EU ministers pledge to make internet safer for children

23 Apr 2004

At an informal meeting between EU telecoms ministers in Dundalk yesterday, EU ministers pledged to step up efforts to make the internet safer for children through the introduction of new filter technologies, safety programmes and an expansion of whistleblower hotlines.

According to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the ministers said they will work towards an overall approach to the new blueprint produced by the EU Commission, which plans a four year €50m safer internet programme called the Safer Internet Plus programme.

The new action plans comes as one survey reveals that almost half of all young people in Northern Europe have been approached to meet in person after initially making contact online. EU Safety, Awareness, Facts and Tools (SAFT) – a cross-European project that aims to promote safe use of the Internet among children and young people – found that 46pc of children in Northern Europe who chat on the internet say someone has used it to ask to meet them – and 14pc have actually met someone in this way. However, only 4pc of parents believe that their children have done so.

And a Eurobarometer survey has revealed that half of Europe’s parents do not think their children know what to do if a situation on the Internet makes them uncomfortable.

Communications minister Dermot Ahern TD, who chaired the informal meeting in Dundalk, said: “Broadband is bringing great benefits to the public at large and business in particular. But we as legislators must ensure while expanding applications arising from new technologies offers great opportunities it also has inherent dangers.

“The EU Safer Internet projects have already proved their worth. Last October it led to remarkable achievements, including the October 2003 break-up of a world-wide child-porn ring thanks to a tip from the Internet hotline association INHOPE.”

EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen said: “Safer Internet plus, a new €50m, 4-year programme to make the internet safer for children, will run from next year to 2008. It will build upon EU work under way to combat illegal and harmful internet content. It also encompasses new media, such as videos, and new issues such as spam.”

By John Kennedy