The conference consisted of three panel discussions intended for professional workers who are in direct contact with children: psychologists, pedagogues, teachers, preschool teachers, and directors of educational institutions.
First panel: First steps in the digital world
The first panel focused on the topic of pre-schoolers in the digital world, and the education of preschool teachers on how to tackle children starting their digital lives at an early age and potential implications for their personal development - for example, a delay in the development of speech due to excessive exposure to digital technologies. The participants of this panel were a speech therapist, an expert in corporate communications, a preschool teacher, and the director of preschool institutions.
Second panel: Cyberbullying and hate speech on the internet
This was the most important topic for the SIC. The panellists were a sociologist, a representative of the Ministry of Education, a representative of the Centre for Missing and Abused Children, and the Head of the Centre for the Institute for the Evaluation of the Quality of Education. They talked about how to recognise all forms of digital violence and indicated the most adequate ways of responding. This was an opportunity to share the experience not only of the panellists, but also some cases from the hotlines and helplines for the SIC’s representatives from the National Contact Centre for Child Safety on the internet. The goal was to give guidelines to the staff of primary and secondary schools on how to react in case of cyberbullying and how to prevent similar situations.
Third panel: The impact of the internet on the mental health of young people
The third panel discussed how the internet has a bad effect on the mental health of young people and how an excessive use of the internet is closely related to anxiety and depression in young people. The panellists were psychiatrists, the director of the Institute for Digital Communications, an influencer, psychologists, and representatives of the drama programmes for children on TV.
In total, there were 133 professional workers from primary and secondary schools, as well as 44 representatives of preschool institutions.
Challenges on the internet inevitably exist, and that's why it was important for the Serbian SIC to focus on having experts who directly face such problems, as well as providing them with information about the best ways to prevent and protect by having a discussion about the problems that they are facing every day.
In addition, the SIC organised an educational session about internet safety for 70 pupils aged 10-13. At the presentation, they had the opportunity to learn more about the downsides and dangers lurking on the internet, and to hear how to recognise cyberbullying and what to do when they or their peers have a problem. They learned that dangerous challenges on social networks can lead to serious consequences for their health. After the presentation, a quiz was organised as an interactive way check their knowledge about safety on the internet. All children received some promotional material as a take away from the session. The most interesting part for the young people was probably meeting the four famous influencers who talked about the different ways of staying safe online. Throughout the year, the Serbian SIC carries out this kind of presentations for students all over Serbia. This event was heavily covered by the local media, and it was attended by 11 media representatives so that many schools and associations had the opportunity to hear about the SIC’s work, and many have already scheduled future educational presentations for their students.
Find out more about Safer Internet Day celebrations in Serbia by visiting the Serbian Safer Internet Day Committee profile page, or find out more about Safer Internet Day more generally at www.saferinternetday.org.