1. Programme timeline

1.1 Action plan for a Safer Internet 1999-2004

Following the Communication on Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet in 1996, the Safer Internet Programme was launched in 1999 as the Action plan for a Safer Internet. This first programme was based on the Decision No 276/1999/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 January 1999 adopting a multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks. It included the following objectives:
  • to incite the actors (industry, users) to develop and implement adequate systems of self-regulation;
  • to pump-prime developments by supporting demonstrations and stimulating application of technical solutions;
  • to alert and inform parents and teachers, in particular through their relevant associations;
  • to foster cooperation and exchange of experiences and best practices at European and international levels;
  • to promote coordination across Europe and between actors concerned;
  • to ensure compatibility between the approach taken in Europe and elsewhere.
The Action Plan for a Safer Internet was developed as follows:
  • Timeframe: 1999-2004.
  • The action plan divides into four sections:
    • establishing a safer environment through a European network of ‘hotlines' and by encouraging self-regulation and the adoption of codes of conduct;
    • developing filtering and rating systems, in particular by highlighting their benefits and facilitating an international agreement on rating systems;
    • encouraging awareness campaigns at all levels to inform parents and all people dealing with children (teachers, social workers, etc.) of the best way to protect minors against exposure to content that could be harmful to their development;
    • conducting support activities to assess legal implications, providing coordination with similar international initiatives and assessing the impact of Community measures.
  • Actions funded under Action Plan for a Safer Internet were:
    • Research and knowledge enhancement.
    • Other projects:
      • dotSAFE: The dotSAFE project was a pilot across the 23 member countries of European Schoolnet. They were involved at different stages, notably in information gathering and dissemination. A core set of ten contrasting countries, schools, projects and agencies was involved formally in the project. (2000-2002)
      • EUN_CLE. (2001-2004)
  • This programme was complemented by the ‘i2010 – A European information society for growth and employment' initiative:
    • In order to foster an open and competitive internal market for the information society and the media, the first objective of i2010 was to establish a Single European Information Space offering affordable and secure high-bandwidth communications, rich and diverse content and digital services. The Commission aimed to achieve four main objectives:
      • to increase the speed of broadband services in Europe;
      • to encourage new services and online content;
      • to promote devices and platforms that "talk to one another"; and
      • to make the internet safer from fraudsters, harmful content and technology failures.

1.2 Safer Internet Programme 2005-2008 (Safer Internet Plus)

The second phase of the programme – the Safer Internet Plus Programme – was a result of the Decision No 854/2005/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005. This Decision established a Community programme to promote safer use of the internet and new online technologies, particularly for children, and to fight against illegal content and content unwanted by the end user, addressing the following actions:
  • fighting against illegal content;
  • tackling unwanted and harmful content;
  • promoting a safer environment;
  • awareness raising.
The Safer Internet Plus Programme was developed as follows:
  • Timeframe: 2005-2008.
  • Actions funded under the Safer Internet Plus Programme:
    • Insafe and INHOPE networks.
    • Thematic networks:
      • EU Kids Online: is a multinational research network. It seeks to enhance knowledge of European children's online opportunities, risks and safety. It uses multiple methods to map children's and parents' experience of the internet, in dialogue with national and European policy stakeholders.
        • From 2006-09, as a thematic network of 21 countries, EU Kids Online identified and evaluated the findings of nearly 400 research studies to draw out substantive, methodological and policy implications.
    • Research and knowledge enhancement:
      • MEDIAPPRO: Universities, government ministries, associations and foundations from nine European countries – Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom – collaborated on an applied research project for media education. (2005-2006)
      • "Safer Internet" Eurobarometer study analysed the use of the internet in Europe among children, harmful or illegal content on the internet, parental control over children's use of the internet as well as Safer Internet general awareness and information. (2006)
      • SIP BENCH: Benchmarking of parental control tools. The objective of this study was to help end users - notably parents and child carers - to choose the most appropriate parental control tool that best fits their needs. (2006-2014)
      • "Are Europe's children too confident in tackling online risks?" Eurobarometer qualitative study that interviewed children of 9-10 and 12-14 years old from all 27 EU Member States plus Norway and Iceland. (2007)
      • OPTEM – Safer Internet for Children: A qualitative study concerning 9-10 and 12-14-year-old children which showed that children tend to underestimate risks linked to the use of the internet and minimise the consequences of their risky behaviour. (2007)
      • "Towards a safer use of the Internet for children in the EU – a parents' perspective" Eurobarometer study that was conducted to study parents' views about their children's use of the internet, to determine parents' strategies to supervise their child's internet usage and their own awareness of safety measures. (2008)
    • Other projects:
      • Youth protection roundtable: Brought together relevant stakeholders to develop a common strategy embedded in the cultural situation to prevent children and young people from encountering unwanted and harmful content. (2006-2009)
      • QUATRO PLUS: Coordinated by FOSI (Family Online Safety Institute), this project followed the former EU project QUATRO (Content Labels for Quality Assurance), aiming at developing a POWDER-based platform to be used by both labelling authorities and end users for creating, sharing and distributing labels. (2007-2009)

