Belgium

Population

11,323,973

Population 0‑14

16.0%

Internet Users

85.0%

Facebook Users

5,900,000

Mobile Subscribers

13,099,998
* Statistics provided by CIA.gov, Internet World Stats and GSMA Intellligence

From 2007 - 2009, the government implemented an ICT in education initiative aimed at improving the technology available to pupils as well as teacher skills, and increasing the range of teaching materials available online. This strategy, called ‘Competences for the Knowledge Society’, gives comprehensive details about improvements which need to be made and the goals which the government wants to achieve. The cross-curricular integration of ICT in the curriculum aimed to aid innovation in education and eliminate inequality. Among other things, pupils learned how to deal with personal and confidential information and to reject bullying or harassment which may occur through the use of ICT.

In 2010, a European Schoolnet report was released describing Belgium’s ICT education policy and curriculum. The report noted improvements of ICT infrastructure and the goal of increasing creative and safe use of ICT in schools. The report described the goal of teaching pupils “safe, sensible, and appropriate” online behavior and communication methods, where safe internet use includes rules on the ways of ICT communication, for example, that the medium’s anonymity is not abused for the purposes of bullying.

To celebrate Safer Internet Day 2014, Child Focus launched a competition in primary schools where classes participated in a quiz to test their knowledge of internet safety and brainstormed creative tips for making a better Internet. The tips submitted by students were incorporated into a charter given to politicians in order to create political interest in the Internet safety message during an election year.

In 2015, the Flemish Education Minister launched a program where schools would be incentivized to teach ICT safety to earn a gold, silver, or bronze eSafety label to show their commitment to online safety education.

Belgian Police Force

The police force operates two main cybercrime units. The FCCU works at a national level to combat cybercrime and the RCCU works at a district level, operating under the jurisdiction of judicial managers. Both units work to detect and fight cyber-crime but the FCCU’s remit includes child pornography whereas the RCCU carries out data analysis and detection of lesser or less complex offenses.

Child Focus

A Belgium’s resource regarding child online victimization. Child Focus is part of the The European Centre for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, a private organization supports investigations into the disappearance, abduction or sexual exploitation of children and the prevention of and fight against these phenomena. Microsoft has been working with Child Focus since 2009, providing training for children and teachers in schools around Belgium on Internet safety through their employee volunteering program. It also has sources for reporting instances of online crime.

Click Safe

A campaign was launched at the end of 2002. It is aimed at children, adolescents, parents and teachers, and forms part of Child Focus, the country’s Safer Internet Centre.

Gezinsbond (“Family Alliance”)

An NGO that advocates for a more child-friendly and family-friendly society. It supports an online safety website aimed at parents and children.

GSMA Europe

This industry association represents the interests of European mobile network operators. The group engages in lobbying in areas such as children’s use of mobile phones, privacy, digital inclusion and reducing the digital gender gap. In 2008, the organization formed a mobile alliance against child sexual abuse content.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Europe

The ITU is is the UN agency for ICTs. Areas of focus in Europe include improving E-accessibility in Central and Eastern Europe, transitioning Europe to digital broadcasting, and sharing best practices for implementing e-applications.

Internet Governance Forum

The IGF was founded by the UN in 2006 to serve as a discussion platform for internet governance policy issues. It brings together various stakeholders to determine best practices for internet policy. Past areas of focus include cybersecurity, human rights, inclusivity and openness.

Internet Society Belgium

The Belgian chapter of the Internet Society. In addition to participating in conferences dealing with the safety of children on the Internet, ISOC is working to protect consumers by acting as an Internet Ombudsman in Belgium to resolve issues and disputes.

INTERPOL

INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 190 member countries. Its mission is to enable police forces to collaborate globally to fight crime in the Internet age. Three areas of focus are crimes against children (with a focus on internet crimes and travelling sex offenders), cybercrime and human trafficking.

KlasCement

A website for and by teachers to submit and download free teaching materials: websites, documents, software, and other resources. The site is funded by the Ministry of Education and Training and designed and maintained by teachers and teacher training students.

Ministry of Education and Training

Ministry that whose website offers information regarding primary, secondary and special education, as well as details on higher education and lifelong learning opportunities.

A Survey on the Transposition of Directive 2011/93/EU on Combating Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography (2016)

Together Against Sexual Exploitation of Children

The study examines how seven key provisions of Directive 2011/93/EU on the fight against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography have been adopted by the 27 European Union (EU) Member States bound by the Directive.

