The meeting started with an overview of national stakeholders and strategic partners. For Croatia, the following stakeholders were present on the call:
A1 Hrvatska: A1 Hrvatska is an internet service provider (ISP) operating in Croatia. The company has collaborated with the Croatian SIC since 2016, more specifically on the Safer Internet Day (SID) celebrations. In collaboration with the Croatian SIC, the company is also working on creating the School for Responsible Influencing (Škola odgovornog influensanja) which aims to educate online content creators to be more responsible on the internet.
University of Zagreb – Faculty of Law, Department of Social Work: The Department of Social Work collaborated with the Croatian SIC on the creation of a lifelong learning programme for experts working with children and families. The 25-hour programme started as an online programme during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is planned to become a hybrid programme in the post-pandemic era.
It was also noted during the meeting that the Croatian SIC also cooperates with the Ombudsman for Children in Croatia and also has letters of support from various ministries in the country including the following:
- Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy
- National Foundation for Civil Society Development
- Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds
- Office for Cooperation with NGOs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Science and Education
For the Slovenian SIC, the following stakeholders, who were all noted to be members of the Slovenian SIC’s Advisory Board, were present during the roundtable:
National Police: the Slovenian SIC and the national police exchange information about trends and issues on the internet. Such an exchange of information allows both parties to take timely and effective actions to prevent online crimes and raise awareness of these issues. In addition, the police cooperate with the hotline, not only on the processing of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) reports, but also collaboratively organises an annual conference on this topic in order to raise awareness.
Media and Information Literacy (Mipi) portal: Mipi is an online portal for the promotion of media and information literacy, with which the Agency for Communication Networks and Services of the Republic of Slovenia (AKOS) aims to raise public awareness of the importance of critical and thoughtful use of media content and information technologies. Since its creation in 2019, the Mipi portal has published over 200 articles dealing with various topics and targeting audiences such as teenagers, children and parents. AKOS is an independent regulatory body that regulates and supervises the media and telecommunications sector in Slovenia. In this capacity, AKOS signed cooperation protocols with 14 partners working in this field, including the Slovenian SIC (safe.si as well as Spletno oko) and promotes their work on the Mipi portal.
Slovenian Ministry of Education Science and Sport: The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport considers the Slovenian SIC as a national contact point for online safety issues and, as such, had started collaborating with them. The Ministry promotes the work of the SIC and attends Advisory Board meetings on a regular basis. They also support Safer Internet Day while the SIC assists the Ministry with developing train-the-trainer activities for teachers and headteachers.
Benjamin Lesjak, PhD: Benjamin Lesjak has been collaborating with the Slovenian SIC since 2010 as a lecturer for teachers and parents on legal aspects related to internet safety and privacy, arising from using new technologies and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Finally, the Slovenian SIC mentioned that it has been challenging to establish fruitful cooperations with industry, and thus, this sector is not represented in the SIC’s Advisory Board. The reason for this is noted as the country being a small market for the telecommunications sector which makes it harder to establish long-term collaborations with such companies. In response to this, the Insafe Coordination Team suggested that the SIC could establish such contacts through the Insafe network.
Update from the Safer Internet Centre consortiums
The Croatian Safer Internet Centre (csi.hr) and all of its strands are operated by the Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (CNZD), a non-profit organisation that has been operating for more than fifteen years in the field of protecting children from abuse and sexual exploitation via the internet.
During the meeting, the Awareness Centre of the Croatian SIC noted that they travel across the country to provide interactive lectures and workshops aimed at teachers and education professionals in primary and secondary school levels, as well as parents and children. They have also highlighted various guidelines and resources they produce. These resources included:
- A safe start to the new school year – Guidelines for experts and parents
- A manual on the prevention of violence on the internet
- Guidelines on dealing with electronic violence and the accompanying online workbook
- Electronic violence prevention program – manual for program managers
- 10 questions for your child's safety on the internet
- School for Responsible Influencing
Regarding youth participation, the Croatian SIC noted that approximately 100 young people with vulnerable backgrounds come to the Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (CNZD) every day for the half-day stay programme.