1.3 Safer Internet Programme 2009-2013

The third phase of the Safer Internet Programme was based on Decision No 1351/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 establishing a multiannual Community programme on protecting children using the internet and other communication technologies. This Decision established a Community programme to promote safer use of the internet and other communication technologies, particularly for children, and to fight against illegal content and harmful conduct online, focusing on the following action lines:
  • ensuring public awareness;
  • fighting against illegal content and harmful conduct online;
  • promoting a safer online environment;
  • establishing a knowledge base.
The Safer Internet Programme was developed as follows:
  • Timeframe: 2009-2013.
  • Actions funded under the Safer Internet Programme:
    • Insafe and INHOPE networks.
    • Thematic networks:
      • eNACSO: The European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online is a network of 23 children's rights NGOs from across the EU. Its mission is to promote and support actions at national, European and international level to protect children and promote their rights in relation to the internet and new technologies. (2008-ongoing)
      • POSCON: Positive Online Content and Services for Children in Europe was a thematic network that provided concrete recommendations to content providers on the topic of child online safety at the European level. (2012-2014)
    • Research and knowledge enhancement:
        • 2009-11, functioned as a knowledge enhancement project across 25 countries, the network surveyed 25,000 children and parents to produce original, rigorous data on online opportunities and risk of harm.
        • 2011-14, the network expanded to 33 countries to conduct targeted analyses of the quantitative survey and new qualitative interviews with children. After three phases of work, funded by the European Commission and coordinated by Professor Sonia Livingstone (LSE), the network continues its work under the direction of Professor Uwe Hasebrink (Hans-Bredow-Institut).
      • ROBERT: Risktaking Online Behaviour Empowerment through Research and Training was a project intending to make online interaction safe for children and young people. (2010-2012)
      • European Online Grooming Project: A study focusing on the behaviour of offenders who groom young people, the behaviour of young people online and their awareness of online risk, and the role of ICT in facilitating online grooming. (2010-2014)
      • Net Children Go Mobile: This project aimed to study the post-desktop media ecology that children inhabit and its consequences on young people's online experiences. (2012-2014)
      • SPIRTO: Self-Produced Images Risk Taking Online was a research project which aimed to provide a response to the need for recognition of the multifaceted nature of sexual interactions. (2012-2015)
    • Other projects
      • ICOP: A novel forensics software toolkit to support law enforcement agencies across the EU in identifying new or previously unknown child abuse media and its originators on peer-to-peer networks. (2011-2013)
  • The ‘Safer Internet' programme was consistent with and complemented other policies, programmes and Community actions, such as:
    • The Community programmes for technological research and development, which encompassed the theme of information and communication technologies. For example, PuppyIR was a project financed by the Seventh Framework Programme helping children searching online as an open source environment to construct information services for children.
    • The Daphne Initiative was launched in May 1997 (then renewed in 1998 and 1999), as a one-year funding line for NGO projects that support victims of violence and combat violence against women, children and young people. The Daphne Programme 2000-2003 continued the work of the initiative. It was followed by the Daphne II Programme 2004-2006 and then by the Daphne III programme (2007-2013). Currently, the Daphne programme continues in the period 2014-2020, as one part of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme.
      • Under the Daphne Programme 466 projects were funded, including projects working on common areas with the Safer Internet Programme, such as:
        • Youth Participation in Online Bullying Prevention - together with four organisations from Finland, Estonia and Hungary, Friends.se is implementing an international method aiming to increase youth participation in prevention of harassment, intimidation and bullying, and to improve methods of mapping how young people feel, both online and offline. (2015-2016) (SE, FI, EE, HU)
        • Alcopop-TV Culture investigated fictional media representations of alcohol and alcohol-related violence and how this impacts on youth drinking culture. (2011) (UK, SE)
        • COPINE - this project used the research from an earlier Daphne project which had developed a cognitive behaviour therapy treatment module for men who had been downloading/trading/producing child sexual abuse images (child pornography). (2002) (UK, IE, IT, NL, DK)
        • CUPISCO - Child sex abusers - Feasibility study on collection, exchange and use of personal data. The project undertook a feasibility study on common register systems for tracking convicted child sex abusers, in particular to regulate their seeking employment. The work was carried out through information gathering and consultation. (1997) (UK)
        • European Internet Action - Safer for safer for children and young people. This project aimed to make the internet a safer place for children by raising awareness of the hazards of the internet for children, and by showing appropriate people how to combat these hazards. It also aimed to build new alliances to take these issues forward in Finland and Italy. The project drew on, and adapted to local conditions, the experience of NCH Action for Children in the UK. (1997) (UK, IT, FI)
        • The INHOPE Forum – This project was established in 1997 to bring together hotline initiatives across Europe which were seeking to respond to child pornography on the internet.

