The Commission has set out a plan to give children the digital skills and tools they need to benefit fully and safely from the digital world. The internet was not designed with children in mind, but today 75% of children use the internet, a third of them on mobiles. The new strategy is to build up the market for interactive, creative and educational content online, in a partnership between the European Commission and Member States, mobile phone operators, handset manufacturers and providers of social networking services.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "I support getting every kid connected. But kids need simple, transparent and consistent internet tools, and the knowledge and skills to use them. Our initiative brings every type of player together so that children get more of the quality content, services and protection they need to enjoy a positive experience online."
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner said: "The Internet offers children and teenagers new opportunities to be creative and to express themselves freely. As the internet was originally designed for adults and not kids we need to make sure that children are safe online. The new Commission Strategy will help to protect children's rights, including protection against violence. This is a sensible approach that will help adapt the internet to children's needs."
European Commissioner for Home Affairs,
Cecilia Malmström, said: ''We are living in the digital age and the younger generations are those most active online. These young people are particularly at ease with the use of the internet but they are still vulnerable to online threats. It is our duty as parents to keep our children safe – and this includes on the web. We have to reinforce cooperation at European and international levels to combat cybercrime, and especially the most horrible acts such as sexual exploitation and the dissemination of child sexual abuse material online".
Varying national approaches mean that children across the EU have different levels of empowerment and protection online. This also makes it difficult for businesses to market child-friendly services and products EU-wide. To overcome these hurdles, the Commission has outlined a range of measures, which will be implemented by different means including industry self-regulation, which should lead to flexible and fast solutions in this field. Cooperation in fora such as the Coalition to make the Internet a better place for kids (see IP/11/1485
) will be vital to this process. Actions are grouped around four main goals:
- To stimulate the production of creative and educational online content for children and develop platforms which give access to age-appropriate content
- To scale up awareness raising and teaching of online safety in all EU schools to develop children's digital and media literacy and self-responsibility online
- Creating a safe environment for children where parents and children are given the tools necessary for ensuring their protection online – such as easy-to-use mechanisms to report harmful content and conduct online, transparent default age-appropriate privacy settings or user-friendly parental controls;
- Combating child sexual abuse material online by promoting research into, and use of, innovative technical solutions by police investigations.
Keeping children safe online is a key commitment of the Digital Agenda for Europe (general DAE information available at IP/10/581
Although the Internet was not created for children, they are using it at an increasingly younger age. 4 in 10 children report having encountered risks online such as cyber-bullying, being exposed to user-generated content promoting anorexia or self-harm or misuse of their personal data. While by 2015 it is expected that 90% of jobs across all sectors will require technology skills, only 25% of young people across the EU say they have "high" levels of basic Internet skills (such as using the Internet to make phone calls, create a web page, or use peer-to-peer file sharing).
Paying attention to the demands of children opens up a wide range of business opportunities. The global digital content market is predicted to reach € 113 billion this year. The mobile apps market is worth € 5 billion euros, and is expected to grow to €27 billion by 2015, mainly driven by games and the more than 5 billion mobile-equipped devices worldwide. With the wide proliferation of tablets, smart phones and laptops which children use heavily, the potential market for interactive, creative and educational online content for both young children and teenagers is substantial.
The measures outlined in the strategy build on ongoing EU actions in this field. For example, the easy-to-use mechanisms for children, parents and teachers to report harmful content and conduct online will complement the 116 missing children hotlines (see IP/07/188
) and the European Cybercrime Centre's future network of national cybercrime alert platforms(see IP/12/317
A Coalition to make a better internet for children was set up in December 2011, with a work plan developed for the year ahead (IP/11/1485
). The first review of the work of the Coalition will take place this summer. In February 2011, the Commission presented an EU agenda for reinforcing the rights of the child by putting the principles of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice (IP/11/156
). It includes a series of concrete actions where the EU can provide added value to policies for children's well-being and safety, including promoting child-friendly justice, better informing children about their rights, and making the internet safer for kids.
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