Each November, FOSI’s annual conference in Washington DC brings together industry, educators and policy makers from around the world to debate the new issues and developments in internet safety. It’s a unique event with a high level of support from the many industry bodies that support FOSI. This year, in a new venue in the heart of the US capital and with some 400 delegates attending, it offered a stimulating environment to reflect on the year’s most important themes. The shift to mobile and privacy concerns featured as major topics of discussion across the two days.
An opening panel on research featured a contribution by Brian O'Neill (EU Kids Online) on the initial findings from Net Children Go Mobile. Mobile media use was also reflected in Pew Internet’s research on teens and privacy and in new research from Australia. Teenage privacy and identity theft similarly featured in new research commissioned by FOSI, while danah boyd’s keynote presentation (It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) brought out rich ethnographic detail on a complex emerging environment for youth identity in conditions of high surveillance. Some of the best sessions were to be found in the break out panels on topics such as the internet of things, COPPA, privacy design for mobile phones, global approaches to privacy, and creating trust in virtual worlds. Here, candid, open discussion by leading industry developers and policy analysts provided a valuable glimpse into current and emerging policy debates. FOSI has made determined effort to be global in its reach with recent events in Dublin, Melbourne, London and next year in Paris. Yet, it is the US location and context for its annual conference that makes it such a worthwhile event and gives participants – particularly those abroad - a unique insight into US thinking on internet safety.
Safer Internet Forum Report
By Professor Sonia Livingstone (LSE)
EU Kids Online made a good showing at the Safer Internet Forum held in Brussels, 16-18 October 2013. The conference was attended by some 400 policy makers, industry representatives, children’s organisations and other stakeholders, including young people and parents from across the EU.
The conference was opened by Robert Madelin, Director General, DG Connect, who called for a positive vision of the internet and how it can contribute to well-being in society. He focused attention on some pressing issues – future funding for the programme, the challenge of age ratings for online content, and getting the balance right between parental controls and societal filtering and blocking. Pat Manson, Head of Unit [check/insert her proper title] expressed concern about the absence of friendly oversight online to match that available offline (where adults often look out for kids in a benign and constructive way that neither intrudes nor restricts].
Young people had their own agenda of pressing issues, including how to behave online, managing their digital footprints, bullying and anonymous posting, and knowledge of rights online. Many other ideas and many great suggestions were made during the two day event. The one that stands out for me was the general enthusiasm for extending current initiatives in peer mentoring. Could there be a trained peer mentor in every year group in every school? Since young people prefer to tell a friend about an online problem, can some young people be supported so that there’s some good advice circulating among peers?
EU Kids Online’s panel was very well attended, generating some lively discussion around the theme of very young children’s internet use. This discussed: what can help make their use beneficial, what can be done about the risks, what do we know of the effects, and – most controversial with the audience – how young should internet users be? Sonia Livingstone chaired the session and Donell Holloway presented EU Kids Online’s latest report on this theme. Eric Krier (Luxembourg Awareness Centre) and Nadège Bastiaenen(Safer Internet Centre, Belgium) both inspired the audience with their practical ways forward .
Sonia Livingstone was a respondent on eNACSO’s panel on the commercialisation of childhood online. This was stimulated by Joel Bakan’s book, Childhood under siege (2012), and Sonia took the opportunity to report on Net Children Go Mobile’s finding that 61% of European 9-16 year olds have downloaded a free app to their mobile phone in the past month.
European Child Safety Online Conference
By Dr Bojana Lobe (University of Ljubljana)
The 2013 European Child Safety Online Conference was held in Brussels on 15th November. Many organisations and stakeholders were present, amongst them representatives of Microsoft, Facebook, Insafe Network, ECPAT, ITU, eNACSO, UKCCIS, One Global Kids, Missing Children Europe, and more as well as the representatives of European Commission and European Parliament. The conference was divided into three sessions: Moving Forward: Policy-making to ensure child safety in which also EU Kids Online presentation took place with the title Towards a better Internet for Children. The second session was titled Equipping children and parents with the digital literacy skills to help keep them safe, where amongst other items strategies concerning how to protect children and empower youth online were discussed. The last session covered global strategy to combat child abuse material and inappropriate content online.
The Internet Governance Forum
By Dr Gitte Stald (IT University, Copenhagen)
The eight Internet Governance Forum took place from October 22nd to October 25th in Nusa Dua, Bali. The main theme was Building Bridges – Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation to Growth and Sustainable Development. More than 2000 participants from 109 countries representing governances, industry, NGOs, academia spent 4 days debating how to create a better, more inclusive internet for all.
