Safer Internet Forum
For over two decades, the European Union has played an important role in promoting a safer and better internet through a range of legal measures, funding programmes and self-regulatory initiatives. There are huge benefits to be gained from being online and the European Commission's digital strategy is seeking to ensure that everyone is able to contribute to, and benefit from, the digital economy and society. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the view that digital technology can empower children and young people to find information, communicate, socialise, learn and play, often in ways that are not possible to the same extent in their non-digital lives. Yet there is growing awareness and concern that online tools and services are often not designed with the best interests of children and young people in mind, and those with diverse disabilities can be especially impacted.
In the main SIF event, which took place online on Wednesday, 25 November 2020, Professor Laura Lundy discussed the challenges and opportunities that children with diverse disabilities encounter when accessing and using the digital environment, focusing on how they experience and navigate "danger" and "disruption". As part of this session, a number of experts and young people themselves considered the challenges they face and suggested what actions should be taken by different stakeholders to ensure that children with disabilities are able to access and engage in the digital environment in the same way as all other children. Importantly, this session also considered the positive role that the digital environment can play in helping children with disabilities to realise their rights.
As usual, a number of deep dive sessions complement the main focus of SIF, taking place on the Wednesday afternoon following the keynote session, and across morning and afternoon sessions on Thursday, 26 November 2020. With a focus on innovative tech and educational solutions, one session considered how industry and non-profit organisations are responding to demands for increased accessibility and subsequently designing platforms with all users in mind, while another session explored some of the existing content and resources created for vulnerable groups from a broader perspective. A further session considered inclusive education, while also exploring best practices in using technology in schools to support children and young people with disabilities.
Alongside the main event, additional side events took place online during the week of SIF, providing further opportunities for stakeholder engagement and exchange. On the morning of Tuesday, 24 November 2020, an online session on youth participation was held, with a particular focus on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Pledge initiative, highlighting the importance of age-appropriate design principles. Representatives of the BIK Youth panel also presented their work. An optional open space networking opportunity was provided in the afternoon. The morning of Friday, 27 November 2020 provided a focus on the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, and various stakeholder responses to it. The afternoon session provided an opportunity to learn more about the most recent findings from the BIK Policy Map exercise which seeks to compare and exchange knowledge on policy making and implementation of Better Internet for Kids strategies in EU Member States. This session explored the outcomes in a global context also.
Recordings and presentations from most of the sessions will progressively be made available here, and a Forum report will follow in due course.