Better Internet for Kids Policy Map
The Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Map was created to compare and exchange knowledge on policy making and implementation in EU Member States on the themes and recommendations of the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (or BIK strategy) first set out by the European Commission in May 2012. A first report was published in 2015, while a second report was published in March 2018 to review progress made. This third iteration, published in November 2020, examines the further implementation of the BIK Strategy in 30 European countries, including all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom.
An executive summary follows, or download the full report.
Findings are organised around three main topics drawn from the Collective Impact approach:
Policy frameworks or the organising principles and long-term goals for policies, guidelines, decisions and other statements made at the national level in the course of putting into practice the BIK Strategy.
Policy making or the general process by which policies are developed within each country, including how coordination and oversight is managed; the extent to which the policy agenda is informed by an evidence base; and whether there are arrangements for young people to be involved in the policy process.
Policy implementation referring to the involvement of the relevant stakeholders in the delivery of initiatives and the spread of activities as envisaged under each of the four pillars of the BIK Strategy.
In terms of policy frameworks, all 30 countries in the study have incorporated elements of the BIK Strategy in their public policies. The study finds a high level of awareness of the BIK Strategy with over three quarters, or 23 of the 30 countries, stating that the BIK Strategy has influenced policies in this field. Countries are evenly split between those that have developed and implemented this agenda through specific policies focused on children’s online use and those that address this through their broader policies. Only two countries in the study reported the existence of a single overarching policy framework.
The spread of existent policies covers all four pillars of the BIK Strategy. High-quality online content for children (Pillar 1) is now represented in public policy by all but five countries. In 2018, nearly 40 per cent of European countries lacked any policy in this area.
All countries have policies in place to address digital and media literacy and general awareness raising (Pillar 2), primarily as part of their broader educational policy.
There is a significant increase in policy implementation in the area of tools and regulation for an online safe environment (Pillar 3), while the topic of combating child sexual abuse and exploitation (Pillar 4) is comprehensively addressed by all countries.
Policy making relating to children’s online use now involves a complex pattern of cooperation between multiple government ministries, public agencies, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other stakeholders. Over three quarters of the countries (77 per cent) in the study state that coordination of policy is distributed across more than one ministry, agency or body. This is up from 42 per cent in 2018. In 19 of the 30 countries, 4 to 6 ministries are involved in policy making.
27 of the 30 countries say that there is some form of structured cooperation mechanism in place to facilitate inter-departmental or intra-agency communication. In most countries, government ministries are primarily in charge of the process. This is particularly so in the case of Pillars 1 and 4 of the BIK Strategy, reflecting the more formal role of law and regulation in these domains. In Pillars 2 and 3, there is evidence of greater involvement of other public agencies to lead this coordination process.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of countries reporting the availability of regular data collection that is specifically focused on children’s use of the internet. In 23 of the 30 countries in the study, quantitative surveys specifically focused on children’s use of the internet exist. 24 countries say that evidence collected in national surveys or other types of data collection has influenced the design of public policies. Half of all participating countries report that monitoring and evaluation of policies is in place. Nearly all countries (97 per cent) state that there have been new policy developments regarding children’s online use in the last three years.
Regarding youth participation in policy making, over half, or 17 of the 30 countries, report that children are systematically and directly consulted and informed about policies related to children’s use of the internet. This includes examples such as hearings, consultations and specific surveys designed to elicit their views. One third of countries say that children’s participation is indirect, for example, through the analysis of existing surveys or evidence. However, just one country reports that young people and adults share decision making in this area. In the case of three countries, it is reported that young people are not involved in policy-making processes.
Pillar 1: High-quality content online for children and young peopleNearly all countries report activities to stimulate the production and visibility of high-quality online content for children. Initiatives to encourage children’s creativity and to promote positive use of the internet are now also in place in all countries. Findings show an increase in each area since 2018, in particular in relation to stimulating the production and visibility of quality online content for children.
Government ministries and Safer Internet Centres take the leading role in the delivery of activities in just under half of countries. A quarter also say that public agencies with BIK responsibility and public service broadcasters also have a leading role in delivery of high-quality online content for children.
Pillar 2: Stepping up awareness and empowerment28 of the 30 countries have strategies in place to support the teaching of online safety in schools. Informal education about online safety as well as digital and media literacy activities are available in all countries. Five countries report having introduced new initiatives in the last 12 months such as programmes to develop young people’s technical skills, to promote media literacy and critical thinking, and initiatives to challenge radicalisation and hate speech online.
Support for national public awareness-raising campaigns is present in all counties. There has been some progress in the involvement of children in the policy process since 2018 which has increased from 31 per cent to 45 per cent. Mechanisms for reporting content and contacts that may be harmful for children are available in 29 of the 30 countries. Initiatives to support the effective functioning of reporting mechanisms are said to be available in 66 per cent of countries. However, 17 per cent say they are not available and there is no data available in a further 17 per cent.
Safer Internet Centres with government ministries, particularly in the area of education, have the leading role in carrying out activities in this pillar. There is also wide stakeholder involvement in delivering activities in this pillar with NGOs, public service broadcasters, industry and universities/research centres all noted as having a complementary role.
Pillar 3: Creating a safer environment for children onlineThree quarters of countries report activities at national level to ensure the implementation of EU legislation on age-appropriate privacy settings. This has increased from 66 per cent in 2018. Awareness-raising activities regarding children’s privacy online are reported as present in 25 countries. All countries bar one state they have activities in place to promote the availability of parental controls.
A significant increase in activity to promote the adoption of age rating and content classification is reported by 23 countries in the study. This is primarily associated with the process of transposing the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) into national legislation. Activities to ensure that legislation regarding online profiling and behavioural advertising is observed to be present in 21 countries, or 69 per cent of the total. This represents a large increase on 2018 which found that 35 per cent had supports in place.
Activities to create a safer environment for children online are shared between government ministries with BIK responsibility and Safer Internet Centres. Public agencies with BIK responsibility have this leading role in just under half of countries.
Pillar 4: Fighting against child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitationThree quarters, or 23 of the 30 countries, report that there are increased resources for law enforcement in the fight against online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). In 8 countries, or 27 per cent, this was newly introduced within the last 12 months. Nearly all countries, 28 of the 30 included in the survey, have activities in place to support the functioning and visibility of hotlines at the national level. Similarly, 28 countries say that there are activities to support improvement of cooperation between hotlines and industry for taking down child sexual abuse material. Findings are broadly in line with 2018, particularly in respect of the functioning of hotlines and supporting improved cooperation with industry.
Government ministries with BIK responsibility are identified as having the leading role in the delivery of this pillar in all but one of the countries. Safer Internet Centres are also described as leading stakeholders in 20 countries, or 67 per cent.
The report concludes with a number of recommendations from the perspective of Collective Impact on further developing the effectiveness and impact of the BIK Strategy.
Download the Third Better Internet for Kids Policy Map report.