The Commission has adopted a new European strategy for better internet access for children to improve age-appropriate digital services and ensure that every child is protected, empowered and respected online.
Over the past decade, digital technologies and the ways in which children use them have changed dramatically. Most children use smartphones every day, and twice as many as ten years ago. Children also use them at a younger age (see: EU Kids Online 2020). Modern devices offer opportunities and benefits by allowing children to communicate with others, learn online, and have fun. However, these benefits do not deprive you of dangers such as misinformation, cyber violence (see JRC study), or harmful and illegal content that children need to be protected.
The new European strategy for better internet for children aims to provide accessible, age-appropriate, information-based online content and services that take into account the best interests of the child.
MargretheVestagerIn line with the digital age, the Executive Vice President for Europe said: Every child in Europe deserves security and authority in the digital environment. With the new strategy, we want to support children’s access to digital devices and skills, especially those who are vulnerable, to combat cyberbullying, and to protect all children from harmful and illegal content online. This is in line with our digital core values and principles.
Vice President for Democracy and Demography DubravkaŠuica he said: – The new strategy for better internet for children will ensure that children enjoy the same rights online and offline, regardless of geographical, economic or personal origin. All children must be protected, empowered and respected. Through this strategy, we also set high safety standards and promote the empowerment of children and their active participation in the digital decade around the world.
ThierryBretonThe internal market commissioner said: – Europe’s digital decade offers great opportunities for children, but technology can also pose risks. Thanks to a new strategy for better internet for children, we provide children with the skills and tools to move safely and securely in the digital world. We call on the internet industry to contribute to the creation of a safe, age-appropriate digital environment for children in accordance with EU rules.
The new European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children is a digital part of the Commission’s comprehensive EU strategy on children’s rights and reflects the digital principle that “children and youth must be protected and empowered online”.
It was adopted today along with a proposal for new EU legislation to protect children from sexual violence.
In addition, this strategy stems from the recent landmark political agreement on the Digital Services Act, which includes new safeguards for the protection of minors and prohibits online platforms from displaying ads based on the profile of minors.
These issues were also exposed at the European Future Conference, where the European Citizens’ Panel on Values and Rights called for strengthening the online protection of minors. This call was approved by the plenary session of the Conference and included in the proposal contained in the final report of the conference, which was presented to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission.
Principles and pillars of the strategy
The new European strategy for a better internet for children sets out a vision for the digital decade for children and youth based on three main pillars:
- Safe digital practices to protect children improve their well-being through harmful and illegal online content, behavior and threats, and through a safe, age-appropriate digital environment.
To make the digital world a safer place for children and young people, the Commission will support the development of an EU Age-Based Design Code and launch a European standard for online age testing by 2024. It will also explore the use of the planned European digital identity wallet for age verification, support rapid reporting of illegal and malicious content, and create a single 116 111 hotline to help victims of cyber violence by 2023.
- Digital amplificationto ensure that children acquire the skills and abilities necessary to make informed choices and to express their opinions safely and responsibly online.
To strengthen children in the digital environment, the Commission will launch media literacy campaigns targeting children, teachers and parents through the Safe Internet Centers network, which is at the heart of the strategy. It will also provide training modules for teachers through the portal betterinternetforkids.eu. A network of Safe Internet Centers operating nationally and locally in Member States will also enable vulnerable children and help bridge the digital divide.
- Active participationRespect children by allowing them to have a say in the digital environment through activities led by more children to support innovative and creative safe digital practices.
To increase children’s participation in the digital environment, the Commission will, for example, support more experienced children by educating them about the opportunities and risks of the Internet, and arrange for children to evaluate the strategy every two years.
To implement these key pillars, the Commission encourages Member States and industry to participate and support related activities.
Today’s strategy is based on the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children, adopted in 2012. This strategy has influenced national policies in the EU and is internationally recognized: for example, Safe Internet Day is celebrated around the world every year. Every year, efforts to combat fake news, cyber violence, and exposure to harmful and illegal content reach thousands of schools, millions of children, parents, and teachers.
In March 2021, the Commission adopted the first comprehensive EU strategy on the rights of the child, calling for an update to the 2012 Strategy for a Better Internet for Children.
More than 750 children and young people shared their views and opinions on online security, content and skills in nearly 70 consultation sessions organized in Europe in the spring of 2021 by the Safe Internet Centers. Surveys and other consultations were also conducted with parents, teachers, researchers, national online child safety experts and industry partners.
The results used in the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children show that children and young people are often well aware of online threats such as malicious content, cyber violence or misinformation and the opportunities offered by the internet. They also want their voices heard on issues that concern them. However, many children and young people in Europe, especially the most disadvantaged, are still not fully involved in the digital world. Underlying these exceptions include poverty, lack of communication, lack of appropriate devices, and lack of or lack of confidence in digital skills.