The meeting started with an overview of national stakeholders and strategic partners. For Bulgaria, the following stakeholders were present on the call:
Bulgarian National Helpline for Children: Represented in this meeting by Georgi Ivanov, the Bulgarian National Helpline for Children is a general helpline service operated by the State Agency for Child Protection. The National Helpline for Children uses the harmonised European number, 116111, to provide counselling services to children and adolescents as well as parents, relatives or other adults who are concerned about the problems of a child.
It was noted during the meeting that the National Helpline is separate from the helpline services offered by the Bulgarian SIC, but the two services are working in close collaboration. The helpline of the Bulgarian SIC refers cases that are not related to online safety to the National Helpline, while the State Agency for Child Protection promotes the SIC helpline and Safenet.bg on its website.
Ministry of Electronic Governance: The Ministry of Electronic Governance was created in February 2022 to work on areas such as electronic identification, electronic voting, cyber security, and open data, as well as coordination with the European Union (EU). The ministry is now working on adapting the Bulgarian national strategies to the EU’s Digital Decade policy framework.
Commission for Personal Data Protection: The Commission for Personal Data Protection is the Bulgarian national data protection authority, and as such, the Commission is responsible for implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Bulgaria. The Commission have created a special subsection in their institutional website for children to find information on their rights about data protection. The Commission also runs an awareness-raising campaign and offers training materials on its website.
Cybercrime Department, Bulgarian Police: The Cybercrime Department of the Bulgarian police started out as a unit working mainly on economic cybercrime, It has since grown into a department in its own right, and its work has started to encompass children at risk as well. In this context, the Cybercrime Department is cooperating mainly with the SIC’s hotline to exchange information and reports as applicable. Moreover, where applicable, the reports received and processed by the hotline and the Cybercrime Department are further forwarded to the SIC’s helpline for potential follow-up with the victims.
For the Romanian SIC, the following stakeholders joined the roundtable discussion online:
Didactic House: It was noted during the meeting that the Romanian SIC has a protocol in place with the Ministry of Education, in which the SIC provides accredited training courses to the teachers in the country. Alina Ludovica Boca of the Didactic House is a teacher trainer for these courses. Against this background, the Romanian SIC and the Didactic House collaborate on training Romanian teachers on internet safety topics. More specifically, the Didactic House uses the SIC’s materials when delivering these trainings. The trainings are organised for different levels: primary and secondary school levels and, more recently, trainings for for-pre-school teachers are also offered.
Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, Romanian Police: The Directorate for Combatting Organised Crime collaborates with the hotline of the Romanian SIC in the fight against child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). The Directorate works with national internet service providers (ISPs) as well as Europol and Interpol to ensure the quick removal of CSAM reported to the hotline.
Municipal Centre for Educational Resources and Psycho-pedagogical Assistance: The Municipal Centre for Educational Resources and Psycho-pedagogical Assistance serves over 200 school counsellors in Bucharest to provide them with educational resources and materials. In this context, the centre refers to the resources of the Romanian SIC and disseminates these resources to school counsellors to better equip them in relation to online risks.
OMV Petrom: Together with Save the Children Romania, OMV Petrom has implemented regional educational projects since 2014 in rural areas of Romania to explore the opportunities and risks associated with the internet. Over the course of nine years of collaboration with the Romanian SIC, it has implemented 9 projects in 14 secondary schools, reaching approximately 200 teachers and 2,000 students.
Update from the Safer Internet Centre consortiums
The Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) consortium consists of two non-governmental organisations, namely, the Applied Research and Communication (ARC) Fund which operates the hotline, and the Parents Association which operates the helpline and coordinates the SIC. Awareness centre and the youth panel activities are shared between the two organisations.
The Bulgarian SIC’s awareness centre activities involve the training of teachers, parents, children and young people. In this context, the centre offers training to teachers based on the Holistic Competence Model for Schools and Digital-Media Literacy Methodology. The training offered to teachers aims for a gradual and systematic development of all lifelong learning and personal development competences. These include trainings on how to communicate positively, critical thinking and analysis, fake news and misinformation, how to develop information assessment skills in students, as well as the trainings on main online risks for children (avoiding or dealing with online risks).
During the meeting, some of the resources produced by the awareness centre were highlighted. These include:
- Competence approach in practice: Holistic model for development of key competences at school
- Guide for development of critical thinking and fostering tolerance
- Video lessons on some of the main online risks for children
- Videos for parents (online bullying, sextortion/child sexual abuse online and inappropriate content)
- Quizzes on online safety for students
The Bulgarian SIC has hosted a youth panel since 2010. The youth panel follows a voluntary structure which has existed as a successful form of youth participation since its inception. The youth panel consists of 10-15 children and young people, aged 14-19, who meet face-to-face once a month to develop their digital and media skills. The youth panel also plays an important role in the various initiatives and events organised by centre and its partners. Members of the youth panel are also trained in content creation and they represent the SIC in national and international youth networks and councils, such as "Megaphone" Youth Network of the National Network for Children and the Eurochild Children's Council.
