EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU children still exposed to Internet risks‘, a worrying statistic highlights that almost half of children who use social networks have no idea how to change their privacy settings or how to adjust their profiles.

It is a sad fact that parents may inadvertently cause their children to be exposed to the innumerable risks that an unprotected social network profile can lead to. Raising awareness by educating children and especially parents on safer Internet use can significantly improve children’s online safety.

With fewer and fewer people vulnerable to online dangers and able to remain secure on the Internet, more and more people can engage confidently in cross border e-commerce, for example, contributing to the creation of a digital economy in Europe.

Organisations such as ECDL Foundation recognise the need to raise awareness of the risks and to ensure that both parents who lack digital literacy and their children can learn how to protect themselves online. They have launched a new ICT skills development certification programme to address the gap in IT security awareness, and provide Europeans with the skills they need to avoid the hidden dangers of surfing while safely benefiting from the many advantages the Internet can offer.

Through the Safer Internet Programme 2009-2013 the European Commission has taken action in a number of areas, namely awareness raising through Safer Internet Centres, supporting law-enforcement bodies in combating online child sexual abuse material online, setting up a knowledge base on young people’s use of technologies, involving civil society and filtering and content labelling. Education is also essential in enabling parents and children to properly understand how they can actually protect themselves online.

First and foremost, it is up to the parents, teachers, primary care givers and guardians to protect our children, make them aware of the dangers and then provide them with the necessary knowledge and ICT skills to recognise and mitigate against the dangerous predators, cyber bullies etc. that unfortunately are ever present on the Internet.

Skills development programmes can enable users to educate themselves in safer internet use and should be incorporated into future EU-level recommendations.

Fiona Fanning

Secretary-General

Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS)

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