Building online safety capacities in Serbia with the SIC+ programme

The National Contact Centre for Children's Safety on the Internet was formed within the Smart and Safe platform by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications in 2017 in Belgrade. Through this Centre, the Ministry conducts counseling for children, parents, students and teachers, as well as all other citizens, about the advantages and risks of using the internet and safe ways to use new technologies. It is also possible to receive reports of harmful, inappropriate and illegal content and behaviour on the internet, that is, reporting a violation of the rights and interests of the child.

Date 2020-09-30 Author The National Contact Centre for Children's Safety on the Internet, Serbian SIC+ pilot programme participant Section awareness, policy

The motive for this kind of organisation was found in a real lack of state protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse through the internet, the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and other forms of abuse associated with use of the internet.

The idea of the National Contact Centre for Children's Safety on the Internet is to unify and connect all relevant institutions in one place. In that way, the procedure for resolving submitted and forwarded cases, depending on whether illegal content or behaviour violates the physical or psychological integrity of the child, violates the rights, health status, well-being, general integrity of the child or poses the risk of creating dependence on the use of the internet, is simplified.

Reporting illegal or dangerous content for children may be done 24/7, using one of the means presented below:

  1. Online: fill out the online application оn the Centre's website
  2. Via hotline form
  3. Via e-mail:
  4. On Facebook: Pametno & Bezbedno
  5. On Instagram: Pametno & Bezbedno

The hotline accepts anonymous reports from citizens who have accidentally discovered child sexual abuse images or any online content harmful to children. The reporting person may choose to remain anonymous or provide contact details. When contact details are provided, the sender of the report is informed about the action taken on the report. The main goal of the operator and contact centre counselor is to advise parents, guardians, teachers to talk to children and to point them to the dangers of any kind.
In addition to being the topic of the IT caravan campaign, digital education is carried out through lectures held by the representatives of the Contact Centre in schools for children and parents, as well as through media and digital campaigns, organising seminars, workshops, presentations, and so on.

The goal of these education efforts is to get as many children as possible to understand the dangers of the internet, so that they do not forget that it has both good and bad sides. Moreover, the goal is to inform parents and help them find ways to talk to their children about their online activities. In this way, the internet becomes a family experience, awareness of the proper use of digital technologies is increased, children become aware of the dangers and are therefore safer on the internet.

Since the establishment of the Contact Centre, the total number of communications registered through telephone calls, e-mail, website and social media is of 18,760. The Contact Centre for Child Safety on the Internet is constantly working on the education of students, parents and teachers in primary schools throughout Serbia.

The Centre deals with providing advice, education and transmitting reports of online violence to the relevant institutions, such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Work, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior and the Public prosecution for high-tech crime.

So far, 394 presentations have been held in 128 primary schools for 14,667 students and 5,074 parents. In order to improve cooperation, educators also visited 27 health centres, in that occasion the contact persons were trained with technical instructions for work on the application. The topic of education in health centres is the excessive use of digital technologies and the creation of addictions as a consequence. The total number of trained health workers is 150.

The biggest challenge faced in Serbia is that a large number of children have digital skills but do not know about the dangers lurking on the internet and how to protect themselves from potential abuse. This is even more pronounced among parents, who not only are not digitally competent (for a large percentage of them) but they are not aware of the bad sides of the internet and what protection measures are.

In addition to presentations for children and parents realised by the educators of the Centre, the organization has printed a large number of brochures, manuals with tips for protection (prevention and intervention) from various forms of digital violence.

The training for teachers and professional associates in the field of child safety on the internet and prevention of digital peer violence is on the list of programmes of public interest approved by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.

In cooperation with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Unitas fond and Save the Children, the Centre created an educational comic "OnNet and not InNet", which contains four true stories, cases whose actors are children. This comic is shared in primary schools.

During lockdown, the Centre held many webinars to maintain the continuity of education, especially due to the progressively increasing use of information and communication technologies by children, parents and teachers in that period.

The Centre's participation in the SIC + pilot programme is motivated by the desire to establish cooperation and an exchange of experiences, information and materials with other non-governmental and governmental organisations, institutions who are dealing with the protection of children on the internet; expanding and developing a unique protection network to ensure greater and better internet security in Europe; adoption of new ideas in order to improve the work of the Centre for Child Safety on the Internet.

In the future, the Centre would like to create some new web applications and video games that would bring children closer to the risks of improper use of the internet and protection measures in an interesting and fun way.

The Centre believes that prevention is the most important and that is why they try to raise the level of awareness about abuse on the internet through education, among children and especially adults, to the highest possible level.

To learn more about the SIC+ programme, read our dedicated article on the Better Internet for Kids portal.

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