In terms of youth participation, the Bulgarian SIC also runs the Cyberscouts training programme. The Cyberscouts programme offers trainings to children and young people between the ages of 9 and 15. The training programme is recognisable among teachers and school administrations across Bulgaria, who regularly apply for this training for their students. The programme also has a peer-to-peer aspect where the trained Cyberscouts spread the information they were taught to other students.
The Bulgarian SIC helpline started in 2008 and is operated by the Parents Association. Helpline consultants are psychologists who provide advice to children, young people, parents, teachers and other professionals via a real-time chat module on the SIC website, by email, and via a phone line (124 123). The consultants also actively participate in developing awareness materials, educational materials and in trainings.
The hotline of the Bulgarian SIC became operational in May 2006, and it is managed by the ARC Fund. Through the reporting form available on the SIC website (in Bulgarian and English), the hotline receives reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), sexual grooming, cyberbullying, and other harmful content online.
Save the Children Romania is a national non-governmental organisation, established in 1990, with the purpose of promoting, defending and monitoring children's rights in Romania, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Since 2008, Save the Children Romania has been implementing the Safer Internet project, named Oradenet (oradenet.ro), and is currently coordinating all three strands of the Romanian SIC.
The awareness centre of the Romanian SIC started its presentation by highlighting some of its successes between the years of 2008 and 2022. These included:
- Reaching more than 600,000 children and young people through awareness-raising activities on online safety related topics.
- Training more than 169,000 parents and teachers on the protection of children and young people in the online environment.
- Organising 15 events in the context of the Safer Internet Day (SID) celebrations.
- Conducting more than five national sociological studies to investigate children’s behaviour on the internet.
- Developing the first online safety guide for teachers and students, which was adopted by the Ministry of Education and recommended as an educational resource for the national school network.
- Developing the first accredited course for the teachers regarding the safe use of the internet.
The awareness centre also highlighted that an online course for teachers on online safety entitled the Real Teacher in a Virtual School was launched in March 2023 and, at the time of the meeting, had already gathered more than 5,000 registrants. The course is designed to be taken by teachers in a self-paced manner (4 modules, 15 training hours). Another online course targeting parents is also in development by the awareness centre. This course will provide the parents with basic information on keeping children safe online as well as educating them about prominent online risks.
Furthermore, the awareness centre also produces various resources targeting parents including guide documents such as Net Time Starts at Home and Parenting in the Digital Age. In addition, the awareness centre has been hosting digital evenings for parents twice a month since November 2022. These meetings are organised online to discuss topics on online safety that are deemed relevant to parents. It was noted that the concept for these meetings was developed after exchanges with colleagues in the Insafe Training Meeting that took place in October 2022 in Brussels.
Another activity of the awareness centre highlighted during the meeting was the Safer Internet School Corner. The centre set up a physical space dedicated to students within a school in a rural area with more than 350 students, where children can find information, send messages, and get help when they encounter a risky situation on the internet. In this space, children can communicate to discover new things about the internet, as well as ways to resolve conflicts that arise online.
The awareness centre also facilitates a group of young volunteers with whom it works closely on developing youth-led campaigns as well as resources. Such resources and activities against hate speech and cyberbullying are also implemented by the youth panellists. In addition to feeding into the activities and resources of the awareness centre, the recommendations of the young people are also passed on to relevant authorities where applicable. In this context, the awareness centre currently works with 195 online safety ambassadors at high school level.
The helpline of the Romanian SIC (entitled ctrl_AJUTOR) offers children and young people multiple ways of contact, including a free and anonymous phone line (available every day between 10.00-17.00), chat, email and via Facebook, where the children can discuss their internet-related problems with trained psychologists and receive concrete solutions. Currently, two counsellors work at the helpline: one full time (8 hours a day) and one half-time (4 hours a day).
esc_ABUZ is the hotline service of the Romanian SIC, which provides its users with the opportunity to inform competent authorities, while retaining anonymity, about child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) encountered online. The hotline component of the Romanian SIC was taken over by Save the Children Romania in 2015, from a former consortium partner. In October 2015, the Romanian hotline also became a member of INHOPE.
The hotline operates under a mutual agreement with the Directorate for Combatting Organised Crime of the Romanian Police, and it also has a memorandum of understanding with the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM).
Further information about the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre as well as the Romanian 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.