Children and young people (primary and high school age, 7-18 years old) use the half-day stay service, before or after classes in one of the eight care centres operated by CNZD across the country. Professional associates of CNZD are employed in these locations to carry out planned activities and monitor the progress of each young person. Volunteers with a wide range of educational backgrounds and interests are often involved in this line of work as well.
The helpline of the Croatian SIC operates a toll-free telephone line active on weekdays between 8:00 and 20:00 in order to offer help and support to children and youth as well as adults.
It was also noted by the helpline that there are several other similar helpline services in the country, and thus, not all people with internet safety related problems turn to the SIC’s helpline. Another challenge mentioned by the helpline was the fact that not all young people in Croatia recognise if they are a victim of cyberbullying as generally there seems to be a tendency to underrate or overlook the importance of such issues.
The hotline of SIC Croatia is a part of the www.csi.hr page on which the users can create an anonymous report about any illegal content online. The report will then be forwarded to the hotline coordinator who is trained and experienced with dealing with harmful or illegal content. If the report was not submitted anonymously, the submitter is notified of the actions which have been taken on the case. If needed, the report is then transferred to the appropriate entities such as the police dealing with such reports.
Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as well as cases of hate speech, child sexual abuse, child trafficking, racial and other forms of discrimination and other forms of child exploitation can be reported to the hotline.
The hotline has been part of the INHOPE network since 2013 and it is the only service in Croatia to be a part of this network. Another similar hotline service entitled the Red Button has been operated by the national police since 2013. The cooperation is limited with the police department who are working on crimes against children as the national law enforcement agency has a limited capacity to handle the additional workload that might result from a cooperation with the hotline of the Croatian SIC. On the other hand, the hotline has a strong relationship established with the prevention department of the national police.
The Slovenian SIC consortium consists of four partners: the coordinator of the consortium, the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, operates the hotline service (Spletno oko) as well as the awareness centre (Safe.si), together with the Academic and Research Network of Slovenia (ARNES) and the Youth Information and Counselling Centre of Slovenia (ZAVOD MISSS), which also coordinates the youth participation work. The helpline service (Tom Telefon) of the Slovenian SIC is operated by the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth (ZPMS).
As an awareness centre, Safe.si raises awareness of its five target groups about safe and responsible use of the internet and new technologies. The project's aim is to provide children, teenagers, parents, teachers and social workers with knowledge and tools for guiding, empowering and helping children and teenagers in the digital world. The Slovenian awareness centre has positioned itself as the key resource and knowledge base for children's use of the internet and mobile technologies in Slovenia.
The awareness centre has been actively involved in educating young people, parents and teachers about the opportunities and potential risks of using the internet since 2007. In this context, it is one of the most recognised service in Slovenia, offering lectures and workshops on online safety. On average, the awareness centre conducts more than 330 school visits and provides lectures to more than 23,000 youngsters, parents and teachers annually.
The Slovenian SIC’s Awareness Centre also highlighted some of their materials. One such resource included the national guidelines on the use of screens by children and adolescents. In recent years, paediatricians have increasingly observed that the excessive and inappropriate use of screens by children and young people result in various problems in their development. To address this issue, primary paediatricians from the Section for Primary Paediatrics of the Association of Paediatrics, under the auspices of the Committee for Basic Health at the Medical Association of Slovenia, together with experts from other fields (including those from the Slovenian SIC’s awareness centre) have prepared the first national guidelines on the use of screens by children and adolescents. The guidelines were created on the basis of research findings and the consensus of many experts, and were based on examples of guidelines from abroad.
Another highlight by the Awareness Centre was the three-week long online course on safe use of the internet is offered at regular intervals (twice per year since 2014) by ARNES. It was developed based on the digital competences outlined in the European competence framework (DIGCOMP) and is intended, primarily, for those working in the field of education, as well as for all others who are interested in this topic. Following the end of the online course, free workshops are offered in a physical setting, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a certificate of participation. It was also noted that the MOOC participation, which was voluntary until recently, has become compulsory for 220 schools participating in the project entitled Raising digital competence (Dvig digitalne kompetentnosti).
The youth participation work of the Slovenian SIC is carried out by the Youth Information and Counselling Centre of Slovenia (ZAVOD MISSS). ZAVOD MISSS provides social welfare programmes designed for children young people and parents. It also works with vulnerable groups, and in particular, children and young people. ZAVOD MISSS also coordinates professional development of workshop trainers in schools and youth centres, and it is also involved in the development and dissemination of awareness tools, methods and services for children and youngsters.
ZAVOD MISSS works with several groups of young people, which include approximately 150 young people in total. These groups are as follows:
- National youth platform: The national youth platform consists of children and youngsters (aged 9-16) across different regions of Slovenia.
- Youth Advisory Board: The Youth Advisory Board includes young people (aged 16-18) with disabilities.
- The #DigitalDecade4YOUth consultations: In the context of the preparatory consultations for the BIK+ strategy, the awareness centre of the Slovenian SIC worked with two groups, namely adolescents (aged 13-15) with emotional and behavioural problems, as well as migrant children and adolescents (aged 7-14).
Operated by the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth (ZPMS), the helpline service (Tom Telefon) is a general helpline available to the children and young people in Slovenia. The service is accessible via a toll-free phone line, email, online form and chat. It operates on all days of the week (including holidays) from 12:00 to 20:00.
Tom Telefon has been active for 32 years and it is the only general helpline in the country. In 2014, the service was publicly verified as a social welfare program by the Social Chamber of Slovenia for a period of seven years. In 2021, the verification was renewed for another seven-year period. The service works as a volunteer-based programme with 147 volunteer counsellors. These volunteers undergo a three-layer selection process and periodic trainings.
The helpline highlighted during the meeting a recent campaign entitled “Tom travels and visits children” in order to raise awareness about the service and encourage children to make contact when they are in distress. Workshops were offered in 192 primary schools in 12 Slovenian regions during the campaign period (May-November 2022).
Established in 2006, the hotline of the Slovenian SIC, Spletno oko, is operated by the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences.
In recent years there have been some public attacks towards the hotline and its staff as well as attempts of spreading disinformation about the service mainly in relation to the reports of hate speech. The Hotline assessed that the legal framework on handling and analysis of sensitive cases such as CSAM was insufficient. As a result, in April 2021, the hotline temporarily stopped the analysis of CSAM reports and the use of ICCAM and started forwarding them directly to the police. In March 2022, the service stopped accepting and handling cases of hate speech. In this context, the hotline started an initiative for a legislative change to combat child sexual abuse more effectively. The initiative was proposed to the Human Rights Ombudsman of Slovenia.
Some success stories of the hotline were also highlighted during the meeting. In this context, the annual conference of the hotline was mentioned in particular. Attended by representatives of law enforcement authorities, legislators, educators, social workers and NGOs, the 12th Annual Conference: e-Abuse of Children, which was organised in September 2022, gathered 220 experts who attended in person.
In 2021, the hotline cooperated in the 9th meeting of the Europol Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group organised by the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia and the European Parliament. The meeting discussed cybercrime in the EU with a focus on online child abuse, financial crime, and corruption. A representative of the hotline delivered a speech during the meeting and promoted all three strands of the Slovenian SIC, emphasising the importance of awareness raising, education and prevention in this context.
Finally, the hotline highlighted its annual report on CSAM with latest statistics, trends and definitions. The report is also distributed in hardcopy to the hotline’s stakeholders including the police, social services, NGOs and those in the education field.
Further information about the Croatian Safer Internet Centre as well as the Slovenian Safer Internet Centre can be found on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) public portal, including links to their national websites and other contact information. Similar information can be found on the BIK portal for all Safer Internet Centres in Europe.