"The European Approach to Empowering and Protecting Children Online"

5 December 2008 - A Best Practice Forum on Security in Hyderabad, India


The technological environment for online technologies is subject to continual change. Levels of broadband and mobile phone penetration have increased exponentially across Europe and with the advent of so-called Web 2.0 the role of all Internet users has become radically more interactive. Children, young people and their families tend to be in the vanguard of new media adoption benefiting from early take-up of new opportunities afforded by these technologies. However, they also encounter a range of risky or negative experiences for which they may be unprepared: child sexual abuse material is being distributed online, they may get in contact with potential abusers (grooming), access harmful content or being bullied by their peers.

Protection of children in the online environment has been the focus of a succession of Safer Internet programmes implemented by the European Commission since 1999. It is the only pan-European initiative relating to child protection online and has several actions that have proved effective. As part of its actions the programme has initiated a number of European networks bringing together different stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industry, researchers and law enforcement agencies in order to facilitate dialogue and exchange of best practice on specific issues. 

The purpose of this Best Practice Forum is to share the experiences of this pan-European initiative. 

The workshop will seek to address how these networks contribute to empower children and teenagers to use online technologies in a more responsible way to make the online environment a safer place for them. After a brief introduction by the Commission on the general framework and how it has developed over time, the networks will be asked to present and discuss their activities. Participants would be encouraged to make contributions and in particular give feedback of their perspective of the European approach.

Participating networks:

  • The INSAFE network of awareness nodes for carrying out awareness actions about the possibilities and risks concerning the use of online technologies designed to reach children, families and schools.
  • The INHOPE network of hotlines where members of the public can report illegal content they come across on the Internet and in particular child sexual abuse material.
  • The EU KIDS ONLINE network involving researchers in 21 EU member states who examine research into how people, especially children and young people, use new media. The network members collaborate, through meetings, networking and dissemination activities, to identify, compare and evaluate the available evidence.
  • eNACSO, a thematic network involving NGOs across the EU with expertise on child internet safety. The aim is to develop a concerted approach by sharing experience and best practices, and by developing joint strategies, in order to ensure that needs of children are taken into account in discussions about the internet and new media in Europe, as well as in the relevant international fora.
  • Circamp, a thematic network for facilitating cooperation of law enforcement agencies in Europe and internationally. It aims at stimulating organised and extensive cross-border exchange of best practice and information within the European Law Enforcement community, with the specific objective to limit the market of commercial distribution of child abuse material that is produced and distributed through online technologies.
  • YPRT, a network for facilitating and coordinating exchange of views between pedagogical experts, child welfare specialists and technical experts on technical and pedagogical measures against unwanted and harmful online content.