Jointly, European Schoolnet and INHOPE support Safer Internet Centres in responding to the latest online issues, helping to promote the many opportunities the online world offers, while also addressing the challenges. And while Europe’s children and youth are the main benefactors of this work, the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) initiative also reaches out to, and collaborates with, a range of other stakeholders – parents and carers, teachers and educators, researchers, industry, civil society, decision makers and law enforcement – reflecting the fact that we all have a role to play in creating a better internet. Additionally, the actions conducted in the framework of Better Internet for Kids frequently reach beyond Europe, impacting upon safer and better internet approaches right across the globe.
Against a challenging backdrop, 2022 was nonetheless a positive year in terms of developments for child safety online, and marked the adoption of several landmark pieces of legislation:
- The Digital Services Act (DSA) introduced stricter rules for all online platforms, including measures to safeguard the privacy, safety and security of minors, and a ban on profiled advertising to children.
- In May, the Commission adopted the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+) strategy, which supports the implementation of the DSA with the aim of better protecting, empowering and respecting children and young people online.
- In December, the European Union adopted the interinstitutional European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles, emphasising the EU’s commitment to a safe, secure, and sustainable digital transformation. The declaration stresses the importance of having control over your digital life, with a particular focus on protecting the rights of children and young people. A child-friendly version of the Declaration is available.
A few highlights of 2022
2022 started with a new sense of positivity: the European Union designated 2022 as the European Year of Youth in recognition of the difficult situations faced by young people, especially, during COVID times: their education, employment, social life, health and well-being were all heavily impacted.
To exemplify this positive spirit, the annual celebration of Safer Internet Day (SID) in February 2022 again saw stakeholders across the world unite with the common aim of creating a better digital world for children and young people. Youth voices were heard loud and clear, with Vice-President Šuica and Commissioner Breton joining with young people online to discuss children’s digital rights and online safety, outlining the EU’s commitments in those areas.
In contrast with such positivity, however, 2022 also saw the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a response, the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres rallied to support those affected by the situation, whether that be supporting families displaced by war, or helping parents, caregivers, and educators to find age-appropriate ways of explaining the events and answering questions children might have, protecting them from harmful media experiences, and they continued to produce a wide range of awareness-raising resources for all. Helplines equally witnessed a sharp increase in calls related the conflict in Ukraine, with concerns such as mis- and disinformation, fake news, inappropriate content, and cyberbullying.
The 2022 edition of Safer Internet Forum (SIF) provided an opportunity to discuss the newly adopted BIK+ strategy in detail. Given the strategy’s key focus on youth participation and empowerment, and to also mark the European Year of Youth, the event was organised in a youth-led manner, with young people playing an active role in the planning, preparation and delivery of the Forum. A SIF Youth Advisory Group (YAG) was convened, composed of ten experienced BIK Youth Ambassadors, which shaped the focus and agenda of SIF, made recommendations on the format of the deep dive sessions, and suggested a shortlist of young influencers to deliver keynote speeches. During SIF, the young people led table discussions on cyberbullying, consumer rights, age verification, and non-consensual image sharing, among other topics.
BIK Youth were especially active throughout the whole year. In addition to the previously mentioned SID and SIF, BIK Youth Ambassadors took part in a wide range of online and in-person events, exchanging views and voicing their opinions on what they envision the internet of the future to be, and how to ensure a safer, better online experience for young people. For example, they participated in the 2022 edition of the Digital Assembly, participated in a webinar on the best ways to talk to young people about sensitive online issues, and reflected about how to help deal with fake news and disinformation at the Internet Governance Forum.
Discover more about youth involvement in 2022 in this child-friendly infographic.
While a lot has been accomplished over the past year, there is still a lot of effort needed to implement the BIK+ strategy in Europe through actions such as facilitating a comprehensive Code of conduct for the age-appropriate design of digital products and services and a focus on effective age verification.
In 2023, we must continue to ensure that children and young people (and those that care for and support them) know how to use the online content and services at their disposal safely and effectively, have opportunities to develop good media literacy skills, and have a robust support network to fall back on should things go wrong.
Discover more by browsing through the full report below: