The European Union is committing to spending €55m to make the internet safer for children between 2009 and 2013. The new Safer Internet Programme builds on the Safer Internet plus programme, which covered the period 2005-2008, and aims to protect children when they’re using websites for social networking, blogging and instant messaging.
A European Commission report shows eight out of 10 Irish children use the internet – which is above the EU average of 75pc – and more than half of Irish parents are worried their child could become a victim of online grooming (where an adult befriends a child with the intention of committing sexual abuse).
The new Safer Internet Programme will undertake a number of measures to fight this, as well as online bullying, by making software and mobile technologies more sophisticated and secure.
Nearly half of the budget will go towards raising public awareness on precautions to take when using the internet. The rest is divided up between providing a network of contact points for reporting illegal and harmful content; promoting a safer online environment; and establishing a knowledge base on new trends in the use of online technologies and their consequences for children’s lives.
“Children today dive into the world of internet and mobile technologies very early, and often become fully fledged, technology-savvy, web-surfing teenagers,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.
“Because these technologies help them study and give them exciting new ways to socialise with others, they’re often faster to use them than their parents.
“We need to make sure that whenever they use online or mobile services, they can recognise potential risks and deal with them.”
By Sorcha Corcoran