for young people on the internet, and to what extent are parents aware of the risks their kids are up against?

For most young people the internet is a “positive story” that offers a wealth of opportunities, but things can and do go wrong. The most typical problems are cyberbullying, sexting, or exposure to harmful content.

How do the Better Internet for Kids and Safer Internet Centres keep children safe online in Europe?

The digital world moves at an incredible pace, so it’s not surprising that many parents are unable to keep up with what children and young people do online and the risks they face. That’s where we step in. We inform teachers, carers and other people working with children about these risks and the importance of making children and young people aware of them.

© European Union 2019

What does a Safer Internet Centre do after receiving a report of cyberbullying or harmful content?

It’s important to say that most content reported as illegal is removed in less than 3 days, according to the EU’s INHOPE network of hotlines. It becomes more complicated where harmful content is not illegal, but still causes harm.

How many requests do the Safer Internet Centres receive across the EU?

We receive around 36,000 helpline calls every year, or around 3,000 per month. The hotlines also exchange around 150,000 reports of material containing child sexual abuse every year, not just within Europe.

How do you get across your message of safer internet use?

When working with young people, it is important to take a child-centred perspective and actively involve them in our activities so we develop resources that really speak to them. Our youth ambassadors are very active — going to different places, running conferences and organising events, going to schools and running online campaigns. Overall, we reach 30 million EU citizens every year through the various activities we organise.

What is the EU’s role in making the internet a safer place for everyone?

EU law plays a crucial part and there are several legal measures that protect minors online, such as the eCommerce Directive, General Data Protection Regulation, the Directive on combating sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and the Audiovisual Services Directive.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone in difficulty online, what would it be?

The most important thing is to talk about the problem. If a child or young person is having a difficult time online, they need to be able to talk to someone they trust. It is up to teachers, parents, adults and professionals to make sure we create an environment where children and young people feel they are able to speak out when they encounter difficulties.

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