How parents of young children manage digital devices at home: the role of income, education and parental style (2015)

Livingstone, Sonia, Mascheroni, Giovanna, Dreier, Michael, Chaudron, Stephane, Lagae, Kaat

The report compares strategies of parental mediation on the internet according to levels of parental education and household income. The aim was to inform policy-makers and practitioners on how to approach parental guidance and awareness raising.

The impact of internet and new media on the occurrence of violence against children in Europe and Cyprus (2015)

Rosella Sala

This document demonstrate that countries lack of expertise on child sexual exploitation and struggle combating this issue by their own. It suggests to establish an international legal framework to prosecute offenders and protect children.

Young Children (0-8) and Digital Technology: A Qualitative Exploratory Study Across Seven Countries (2015)

S. Chaudron

This report presents a pilot qualitative study designed and implemented in collaboration with a selected group of academic partners in different European countries that aims at pioneering in Europe the exploration of children younger than 8 years old and their families` experiences with new technologies.

Global Research Project: A Global Landscape of Hotlines Combating Child Sexual Abuse Material on the Internet and an Assessment of Shared Challenges (2015)

Melissa Stroebe, Stacy Jeleniewski, PhD

This report examines hotlines combating Internet-facilitated Child Sexual Abuse Material.

Combatting Child Sexual Abuse (2015)

Petra Jeney

The study provides an overview of existing legislation at European Union, Member State and the international level related to online child sexual abuse, as well as the role of law enforcement agencies in combatting child sexual abuse online and other governmental and private sector initiatives.

Microsoft Computing Safety Index (2014)

Microsoft

This annual survey of more than 10,000 adults in 20 countries around the world creates the data for the MCSI, which measures the actions that consumers take to help keep themselves and their families safe online.

Net Children Go Mobile Final Report (2014)

Giovanna Mascheroni, Andrea Cuman

Final report on implementation of Net Children Go Mobile project.

Net Children Go Mobile: Final Report (2014)

G. Mascheroni, A. Cuman

The paper reports the findings of research in nine countries on children's use of technology, risky behaviors and parental mediation.

European Children and Their Carers’ Understanding of Use, Risks and Safety Issues Relating to Convergent Mobile Media (2014)

L. Haddon, J. Vincent

This study focuses on children’s experience of mobile media and the mobile internet, with an emphasis on smartphones and tablets, based on a qualitative study of children, their parents, teachers and others working with young people in nine European countries.

The Meaning of Online Problematic Situations for Children: Results of Qualitative Cross-Cultural Investigation in Nine European Countries (2014)

D. Smahel, M.F. Wright

This research, based on interviews, focused on the following: what children perceive as being potentially negative or problematic while using the internet, what risks children are aware of when using the internet, what consequences online negative experiences might have, how children react to negative experiences, what children do to avoid or prevent these problematic experiences, and why children perceive certain situations as negative.

Children’s Online Risks and Opportunities: Comparative Findings from EU Kids Online and Net Children Go Mobile (2014)

S. Livingstone, G. Mascheroni, K. Ólafsson, L. Haddon

This study focuses on European children's internet habits, their exposure to risks and parental mediation strategies.

Policy Influences and Country Clusters: A Comparative Analysis of Internet Safety Policy Implementation (2014)

B. O'Neill

The report examines the policy context of internet safety and looks at how countries within each cluster approach implementation.

Children's Use of Online Technologies in Europe (2014)

K. Ólafsson, S. Livingstone, L. Haddon

This report reviews recent research on children’s use of internet and mobile technologies identified by the EU Kids Online network.

Final recommendations for policy (2014)

O’Neill, B., Staksrud, E

Combining all the EU Kids Online policy guidance into one resource, this report provides more than 30 proposed actions for making the Internet safer for children.

Country Classification: Opportunities, Risks, Harm and Parental Mediation (2013)

Helsper, E. J., Kalmus, V., Hasebrink, U., Sagvari, B. and De Haan, J. with members of the EU Kids Online network

With data from 25 of the European countries surveyed in EU Kids Online, the report examines the range and type of online opportunities, risks and harm which children from each country experience, as well as looking at ways in which parents control or mediate their children’s Internet use.

Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI). (2013)

Microsoft

This annual survey of more than 10,000 adults in 20 countries around the world creates the data for the MCSI, which measures the actions that consumers take to help keep themselves and their families safe online.

