internetYesterday, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, signed a Joint Declaration in London with Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary of Homeland Security. Both the United States and the European Union are now committed to making the internet a “safer and better place for children”, which will apparently include launching duel public awareness campaigns promoting internet safety, deepening transatlantic cooperation in fighting child sexual abuse online and working with technology and content providers to better protect and inform both parents and children. This is a topic we’ve covered extensively on Debating Europe (see here, for example) so we’ve had plenty of relevant comments, questions and suggestions sent in from our readers.

Back in May, we had a comment sent in from Ana-Maria saying:

As far as I am concerned, I know that the internet has at least as many risks as advantages… But, how many youngsters are concerned about the legal issues or know much about the many cases of stolen identities? We should have a division in every government that deals with legal issues [arising] through the internet.

Recently, we had the chance to speak to Jason Healey,  director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council. We put Ana-Maria’s comment to Jason and asked him to respond.

Not everybody is entirely convinced, however, that we even need governments to step in and try to make the internet “safer” for people. We had a comment sent in from Nikolai, for example, that was much more critical than Ana-Maria, arguing: “I am an adult and do not need nannying by legislators who probably know far less than I do about the Internet.”

Judging by some of the other comments sent in, Nikolai’s sentiment is shared by quite a few of our readers. So, last week, we attended Forum Europe’s EU Internet Week event in Brussels and spoke to Stephen Collins, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. We asked him to respond to Nikolai’s point:

Finally, we also had a question sent from Alex, asking: “Are there reports about how many EU citizens fall for these scams and if any country in particular is targeted? I’d like to read about that.”

The infographic below (based on data from Eurostat) suggests that the number of people affected is relatively small (though not insignificant). Of all internet users in the EU in 2010, 3% had suffered some form of financial loss on the internet, whilst 4% had suffered personal information and/or privacy violations. 20%, however, avoided using online banking or shopping because they were concerned about their online security.

Stephen Collins also made the point in his response to Nikolai that not everybody online is confident about their internet skills. The Eurostat data also seems to support this view, with only 11% of people saying they had a high level of basic internet skills.

What do YOU think? How can we make the internet safer for kids? Are there ways that government can work with industry and consumer groups to promote a safer online environment for children without “nannying” people through over-regulation? Or should we just accept that the internet can be a dangerous place (just like the real world) and try to educate parents and children as much as possible so they can make informed decisions? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

27 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Kamila Cruel

    you can add a math excercise in a level of graduate knowledge at any intro web page instead of adding a birthday date (which is too easy), or place any question to which only adult might be able to rensonse and timing: for example 20 sec time for answer (to descope time for web searching or asking parents)..

  2. avatar
    Ivan Drvarič

    Einstein’s quote, that we can not solve the problem on the level on which is created could be eligible for this challenge. So what is higher background of this challenge ( problem )? To return kids the society, community socializing stop the process virtualization and demanding from them being dependendent on virtual space. But that required the change of the communities and demands from the average daily Life European survivor. Return back healty diversified rhytm of Life otherwise the idea of Europe Union will probably extinct and Europe culture and space would colapse.

  3. avatar
    Joana Andreia

    What I’mwritting here is just an idea that needs to be worked through.
    The first thought that crosses my mind is trying to create a software capable of preventing access to dangerous sites or warning about the possible risks. Dangerous IP’s could be taken into account in order to identify potential abusers, as an example of important functions that could be considered. But I’m no expert on engeneering, so…as I said, it’s just an idea!

  4. avatar
    Svetlana Pruteanu Teodoru

    safety ,fresh air , real human contact, to learn to communicate, to socialize, to be able to receive all the love and affection of their family and not to be manipulated online

  5. avatar
    John McVea

    You cant there will always be people who will do bad things over the internet

  6. avatar
    catherine benning

    What governments must do is, close down and arrest those running pornograhic websites. As a great deal of it is eminating from the USA should be easy to do. China is the other big time seller. block all pornography coming from these sites. If china can block their population from accessing internet information, then we too can block theirs coming to pollute the lives of our vulnerable.

    If these sites do not exist, they cannot pollute the fibre optic highway with their irresponsible and ludicrous behaviour toward not only children but all of us who have the welfare of the young and the vulnerable at heart.

    Those who wish to indulge in this kind of exploitation should buy their porn from an outlet they have to walk in and pay for directly. There is no reason whatsoever to have this on the WWW. It is not necessary for life. We can all breath without it.

    The living made by those who sell their sex will be just as in demand by these less than savoury items being forced on the children of the world.

    Don’t get excited these are not porn videos I have put up. They are simply statistics.

    Do governments really want to stop this? For had they wanted to, it could not have become the industry it is now.

  7. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Na minha opinião este tema da internet segura para as crianças bém nada é impossivel de os governos encontrarem formas para que a internet seja segura principalmente para os Adolescentes primeiro é o ambiente familiar segundo os professores terceiro os amigos quatro a opinião da criança quando navega dentro rede da internet é a criança que tem que decidir

  8. avatar
    Ana Caetano

    Go to the source: give all the information (workshops, newsletter, facebook group?s) we can, from de experts on psychology, human development, neurosciences, engineer, etc?to the parents. It?s the best way to organize the access to the virtual world, from the beginner.