As always on IG Foras the child and youth perspective was well represented and presented. We were present in the various workshops and panels, through participation on the IGF Youth Panel, and through our presence at the conference at the booth shared by the two EU Safer Internet Projects EU Kids Online and Net Children Go Mobile and eNacso.
Issues regarding children’s and young peoples’ rights, risks and opportunities online increasingly were raised in many workshops and panels that were not specifically focused on children and youth perspectives. Especially the sessions on privacy, online participation, online rights and opportunities, online citizenship, and cyber security inspired comments and discussions about children and young people as active internet users in line with other users, potentially pointing towards future online realities. The 2013 IGF demonstrated a stronger interest than previous years in issues of change and new understandings of internet related questions. A number of workshops and meetings brought up questions about on-going, apparently never-ending issues as well as about new options and challenges. These were, for example, the workshops Empowering Global Youth through Digital Citizenship and Protection of most vulnerable children online and also the two meetings The 7th meeting of the Dynamic coalition on Child Online Safety and Youth Coalition on Internet Governance.
Two workshops in particular were relevant to and made use of EU Kids findings and recommendations. One was workshop Privacy and Innovation, organised and moderated by Gry Hasselbalch from the Danish Media Council and with participants from the IGF youth panel, research, civil society, and industry (Google and Microsoft). The main purpose was to discuss privacy as a key emerging issue in Internet Governance processes and to help shift the focus from privacy as being merely as related to threats and an area of risk and protection, to privacy as an area of opportunity and innovation. In particular the young participants on the panel put forward their experiences of ways in which young people approach and navigate their online private and public lives and challenge how privacy is currently conceptualized, debated and regulated. Gitte Stald from the Danish EU Kids Online project represented research on the panel and drew on EU Kids Online data in her opening remarks on children’s wish to be in control and to develop strategies to master online access and activities. The workshop drew a full room and inspired a lively debate between the audience and panel, just framing emerging, central issues for further studies and discussions.
The workshop A Better Internet with You(th)... Connecting the Dots, organised by Hans Martens and Janice Richardson from InSafe, addressed a full room. The main purpose of this workshop was to give young people the opportunity to participate - on an equal status - in on-going IGF debates on public policy issues relating to the internet. The workshop opened with a check on adults (i.e. the participants) opinions about what would make the internet a better place and then compare it to young peoples’ attitudes towards similar questions.
Internet Govenance 2013 was a good opportunity for inspiring debates and encounters and it seemed that the discussions were moving forwards. Child and youth related issues were on the agenda every day, directly in the workshops, or indirectly in discussions.
Transcriptions and webcasts from sessions plus session statistics and reports on sessions can be accessed online from the official IGF website.
What will the future bring for EU Kids Online?
By Dr. Leen d’Haenens (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
Representatives from eNASCO, INHOPE, Insafe and EU Kids Online met with Commissioner Kroes on November 8th in Brussels. The participants saw the meeting with Commissioner Kroes as an opportunity for all of us to learn more about her views on how EC policies in general, and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in particular, will/should contribute to a Better Internet for Children and Young People. Everyone had the opportunity to showcase some of their accomplishments so far under the Safer Internet Programme (SIP). The emphasis in the presentation was on one’s ‘uniqueness’ and one’s position in the ‘chain’: i.e. research provided the necessary evidence base for recommendations and actions to be followed and 'framed' in a given context and then directed towards different parties, e.g. children, parents, teachers, industry, third sector and policy-makers.
Everybody was ready to be forward-looking and to take into account Commissioner Kroes’ ideas and expectations. As a result, a Common Strategy Development Plan is to be drawn up by the partners in the coming weeks so that the Commissioner can take the discussion further and make the Plan visible to other Commissioners and to the European Parliament.
The bottom-line for EU Kids Online is that we now have to think ahead and come up with a rigorous and realistic strategy of research, positioning ourselves in the Common Strategy Development Plan. Great ideas and suggestions welcome.
A better internet for kids: the European Parliament reaffirms the Union’s commitment to guarantee online child safety
ITRE Committee of the European Parliament revised the guidelines of the Connecting Europe Facility Programme. eNACSO, EU Kids Online, INHOPE and INSAFE appreciate the work of the Committee and invite the Parliament, and the Council of the European Union, through the facilitation of the European Commission, to endorse the document.
Read the press release