Media Literacy in Europe: 12 Good Practices that will Inspire You (2013)

Evens Foundation

This document explores 12 cases across Europe of media literacy.

Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) (2013)

Microsoft

The survey, Computing Safety Index, measures the steps people report taking to protect their computers, mobile phones, and info online in the categories of foundational, technical and behavioral.

Zero to Eight - Young Children and Their Internet Use (2013)

Holloway, D., Green, L., and Livingstone, S. with members of the EU Kids Online network,

This report reviews a number of other studies and provides recommendations as to how younger children can be protected from online risks.

Risks and safety on the internet: Comparing Brazilian and European children (2013)

Barbosa, A., O’Neill, B., Ponte, C., Simões, J.A., Jereissati, T.,

This study compares the results of the survey of Brazilian children and their parents/guardians, carried out by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee. Using the same methodology as the EU Kids Online research, the results from Brazil are compared with those from Europe.

In their own words: what bothers children online? (2013)

Livingstone S., Kirwil, L., Ponte C. and Staksrud E., with the EU Kids Online network

The results of a survey of nearly 10,000 children in 25 countries across Europe, this report details what children say upsets them and their friends online

Online Profile and Reputations Study (2012)

Microsoft and Edelman Berland

Commissioned to coincide with Privacy Day 2012, the study measured the respones of nearly 3,000 children and adults on their online activities.

Excessive Internet Use by European Children (2012)

D. Smahel, E. Helsper, L. Green, V. Kalmus, L. Blinka, K. Ólafsson

This report presents new findings and further analysis of the EU Kids Online 25-country survey regarding excessive use of the internet by children.

EU Kids Online: National perspectives. (2012)

Leslie Haddon, Sonia Livingstone and the EU Kids Online network

This report summarizes the Internet experiences of children in the 33 participating EU Kids Online countries and includes eight countries which have not appeared in previous reports

EU Kids Online: Excessive Internet Use among European Children (2012)

Smahel, D, Helsper, E, Green, L, Kalmus, V, Blinka, L, Ólafsson, K,

This report uses the data from the EU Kids Online study to examine excessive use of the Internet by children in the 25 participating countries.

This article aims to shed light on some of the critical legal questions faced by school administrators by reviewing several legislative actions and court cases involving problematic offline and online student speech or expressions. (2012)

Microsoft and Edelman Berland

Commissioned to coincide with Privacy Day 2012, the study measured the respones of nearly 3,000 children and adults on their online activities.

EU Kids Online: National perspectives (2012)

Haddon, L., Livingstone, S., EU Kids Online Network

This report summarizes the Internet experiences of children in the 33 participating EU Kids Online countries and includes eight countries which have not appeared in previous reports.

Report on risks faced by children online and policies to protect them (2012)

Kristina Irion

The report provides key findings and policy recommendations to keep children safe online as a follow up to the 2008 Seoul Ministerial Declaration on the Future of the Internet Economy.

Risks and safety on the internet: The perspective of European children. Full Findings (2011)

Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Görzig, A., Ólafsson, K

Building on the original study, EU Kids Online I, this second piece of research includes the findings from research which took place in 25 countries. Children in the 9 – 16 age group were surveyed on their experiences of online use, risk and safety

Education on Online Safety in Schools in Europe (2009)

Eurydice

The study covers 30 European countries and provides information on whether online safety is taught and how it is taught in schools within the participating countries.

Jeunes et Nouvelles Technologies (2009)

Centre de Recherché et d’Information des Organisations de Consommateurs - Center for Consumer Group Information and Research (CRIOC)

The study evaluated youth use of ICT, including cell phones, and measured the impact on risk. It surveyed over 2,300 students.

EU Kids Online: Final report (2009)

Livingstone, S., Haddon, L.

One of the foremost pieces of research into the online habits of children in the European Union is the EU Kids Online research, funded by the European Commission Safer Internet Plus Programme between 2006 and 2009.

Towards a safer use of the Internet for children in the EU - a parents' perspective (2008)

Eurobarometer

The study covers 27 EU Member States and provides parental responses to a range of questions relating to Internet safety and their perception of risk.

U.S. /European Summit on Missing & Exploited Children (2005)

International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

Participants from different governments, law enforcement, and nongovernmental organizations participated in the U.S. /European Summit on Missing & Exploited Children. They discussed successes and shortcomings of current efforts to address the global problem of missing and exploited children, and adopted a comprehensive Action Plan.