1.4 Better Internet for Kids 2014 - ongoing

Gradually encompassing the importance of children and youth accessing and actively using the internet, the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children was adopted in 2012. The strategy acknowledged the importance of the previous Safer Internet Programmes through which the EU had, since 1999, coordinated and supported efforts to make the internet a safer place for children, as well as recognising the crucial role of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs). The Council of the European Union welcomed the Strategy for a Better Internet for Children, as highlighted in the Council conclusions on the European strategy for a Better Internet for Children, making recommendations to take action for more quality online content for children and stepping up awareness and empowerment, addressing Member States, the Commission and industry within their respective spheres of competence.
Following its adoption in 2012, and within the context created by the European Commission Digital Agenda, the programme was referred to as Better Internet for Kids (BIK):
  • Timeframe: 2014-ongoing.
  • In its implementation, a number of project lines have been initiated through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), in the Digital Service Infrastructures – Safer Internet:
    • Better Internet for Kids (BIK) core service platform to share resources, services and practices between national providers of the services – the European Safer Internet Centres (SICs) – and to provide services to their users, including industry:
      • Insafe and INHOPE focus on their respective strands of work (i.e. awareness, youth participation and helpline versus hotline), as well as to externally represent the Better Internet for Kids agenda and European Safer Internet Centres, reaching out to policy makers, industry, teachers, parents, young people and children both through the BIK core service platform and through the participation in, and organisation of, meetings, campaigns and even
      • Complementary to the EU-level core services, the SICs developed generic services maintaining also national platforms and running a range of safer internet services providing awareness centres, helplines and hotlines.
The new strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+), adopted on 11 May 2022, will ensure that children are protected, respected and empowered online in the new Digital Decade, in line with the European Digital Principles. A child-friendly version of the BIK+ strategy has also been produced. This new strategy builds on the first  European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (BIK).  As much has changed technologically and in EU legislation since 2012, a compendium of relevant legislation is available.
BIK+ is the digital arm of the comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child (RoC) from 2021.
Find out more on the EC website.

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