The EU Telecommunications Council today agreed on the Safer Internet Plus programme, which aims to empower parents and teachers with internet safety tools. The 4-year programme (2005–08), proposed by the European Commission in March, will have a budget of € 45 million to combat illegal and harmful internet content. The new programme also covers other media, such as videos, and explicitly addresses the fight against racism, and also “spam”. It will focus more closely on end users: parents, educators and children.
“Today’s parents and teachers want internet safety tools and skills. We must get more actively involved in our children’s use of new media and in teaching them to use the Internet safely, which is vital to their future in the information society. The EU will coordinate efforts to provide these tools and skills” says Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “I am particularly glad that Parliament and Council very quickly found an agreement on the Commission proposal, thereby enabling us to take rapid and effective action to make the internet safer and more trustworthy.”
A new EU-wide Eurobarometer survey on Internet use shows that the more parents know about the internet, the more they want information on how to make it safe for their children. Many parents are not aware of the risks that their children encounter when surfing the Internet, and almost 60 % of Europe’s parents do not know where to report illegal and harmful content.
Level of internet use among children is highest in the 15 “old” EU Member States, but several new Member States are not far behind: Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK (64% each), Sweden (63%), Finland (62%), Estonia (60%), the Czech Republic (58%). Internet usage among children is very rare in the two Greek-speaking countries (Greece: 15%, Cyprus: 20%), as well as in Slovakia (30%) and Portugal (31%).
The Safer Internet Plus programme builds on its predecessor’s aim of promoting safer use of the Internet and new on-line technologies, by adding a new focus on empowering end-users - particularly parents, educators and children.
Activities under the four Safer Internet plus action lines will include:
* Fighting illegal content: hotlines that enable the public to report illegal content and which pass the reports on to the appropriate body for action. The programme will fund individual hotlines and network co-ordination, and will be extended to help lines for children worried by illegal and harmful content.
* Tackling unwanted and harmful content: funding for technology that enables users to limit the amount of unwanted and harmful content they receive, or that can be used to test the effectiveness of available filters.
Funding will also be available for developing better filters and promoting exchanges of information and best practice on anti-spam enforcement. Better anti-spam enforcement is promoted by the Commission as a complementary measure to the already existing legislative “ban on spam” in the ePrivacy Directive.
* Promoting a safer environment: the EU supports self-regulation, which offers flexibility and understanding of needs in an area combining high technology, rapid change and cross-border activity. The Commission will provide a Safer Internet Forum for national co-regulatory or self-regulatory bodies to exchange experience.
* Awareness-raising: the Commission will support information exchange on safer internet use, particularly for personalised, interactive and mobile applications.