This section contains details of the country’s laws as they relate to sexual offenses, children and the use of the Internet in the commission of criminal activity. Where possible, sentence details have been given, including whether an increased custodial penalty is imposed where the victim is a child.

Belgium has ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (September 2012).

In 1995 Belgian courts gained ‘universal jurisdiction’ over offenses related to child pornography, child prostitution and human trafficking. This means that it does not matter where in the world the offense took place, who the offender was or who the victim was: they can be tried and convicted in a Belgian court of law. International law recognizes that some crimes, such as those previously mentioned, are of universal concern and that states have the right to (or are required to, in some cases) exercise universal jurisdiction. Belgium allows trials in absentia, meaning defendants need not be present at the trial to be convicted.

  • Belgian Penal Code Section 388, Title X. Defines a minor as one who is not yet eighteen years of age. The age of consent is deemed to be sixteen years of age.
  • Belgian Penal Code Section 372. Indecent assault committed without violence or threats. Defines the offense as including (among other criteria) sexual acts with a minor under the age of sixteen. The penalty for this offense is ten to fifteen years’ hard labor.
  • Belgian Penal Code Section 373. Indecent assault committed with violence or threats. Defines the offense and states that if a minor under the age of sixteen is the victim, the term of imprisonment must be ten to fifteen years.
  • Belgian Penal Code Section 375. Defines rape and lays down penalties specifically for offenses involving victims who are minors. If the victim is aged over sixteen the penalty is ten to fifteen years’ imprisonment. The penalty for raping a victim aged between fourteen and sixteen years of age is fifteen to twenty years’ hard labor. If the victim is a child aged under ten years old, or the victim dies, the penalty is hard labor for life. The term of imprisonment is increased if the perpetrator is a relative of the victim, or is someone in a position of authority such as a teacher or doctor.
  • Belgian Penal Code Section 382. Details the offenses by section which, when the victim is a minor, may lead to the offender being barred from the following activities for a period of one to twenty years: teaching or acting in any capacity with minors; acting as a volunteer, staff member, board member or part of management of a company or organization that deals with minors and bars them from acting in any capacity that puts the offender in a position of trust in relation to minors.
  • Belgian Penal Code Section 383. Child Pornography. Defines the offense of distributing child pornography and includes the term ‘broadcast’ to the list of actions covered by the section. This is intended to include the Internet as a mechanism for the dissemination of child pornography. The penalty is five to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500 to 10,000 Belgian Francs (although Belgium has been using the Euro since 2002 the laws have not been updated). The penalty for possession of child pornography ranges from one month to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of F100,000.

2006 - Belgium ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography.

2007 - Belgium agreed to the 2007 European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children, which contained recommendations designed to ensure that teenagers and children can safely access content on their mobile phones. Following the 2007 implementation, Belgium’s mobile operators signed an undertaking to develop the initiatives set out in the framework, which included the ability to bar or block adult content on parental request and to undertake safety awareness-raising exercises with their customers. A 2010 report was published to review Belgium’s implementation of the Framework.

2010 - Microsoft Belux received the European Union Employee Volunteering Award for Belgium for their efforts to protect children online through their Child Focus project.

2015 - Belgium held its 4th annual Internet Security Conference organised by the country’s cyber emergency team CERT.be and the Cyber Security Coalition. Although child exploitation is not the focus of such conferences, programming included topics such as security challenges faced in the era of the Internet of Things and how to change online behavior to avoid breaches of personal data security.

2016 - The Flemish government committed to joint actions between the Ministries of Welfare, Health and Family, Education, Youth and Sports to create a “vigorous, sustainable, confrontational but non-punitive” approach to bullying and online abuse. Specifically, the announcement noted the need to address more recent phenomena, including cyberbullying and online grooming for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Efforts will include conducting research, expanding resources, and creating a working group of government officials and experts in the field that will monitor and assess research and policy efforts.

Also in 2016, the Federal Police partnered with the technology provider VOO and Louise Bernard Altenhoven, the father of a girl who committed suicide after she was cyberbullied and cyberstalked, to take action against online victimization and harassment. The action called #No hate network aims to raise awareness for the prevalence of cyberstalking, harassment, and other forms of online victimization that affect children. The Belgian Police website is linked on the project webpage.