Classifying and responding to online risk to children

Good practice guide

February 2023

Classifying and responding to online risk to children

This Good practice guide is created in the context of the Better Internet for Kids Phase 4 project undertaken by European Schoolnet on behalf of the European Commission. 

The guide sets out good practices by which professionals can respond constructively to the range of online risks of harm encountered by children in Europe. Its aim is to increase awareness of the risks and encourage the use of available tools and services to mitigate and remedy the resulting harms.

Responding to policy and public concern regarding current and emerging online risks of harm to children in Europe, and grounded in research and practitioner expertise, the guide examines how online risks are classified, and the steps that children, caregivers, educators and Safer Internet Centres (SICs) can take to mitigate the resulting harms. This is illustrated by real-life case studies provided by SICs on contacts they have received and positive support they offered.

A thorough consideration of children’s digital engagement requires attention to both online opportunities and risks, as part of a holistic approach to children’s rights in relation to the digital environment. To complement existing work on online opportunities – for example, the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) 2020 good practice guide for positive online content for children – and to harness professional knowledge to the serious societal need to strengthen child protection, this good practice guide focuses on online risk.

It is paramount that society’s understanding of online risk is based on reliable research conducted with and in relation to children. Rather than imposing a vision grounded in adult assumptions, popular anxieties or media headlines, this good practice guide is informed by children’s views, upto-date empirical research by EU Kids Online and others, and the experiences of the many practitioners who respond to child online risk and safety problems through the Safer Internet Centre’s Insafe Helpline assessment platform and case repository.

The wider context for this guide is the European Commission’s new strategy (BIK+), adopted in 2022, to protect children from harmful and illegal online content and conduct, and promote their active participation in a digital world. By improving age-appropriate digital services, among other measures, the BIK+ initiative aims to empower children to make responsible choices and express themselves safely in the online environment.

Client: European Schoolnet

Authors: Mariya Stoilova, Miriam Rahali & Sonia Livingstone

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