Moving towards Europe’s Digital Decade
Back in March 2021, the European Commission adopted the 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade, to translate the European Unionʼs digital ambitions for 2030 into concrete targets and to ensure that these objectives will be met. The document identified four ‘cardinal points’ on digital capacities in infrastructures, education and skills, and on the digital transformation of business and public services. This European way for the digital society also wants to ensure full respect of EU fundamental rights, and will propose a comprehensive set of digital principles, including protecting and empowering children in the online space.
Additionally, the importance of the rights of children and young people in the digital environment was highlighted with the publication of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, also in March 2021, which aims to build the best possible life for children in the European Union and across the globe, including online, through the normalisation of child participation as part of the decision-making process. Within the same framework, the publication of the General Comment No. 25 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in the same month placed a specific focus on the rights of young people in the online world. As a guiding principle, every child has the right to be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment.
To participate in this effort, a consultation exercise was launched to gather the views of European citizens, and particularly those of children and young people, on these digital principles through the #DigitalDecade4YOUth consultation work and social media campaign.
The #DigitalDecade4YOUth consultation work
The #DigitalDecade4YOUth consultation targeted children, youth, parents and carers, teachers and educators, and other stakeholders from across the European Union and surveyed them on the priorities they see to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the rights of children and young people in a digital world.
The consultation work firstly gathered insights from some 750 children and young people through 70 focus groups, and then a wider consultation exercise aimed to gather broader input from those stakeholders who care for, educate, or can influence positive online opportunities and experiences for Europe's young people. The consultation work combined the use of a survey to collect more ‘formal’, structured feedback, and interactive polls on social media for quicker, more ‘playful’ responses.
In the survey, we asked a series of questions, based on the questions which children and young people responded to so that perspectives could be compared. We asked respondents to reflect on the opportunities and benefits that young people can gain from being online, the challenges and risks they might face, and who should be responsible for improving online experiences. We also asked for views on what policy makers need to do over the next decade to bring about change.
The outcomes of the consultation with children and young people are summarised in the report “How to make Europe’s Digital Decade fit for children and young people?”, available on the Better Internet for Kids website. The findings were also presented and discussed, by multiple stakeholders, during the recent Safer Internet Forum.
Another successful edition of Safer Internet Forum
The Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is a key annual international conference in Europe, organised by the European Commission, where policy makers, researchers, law enforcement bodies, youth, parents and carers, teachers, NGOs, industry representatives, experts and other relevant actors come together to discuss the latest trends, opportunities, risks and solutions related to child online safety. The 2021 edition took place online on 6-7 October, and specifically explored how to make Europe’s Digital Decade fit for children and young people.
In addition to hearing from experts from academia, civil society, policy and industry, most importantly it heard from young people directly in order to more fully understand how technology can empower them, but equally the barriers which need to be addressed to enable a fully inclusive and safe online experience.
Moreover, SIF showcased key findings from the recent consultation exercises, amplifying the voices of children and young people to deliver a vision for a #DigitalDecade4YOUth. The event also highlighted the priorities that different groups, including parents, carers, and teachers, have identified in order to fulfil children’s rights in a digital world, while allowing them to engage, create and contribute within safe, ethical and inclusive online spaces.
To discover more, visit www.betterinternetforkids.eu/sif, where you will find more information on the agenda and the Forum speakers, presentations and session recordings, and a report on the proceedings of Safer Internet Forum 2021 (and the preceding BIK Youth Panel).
Looking back, 2021 has indeed been quite a hectic year, rich in publications, initiatives, campaigns and several other activities, despite the ongoing challenging circumstances. But, with 2022 right around the corner, there is so much more to look forward to…
Launch of the European Commission’s Digital Principles
The European Commission is currently discussing and engaging with Member States, as well as with the European Parliament, regional and economic and social partners and businesses on specific elements, as it progresses towards the inter-institutional declaration on Digital Principles. These principles will help to develop projected trajectories for each target of the path to the Digital Decade, together with Member States.
The European Commission gathered, from May to early September 2021, the views and opinions of all interested stakeholders on the formulation of these principles. The results of the consultation activities have been collected in the Summary report on the public consultation on a set of digital rights and principles (published in November 2021), and will serve as input to a proposal of the Inter-institutional Declaration of Digital Principles to be released in 2022.
2022 will be the European Year of Youth
Another observance to look forward to will place an even greater focus on young people. During the 2021 State of the Union address, EC President Ursula von der Leyen announced the adoption of the formal proposal to make 2022 the European Year of Youth.
With this celebration, the Commission aims, in cooperation with the European Parliament, Member States, regional and local authorities, stakeholders and young people themselves, to support the younger generations who have been heavily affected by the pandemic. Especially, the year will serve to highlight the opportunities and fresh perspectives offered by the digital transition for one’s personal, social and professional development, to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become active and digitally responsible citizens, and to get inspired from the views and visions of youth to further invigorate the common EU project, building upon the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Safer Internet Day 2022
Get ready to celebrate Safer Internet Day with us in less than two months, on Tuesday, 8 February 2022! With a theme once again of "Together for a better internet", the day will encourage all stakeholders across the globe to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people.
Discover how you can get involved and how Safer Internet Day will be celebrated in your country on the Safer Internet Day website. Much of the day's activity will play out on social media, so be sure to check our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok profiles, and follow along with social media discussions using the #SaferInternetDay and #SID2022 hashtags.
Launch of the new BIK Strategy
Within the various contexts outlined above, the time has come to review and update the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (commonly known as the BIK Strategy) which has provided a key point of reference for online safety policy making since 2012. This forms a key part of the European Commission’s legislative and financial support to Member States to create a safer and better internet.
The updated version of the BIK Strategy will be published in the first half of next year, and will lay the foundations for creating safer, better and empowering online experiences for children and youth for years to come.
Placing a spotlight on Positive Online Content
The Positive Online Content Campaign (POCC) aims to ensure positive online experiences for younger children through child-friendly digital offerings. Indeed, the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that children and young people are increasingly using digital content and services to stay connected with family and friends, for schoolwork and learning, but also for fun and entertainment.
During this festive season, positive online content and services can ensure safe, fun, engaging and creative digital experiences with digital devices or during streaming and gaming activities in families. A cornerstone of the campaign is to provide guidance for parents and educators on how to choose child-friendly apps, websites and games, and how to correctly identify and interpret age ratings on different media outlets through a dedicated checklist.
In 2022, a new edition of the Positive Online Content Campaign will highlight additional resources throughout Europe, provide special tips from experts for parents and educators, and seek the voices and views of children themselves. It will also explore emerging technologies and consider providers’ responsibilities, alongside much more.
As can be seen, another action-packed year is on the horizon! Stay tuned to future editions of the BIK bulletin to be updated on the upcoming activities, and visit the BIK platform – at www.betterinternetforkids.eu – regularly for the latest news and resources.
In the meantime, the Better Internet for Kids team wishes you a happy, restful, and safe festive season.