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 2014, while this second report was published in March 2018 to review progress made.
The BIK strategy comprises the following five main fields of activity or pillars:
- Pillar 1: Stimulating quality content online for young people
- Pillar 2: Digital/media literacy in education
- Pillar 3: Stepping up awareness and empowerment
- Pillar 4: Tools and regulation for an online safe environment
- Pillar 5: Legislation and law enforcement against child sexual abuse and exploitation
This second version of the study saw 26 countries contribute with data collected from national teams drawn from the EU Kids Online network and Insafe Safer Internet Centres (SICs). The resulting data analysis and report examined factors such as policy coordination, policy design and policy actors, while also establishing the spread of BIK activities across the five pillars and identifying good practices in the participating countries.
In terms of BIK policy coordination, the study found that all participating countries have implemented BIK in some form. However, no country reports the existence of a single policy framework for BIK. BIK is primarily addressed through separate policies which are focussed on BIK-related issues or as part of broader policies.
National policy covers all themes and pillars of the BIK strategy to some extent. However, the area of positive content for children (Pillar 1) receives less attention. Ten countries report there is no national policy on quality online content for children.
Coordination at the national level is made complex given the large number of ministries involved in policy development. In most countries, between four and six ministries are involved in the development and design of policies related to BIK. Just under a third of countries say there is no formal coordination mechanism for BIK policy, while just three countries report the existence of a multi-stakeholder body with responsibility for BIK.
In terms of BIK policy design, overall, ministries were found to take the lead in policy development in each of the pillars of BIK strategy. Just five countries say there is a regular national survey focussed on BIK-related topics, while half of the countries reported that new policy development had been reactive or had been influenced by specific incidents or events related to children's online safety.
Most countries confirm that consultation with children takes place in the design of BIK policies. However, only a third state that there is an opportunity for children to be actively involved in policy design.
In terms of BIK policy actors, ministries and Safer Internet Centres are the lead actors in the delivery of activities related to BIK at the national level. In nearly a quarter of countries, the primary role defined as delivering more than 90 per cent of activities, is undertaken by the Safer Internet Centre (SIC).
SICs also act as the main agency for positive content for children and for awareness-raising activities. NGOs also play an important role in supporting and delivering activities related to BIK. However, the role is generally reported to be a minor one.
Looking at the spread of BIK activities, a comprehensive range of activities is reported under key pillars of BIK, particularly in relation to teaching of online safety, awareness raising and empowerment, and in combatting child sexual abuse and exploitation online. Despite the lack of policy provision, a range of positive content initiatives are reported in most Member States.
Activities to support protection measures including age-appropriate privacy settings, age rating and content classification, and the use of parental controls are widely available. However, supports for their functioning at the national level are less in evidence with greater reliance on EU-level provision in this area. There are few examples of initiatives reported by Member States that deal with commercial risks associated with children's use of the internet.
In drawing its conclusions, the report states that Member States report wide support and policy provision for the BIK strategy, demonstrating many successes for child online safety policies in European Member States. However, many gaps remain both in terms of policy governance and in stakeholder participation since the last BIK mapping exercise took place in 2014.
This report makes three main recommendations to boost national-level policy support and increased opportunities for dialogue on BIK implementation both at the national and European levels:
- Firstly, strengthen national-level policy governance in the area of Better Internet for Kids strategy. Accordingly, greater attention should be given by Member States to enhancing formal and informal coordination of policy making on BIK strategy, they should seek to align national goals for digitalisation, educational attainment and youth strategy with BIK policy objectives, ensure that policy objectives are clearly articulated in a distinct policy framework, and that policy making for BIK is supported by regular research and data collection at the national level.
- Secondly, increase or continue national level support in provision of BIK services, matching the European contribution for BIK. As such, Member States should consider strengthening national provision for a sustainable and reliable resourcing model for Safer Internet Centres (SICs), seek opportunities to support and sustain greater levels of multi-stakeholder participation including further cooperation with industry, and seek to ensure that children's participation in the policy-making process can progress beyond consultation to include meaningful participation in the actual decision-making process.
- Thirdly, support further opportunities for dialogue between EU Member States on BIK-related policy making. Action is needed at both European and Member State level to ensure further cooperation regarding tools and regulation for a safe online environment. Equally, the range and scope of BIK activities to keep pace with the changing environment for children's digital participation needs further development, while the development of guidelines and best practice models for policy implementation would be beneficial.
The recommendations are further expanded with specific examples in the full report. Download the full report from the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal.
Also in this edition of the BIK Bulletin, we bring you news of the #SaferInternet4EU campaign; a range of initiatives throughout 2018 aiming to support children, young people, parents, teachers, and other EU citizens to become empowered and responsible digital users. The corresponding #SaferInternet4EU Awards are already open for entries, inviting examples of best practices from organisations, teachers and youth across Europe. Additionally, we reflect back on the recent edition of Safer Internet Day, and already bring you the dates for Safer Internet Forum 2018 and Safer Internet Day 2019.