  9. avatar
    Stipe Radman Livaja

    i just think its a load of crap……….i just got back from europe and it aint lookn good…….god i hope croatia do not enter the european union in 2013…….there silly goverment dont know any better…new generation communists….most of those politicans are theifs…….we will see in ten years or so what happens with the eu

  10. avatar
    Michael Tsikalakis

    If a corresponding European Central Authority creates an organization that its main role is to search and verify children’s safe web sites (freely accessible) and cooperates with the Internet Provider & Browser Companies so that all the other web site will need PC owner’s password to be accessed, could that be a solution? Clean internet accessible from everybody and the rest password accessible?

  11. avatar
    John Carr

    Individual companies, however big they are, seem to be unwilling or unable to combine their huge knowledge of how the internet works to sort out the several major problems that continue to plague cyberspace.

    Maybe they are staying focused on their own, narrower commercial interests or they find it too difficult to co-operate with other firms whom they are normally competing against. Either way, in the absence of this kind of action by industry Governments must step forward to speak for and protect the broader public interest.

    This is particularly true during times of sluggish or zero economic growth when businesses will be less and less inclined to take a longer term or more expansive view of things as they struggle to maintain existing revenues.

  12. avatar
    John McVea

    look im not againist the internet i just think the fact that parents can not keep track on the childs internet searching and that the child can erase yes erase there internet history it makes it so much harder to make sure the children are safe i think that even though people go into schools and talk about not going onto the sites that are inappropriate but one accident one mis spelt spelling and bam the childs on a sites that they should not be on as easy as one two three and that i why children should not be able to erase there history like if you agree

  13. avatar
    Unimatriks Ziro

    Parents must take the responsibility! Nobody else can protect someone’s children better than parents.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      This is a ridiculous statement.

      Parents cannot possibly be everywhere the child is at any given time. Especially with women no longer allowed to remain as stay at home mothers.

      What about when these children are at a friends house who may or may not not have an adult who is careful? Internet cafe’s and all other places they can find to see what the others have managed to access. Kids sneak around because a friend has told them what they saw and how to access it and to be ‘grown up’ they too want to be in the know.

      What is so appalling about this thread, is the obvious desire above all others, to keep the porn merchants in business and the little real concern for the children of our society. How many of you were exposed to derranged hard porn when you were a kid?

      Have you not read the damage this is doing to the minds of the young. The ignorance of Europe is ridiculous. The overwhelming naivity to all manner of rogue imposition on the child is beyond the pale.

      What is at the back of this, is the idiot desire not to investigate why so many children are being raped and abused and by whom as a result of the spread of this muck.

      The Borgias come to mind.

  14. avatar
    Juan Vázquez García

    It’s the parents’ responsibility. Let the parents decide what their children can and cannot access. The government shouldn’t get involved. It gives it too much power to regulate or prohibit whatever sites it doesn’t like based on the principle it has the obligation to protect children.

  15. avatar
    Salvatore Zante Tempesta

    Cutting off social networks for children < 14 yo. We need more laws to protect privacy... privacy is a big concern for safety nowadays...

  16. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    The risk that children may be exposed to unwanted material on line is complex and can be pornographic, sexually explicit or offensive, hateful or violent in nature, or that encourages activities that are dangerous or illegal.

    Protecting our children online calls for several stakeholders to take up their responsibility. Governments are not alone in their efforts to protect children online. Parents, caregivers, educators, business and civil society must all help children to benefit from the Internet. Since many risks that children may encounter online have an offline expression, general laws apply and most countries subscribe to the principle that what is illegal offline is also illegal online.

    Hence, governments should enhance the coherence of their policy measures and tools in collaboration with all stakeholders. Public-private partnerships, for instance, have been a successful way to encourage self- and co-regulation. Policies to protect children online would benefit from efforts to ensure consistency with other important policy objectives, such as the preservation of fundamental rights and maintenance of the framework conditions, which have enabled the Internet to become a global open platform for innovation, economic growth and social progress.

    A whole toolkit of technical measures supporting the protection of children online is available. Many awareness raising and educational initiatives to protect children online are implemented in most countries with the aim to empower children, parents and other relevant groups.

    Although the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents, education and civil society should work hand in hand. Schools are the ideal platform to engage the children and link to the parent guidance. Children should be aware of safe searching techniques and use a family-friendly search engine for searches. Also parents should be aware of who to report problems to and how to deal with unsolicited inappropriate material. Internet is a tool and we must comply to a user manual…

  17. avatar
    Juan Vázquez García

    Salvatore, you don’t need more laws and regulations, you just need common sense. Regulations make life more complicated for everyone and makes the government bigger and more powerful. Everybody should be responsible for their own actions and stop advocating for big government just because they can’t restrain from certain bad habits.

  18. avatar
    Salvatore Zante Tempesta

    No, I think governments should be like parents… parents love their childs… Social network doesn’t inform us clearly about the real destination of our data… Children are not aware about privacy and risks connected to that topic…

  19. avatar
    Limbidis Adrian

    No, no, no !
    The internet is a “no man’s land”. That’s it purpose. If we start imposing regulations even there, people won’t be able to express themselves freely.
    We’re not americans to have that 1st amendment crap but we should still allow people a voice – even if we don’t agree with it. ESPECIALLY if we don’t agree with it.

    No ACTA, NO control or regulations, nothing. Put a warning label if you wish. But no interference.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.