Online shopping this festive season? Stay safe!

Two phenomenon, originating in the US, have become a growing trend across the globe in recent years: Black Friday and, even more recently, Cyber Monday.

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United Sates and the has become the traditional kick-off to the festive shopping season where, typically, people flock to the shops. The following Monday, after the Thanksgiving holiday, is known as Cyber Monday, encouraging consumers to shop online. Both days are appealing to shoppers as they can find products at bargain prices just before Christmas. Shopping online may present benefits such as saving time when purchasing goods and services, but also presents concerns, especially when thinking of the most vulnerable group online: children and young people.

In an era where more and more children have access to the internet, online shopping and online advertisements pose concerns to the wellbeing of children and the growing commercialisation of their childhood. How can we ensure that children and young people stay safe online and know how to protect themselves from targeted marketing? What should they do if they are victims of online fraud or identity theft? These questions, as well as others linked to the topic of digital citizenship and children's online safety, were discussed at European Schoolnet's annual event, EMINENT, which took place 17-18 November 2016, in Prague (Czech Republic). European Ministries of Education, education experts and industry partners agreed that educating children and young people to become digital citizens is a key factor for their online safety. Fostering the new generation of digital citizens means educating children and young people to be media and digital literate, and capable of employing critical thinking skills when it comes to the decisions they need to make online.

The Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) provide a range of content and services to help children and young people stay safe online and to develop their digital literacy skills – find the contact details of services in your country here. Some SICs have even produced dedicated resources to support you in the build up to Christmas and the various challenges this brings. For example, South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL), part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, has produced an article titled Black Friday: 10 Tips for safe online Xmas shopping, along with one on Top tech gifts for kids this Xmas and another titled I want a smartphone for Xmas.

Additionally, a range of online tips to stay safe, including on how to identify online fraud and scams, and recognising and combating cybercrime were produced during the recent National Cyber Security Awareness Month, organised by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). Consult the resources on the StaySafeOnline website. Having in mind the online shopping season, the NCSA has also developed a range of resources particularly aimed at ensuring that consumers stay safe and secure when shopping online.

The December 2016 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin, to be published just before the Christmas break, will focus on the theme of online advertising and the commercialisation of children and young people – subscribe here to receive a copy direct to your inbox when published. And consult the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal before Christmas for more information from the network of European Safer Internet Centres about their activities to raise awareness of the commercialisation of childhood.

In the meantime, we wish you happy - and safe - online shopping!

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

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