Together for a better internet in Lithuania

In the face of the global pandemic, the internet has become our daily platform for learning, working, entertainment and communication. However, besides all the good things, cyberspace is full of many dangers: harmful content, hatred, personal data use and others. On 9 February 2021, Lithuania, together with approximately 200 other countries, celebrated the international Safer Internet Day (SID), hosting various campaigns to draw attention to online safety.

2021-03-31 Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre awareness, sid media literacy/education children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals
Aerial view of Kaunas, Lithuania

For this occasion, the National Agency for Education and the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania organised the event Together for a better internet, inviting pupils, parents, teachers and everyone rooting for online safety to watch and take part online. The organisers invited internet users to take action upon noticing content that is harmful for minors, incites hatred, involves personal data use and other threats. The purpose of this event was to draw society’s attention to the issue of online safety, encouraging them to come together and create a better internet for everyone. The event was broadcast live from the LRT Dūmų Fabrikas studio.

The event was opened by Jurgita Šiugždinienė, Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania, emphasising that as we typically spend the entire day at the computer learning or working, the issue of safe internet is becoming increasingly relevant. The possibility of using the internet and digital technologies is both exciting and worrying. The Minister herself was slightly shocked to find her own fake Twitter account rapidly collecting followers and it took some time to take it down. “No significant harm was done, but it could have ended differently. Getting in the trap of hidden advertising, propaganda and fake news online is easy” said the Minister. “That’s why we need to learn critical thinking. There comes the role of the teachers, providing their pupils with critical thinking skills. We can create a better internet together by respecting each other, protecting our own and others’ reputation, and searching for opportunities to create, communicate and share.”

The event then continued with a demonstration debate on "Parents and children online: should parents get access to their minors’ social media accounts?" (in Lithuanian, "Tėvų ir vaikų santykis internete: ar tėvai turėtų gauti prieigą prie nepilnamečių vaikų socialinių paskyrų?"), delivered by representatives of the International Youth Debate Alumni Association. The debate was conducted by Dainora, Gabija, Gabrielė an Vilija. Cyberbullying may result in serious consequences on children's emotional and psychological health, such as decreased self-worth, constant stress and depression. All this leaves a negative trace on their learning quality. Seeking to prevent this, the girls debated if parents should have access to their children's social media accounts to be able to monitor their activity online and who they talk to. The supporting party claimed that parents should have access to be able to spot and prevent bullying against their children. Access to their children's accounts would also enable parents to control them and strengthen their relationships. The opposing party argued that this suggestion sounds like "cyber espionage" and a violation of children’s right to a private life and communication. Parents should trust their children. Children and their well-being is crucial for both of the debating sides, but neither of the girls changed their opinions. Some of them believed that, despite everything, parents should be able to access their children’s accounts to ensure their safety, while others argued that the main focus should fall on privacy and the children's freedom and trust, rather than spying.

Mantas Stonkus, actor and co-founder of Digiklasė.lt, talking on the topic of "Who do we talk to and how?" (In Lithhuanian, "Bendravimo kultūra internete – kaip ir su kuo mes bendraujame"), shared his sincere and interesting experience and insights on how children and youth choose who they talk to online and the current online communication culture. The marketing expert, social activist and singer Dovilė Filmanavičiūtė discussed the topic of "Digital literacy and critical thinking online" (in Lithuanian "Skaitmeninis raštingumas ir kritinis mąstymas internete"). Dovilė shared why being alert and critical thinking are necessary companions online, also raising questions relating to if we are cautious enough in assessing information on the internet. The actor, artist and writer Marius Povilas Elijas Martynenko talked about "Online threats – is it possible to evade them?" (in Lithuanian, "Grėsmės internete – ar realu jų išvengti"), revealing ways to recognise threats and to prevent them. The participants of the event were entertained with a musical programme by the young performer Paula, winner of the Šok su Žvaigžde (in English "Dance with a star") TV project.

The event encouraged children and their parents to continue discussions on the advantages and disadvantages of children’s privacy online, while famous people drew public attention to the importance of online safety, highlighting new relevant aspects for parents, teachers and youth. The recording of the event is available here.

Teenagers, aged 12–18 years, were equally encouraged to celebrate Safer Internet Day. Together with their teachers they hosted remote debates on various safer internet topics: "Should the state control freedom of speech online?" (in Lithuanian "Ar valstybė turėtų reguliuoti žodžio laisvę internete?"), "Should parents get access to their minors’ social media accounts?" (in Lithuanian "Ar tėvai turėtų gauti prieigą prie nepilnamečių vaikų socialinių paskyrų?"), "Should all Lithuanian websites be adapted for people with disabilities?" (in Lithuanian "Ar tėvai turėtų gauti prieigą prie nepilnamečių vaikų socialinių paskyrų?"), and "Would fostering respect of copyright increase minors’ safety online?" (in Lithuanian "Ar išugdyta pagarba autorių teisėms padidintų nepilnamečių vaikų saugumą internete?").

We recommend checking out these videos and resources:

Find out more about Safer Internet Day in Lithuania. Alternatively, find out more about the work of the Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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