Every third internet user is a child. We cannot keep children from engaging with the internet; in theory, apps and sites already have age limits in place, but two-thirds of children admit ignoring such limits, and the majority of children reportedly start using the internet at the age of 3.

Given that children and young people are so active on the internet (and, in fact, most of them are now “digital natives”, completely immersed in online life), how can we enhance the opportunities and minimise the risks? From cyberbullying to extreme content, how can we create a safer internet experience for children?

Want to learn more about online safety for children and young people? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? Reader Diogo believes the only way to keep the internet safe for kids is to have responsible parents. Is that right? Surely parents can’t monitor their children’s internet usage 24/7 (especially as the internet is so ubiquitous these days)?

To get a response, we spoke to Anna-Lena von Hodenberg, Manager of HateAid, a Berlin-based non-profit that offers advice and support for victims of online hate. What would she say to Diogo’s comment?

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Christopher, who thinks kids should be taught how to deal with trolls (which he doesn’t think is really that hard), rather than trying to legislate the problem away. Is he right?

We put his comment to Matt Brittin, President of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Business & Operations at Google. What would he say?

Finally, we put the same comment to David Lega, a centre-right Swedish MEP and Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights in the European Parliament. What would he say?

Is the internet safe for children? Do we need new legislation to deal with cyberbullying and trolling, or is it rather about education and better enforcement of existing laws? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock (c) – Expensive
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35 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Alfredo

    Internet is not for children.

  2. avatar
    Giulia

    It is not. Children shouldn’t be left alone with a pc or smartphone.

  3. avatar
    Chris

    No. And it’s not safe for adults either.

  4. avatar
    Beverley

    The internet is a thing – neither safe nor unsafe. The threat is from people – abusers and pedophiles – these are on the Internet and in real life

  5. avatar
    Gaby

    Internet can be dangerous for children with irresponsible parents.

  6. avatar
    Ar

    Always watching together with the parents, that seems like the best!!!

  7. avatar
    沖山 パメラ

    Of course not. It can be safe, but still requires parental presence.

  8. avatar
    Berthe

    Cela peut être dangereux !!!

  9. avatar
    Николай

    It depends. Are the playgrounds safe?

  10. avatar
    George

    “Are children safe drivers on a highway?” – well… that would be parents’ responsibility not to give them the keys. Right?
    Last time I checked, there is software for filtering only child-approved content, so it’s up to the parents to ensure “safe surfing” on the web, and they already have to tools to do it.

  11. avatar
    Gabor

    The world is not safe, that is just a modern world illusional concept and Internet is just a tool that represents anything that the people do otherwise. I cannot tell where is that border line, but fully isolating kids from any “stress” does not seem to be the right way to go either, unless we want to grow a generation of people completely not ready to take the reality, which is many times ruthless and rough. These days it is a popular thing to complain about how snowflaky our kids are, but we forget how much different our childhood was. We could run around outside all day exposed to all of the possible dangers, yet we still survived. Today kids cannot even play unobserved on a play yard.
    So is Internet safe? Not at all!

  12. avatar
    Enric

    Yes, if the parents control them.

  13. avatar
    Marc

    Is that really a question? Really?

  14. avatar
    Filipe

    Children must be made aware of the risks by teachers and supervised by the parents. Internet is not safe, but carelessly crossing the street isn’t either. The logic is the same.

  15. avatar
    Nicole

    Non, non, non, et NON !!!!!

  16. avatar
    Jaqueline

    I don’t think so but I’m an old teacher?,,,,?,,,,,?

  17. avatar
    Любомир

    We don’t need any legislation, cyberbullying and trolling shouldn’t be criminalized. The police have more important things to do than chasing after people who’ve been rude to others on the internet.
    Also, a daily remidner that ALL social networks and online communication services have the “block” option. You don’t need to call the police to stop someone from trolling or harassing you online.

  18. avatar
    Julia

    I think it is time to teach cyber safety in schools too.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Do you have any ideas how this could look in practice?

    • avatar
      Julia

      Children are taught road safety and not to talk to strangers by policeman visits and talks or teacher talks. So I think something like this every few years with age appropriate information is a good idea.

  19. avatar
    Hugo

    Thanks very much for bringing this important point up to our attention.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      @Hugo, You’re welcome and thank you! :)

  20. avatar
    Szo

    I agree with Hugo de Araújo and Julia Hadjikyriacou I would like to add: Above all, we must take care of indissoluble family ties and social bands of our kids, because it’s not the Internet that kills family ties. The internet fills a gap after family ties and social bands that are not there! Child who is alone and bored takes his or her life to the Internet. Since then, the Internet has become dangerous.

  21. avatar
    Gabor

    It heavily depends. Internet is a tool, and just like any tool, it is safe if used mindfully. So as a start I would say – don’t blame the tool. Otherwise I would compare the Internet to a road network. It has sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, various bridges and all kinds of infrastructure to keep people (kids included) safe, but if you step down to the actual road you will very likely be hit by a car. Of course we could just ban cars, but that would kind of defeat the purpose, right?

  22. avatar
    Manos

    Do not let kids use the internet bellow the age of 10 for instance? Up to this age the parents should thave thought the children, a lot about safety at least

  23. avatar
    Chris

    No, to many paedos and weirdo lefties on the Internet. You have to monitor and educate your kids to not engage with strangers the same as in real life. We need to get a grip on paedos generally, stop this push for making it acceptable, stop lenient sentences, stop letting them out, stop institutions like the bbc promoting it and get the police to catch online predetors as a priority instead of worrying about mean tweets etc

  24. avatar
    Szo

    I would like to add: The Internet is not dangerous! But, above all, we must take care of indissoluble family ties and social bands of our kids, because it’s not the Internet that kills family ties. The internet fills a gap after family ties and social bands that are not there! Child who is alone and bored takes his or her life to the Internet. Since then, the Internet has become dangerous.

  25. avatar
    Craig

    ISPs should ban pornography by default. Should only be enabled if adult makes formal request.

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