With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for children going online.
Most children love using the internet, and do so on a regular basis, accessing it from an increasing amount of places and devices, not always under the supervision of an adult. The internet can offer them many opportunities to learn and have fun, but it can also be a source of threats, especially as children often have little or no perception of online risks, for instance from exposure to harmful content (such as promotion of suicide, bulimia or anorexia) or being contacted by cyberbullies, extremists, fraudsters or paedophiles.
Since 1999, the EU has put more than €170 million into programmes to make the internet safer for children. A key result is the European network of internet safety centres, present in all countries, where adults and children can report illegal online content anonymously via a hotline, receive support and build awareness on safety. Europol’s cybercrime centre, also funded by the EU, brings together key actors and experts to fight crimes such as the sexual exploitation of children. These efforts are all the more necessary as the internet has brought about an increase in child sexual abuse and different forms of coercion.
The EU also supports actions to empower children and educators to become critical users of technology and to develop proactive, self-protecting behaviour. For instance, it supports the annual internet safety day and the Safer Internet Forum.
The EU has also created a stronger legal framework to combat websites with child pornography and to protect children’s personal data, two key steps towards increased safety and prevention of abuse.