As reported in previous Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal articles, colleagues from Armenia, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Serbia and Ukraine are participating in a pilot phase of the programme which seeks to build capacity through the sharing of knowledge, experiences and expertise. The final session in a planned series of four webinars recently took place, and participants were surveyed in advance to propose topics for discussion.
Online safety in 2020 - latest trends in child online protection
First up was Boris Radanović from the UK SIC, with an exploration of the latest trends in child online protection. He first focused on the most popular apps, commenting especially on how these both help and shape our daily routines. He also reflected on the culture of "sharing", facilitated by so many of the popular apps and platforms. While this is a significant trend for children and young people, adults are also increasingly sharing content in this way. However, as children and young people are the most vulnerable, it is important to protect them and work together towards technology use which is free from harm.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, research has shown that social media use has tripled across all services. This increase also presents additional challenges for children and young people, such as exposure to fake profiles, increased screen time and distance learning, to give but a few examples.
Within the UK context, the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) (part of the UK SIC) has witnessed a variety of expectations and effects on children online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These include digital migration, with online access surging and increased weekday daytime traffic, while demand for content has also increased with main social media platforms all reporting more time spent in app. Streaming services have also reported unprecedented demand. There were also concerns regarding health and wellbeing, especially with regards to the mental health of children and young people and the negative impact of school closures on both pupil wellbeing and safety. A greater exposure to risk was also identified as a general outcome of spending more time online during the pandemic, especially with regards to the risks of sexual exploitation online. Many of these impacts will continue to prevail for some time, and this needs to be considered in future policy approaches. To mitigate some of these risks however, the UK SIC has produced a range of guidance, including specific content on safe remote learning.
Prevention for offenders - insights into a hotline’s awareness work
Next up were Katerina Psaroudaki and Katerina Bulnakaki from the Greek SIC, who provided a short overview of the work of the Greek hotline and the communication channels it utilises such as social media, mass media (such as television and newsletters), informative events and mass events. In its awareness work, the hotline receives a great deal of support from the awareness centre, so illustrating the benefits of the multi-strand approach within the European SIC model.
In addition, the speakers highlighted that the Greek Youth Panel plays a vital role in the communication and outreach work of the centre as it provides a strong communication channel to reach children and young people. The centre has also established an Ambassador scheme right across the country supporting events such as Safer Internet Day (SID). This peer-to-peer approach has proved very successful over the years.
Furthermore, the Greek hotline fosters a good cooperation with law enforcement while, more generally, the Safer Internet Centre also receives excellent support from its diverse Advisory Board, which acts as a consultation body as well as providing an additional multi-stakeholder communication channel.
Sharing good practice
As a cornerstone of the SIC+ programme is to share knowledge, experience and expertise, the webinar concluded with a brief Q&A session in which participants discussed the challenges of transforming trainings into online meetings and events as a result of COVID-19. There was general agreement that creative approaches are needed, with some participants commenting that “train the trainer” approaches have worked well, as has consulting with young “influencers” on how to make presentations more dynamic for younger audiences.
A further discussion evolved around intergenerational learning approaches and the need to also train and educate adults. In line with this, one of the SIC+ representatives highlighted the importance of prevention work as a key factor when working with children and young people.
Although this meeting concluded the official webinar series of the SIC+ pilot programme, the participating countries will continue to contribute to the Better Internet for Kids platform, especially with regard to the forthcoming edition of Safer Internet Day, taking place on Tuesday, 9 February 2021. Stay tuned for more.