On 2 May the European Commission adopted the Communication for a “Strategy for a Better Internet for Children”, which aims to:
- Give children the digital skills and tools they need to fully and safely benefit from the digital world.
- Unlock the potential of the market for interactive, creative and educational content online.
The strategy brings together the European Commission and Member States with mobile phone operators, handset manufacturers and providers of social networking services to deliver concrete solutions for a better internet for children. Although regulation remains an option, the European Commission has preferred to avoid this in favor of more adaptable, self-regulatory tools, as well as education and empowerment.
Why has the Commission decided to set out a plan on better internet for children now?
The Commission has identified new opportunities for children and for business development as well as current gaps and problems that need to be solved. These findings have led the Commission to launch a strategy for a better internet for children. With regards to new opportunities for children, the Commission believes that “the internet and ICT provide children with a wide range of opportunities to play, learn, innovate and be creative, to communicate and express themselves, to collaborate and engage in society, to be more aware of the world around them, and to develop essential skills, and exercise their rights.” In relation to business development, the Commission states in its communication that due to the “wide proliferation of tablets, smart phones and laptops that children heavily use, the potential market for interactive creative and educational online content for both young children and teenagers is substantial.”
Regarding the current gaps and problems which urgently need to be resolved, the Commission has identified the following:
- Market fragmentation and lack of a same degree of empowerment and protection for children when they are online.
- Failure of the market to deliver protection measures and quality content across
- Risks in services and content
- Serious digital skills deficit amongst Europe’s children, despite the popular view that they are “digital natives”.
In addition, the series of policies that have been developed over the years at the European level to support children have often been specific and have not been combined in a coherent framework. The Commission acknowledges that “EU policies so far have not sufficiently recognized that children constitute a specific target audience for the Internet, requiring a new eco-system to support its needs.”
Therefore, and in order to overcome these hurdles, the Commission has outlined a range of measures to be implemented by the Industry, the Member States and the Commission itself in a joint effort. These measures are centered 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
- To create a safe environment for children where parents and children are given the necessary tools 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.
What is Telefónica doing for a safer Internet and better Internet content for children and teenagers?
Telefónica’s strategy for promoting the proper use of ICT by children and adolescents is based on four pillars:
- Products and services
- Strategic alliances
This initiative launched by the European Commission reinforces Telefónica’s stance involving the protection of minors on-line and is in line with the activities and projects that Telefónica has been developing thus far. So Telefónica is actively participating in the CEO Coaltion to make the Internet a better place for kids and supporting the awareness raising activities that the Commission is planning to carry out such as, for example, the inclusion of courses on new technologies as part of classroom educational activities.
Post written in collaboration with María José Cantarino de Frías, Corporate Responsibility Manager of Telefónica, S.A.