In February of 2012, Neelie Kroes, the Digital Agenda Commissioner for the European Union, called for every Member State to appoint a Digital Champion, the day after the European Commission’s President, Jose Manuel Barroso had sent a written request to them. The request recognizes the importance of today’s citizens having the skills to navigate the digital world and the need to fulfill digital literacy requirements in the workplace.
Commissioner Kroes wrote in her blog about the challenges of ensuring that the demand is met and how efforts will need to be made in various areas from education to the need for training. This is where the digital champions would come in: dynamic and high-profile individuals whose job it would be to get everyone in their country online and to improve digital skills. The champions would be independent from governments but would work with them to achieve this goal. She referenced efforts already underway in the United Kingdom where Martha Lane-Fox and the Race Online 2012 campaign have been working to get millions of Britons connected by the end of this year. Commisioner Kroes pointed out that this model could easily be adapted to fit the needs of different Member States.
Every year during the month of February, many countries across the world celebrate Safer Internet Day, raising awareness of the need for families to protect themselves online. The theme of this year’s event (to be held on February 7) is “Connecting generations and educating each other”, encouraging users of all ages to “discover the digital world together … safely!”1
The team behind Safer Internet Day (SID) have released a video , to introduce the concept to those who are unfamiliar with it. From its inception as a purely European activity, events are now celebrated in 74 countries across the globe.
Initiatives such as awareness-raising sessions in schools are common, but the GRID Editorial Team have found a few highlights to share as to how different countries will be marking the day.
In Austria, youth centers will be offering free Facebook safety checks from February 7th to 10th where young people visiting them can have their privacy settings checked by trained staff.2 This raises awareness of issues such as who can view their personal data and status updates, how easy it is to find photos of them and whether they are really sharing only the information they intend.
In Lebanon, the Safer Internet Day video will be converted to Arabic and run as advertisements to raise awareness of Internet safety issues on television, whilst a campaign of interviews will see the message spread further.3 World Vision Lebanon are organizing a large event which will take place on February 4th, aimed at parents and children. In conjunction with partners from government departments and industry, parents will be able to attend educational workshops whilst children will learn about the need for safety and security through games and activities.
Palestine’s SID Committee has also organized a range of events.4 The country’s largest Internet Service Provider, Hadara, is printing awareness-raising messages on its February bills. Children will be targeted through an animated video which will run on TV and satellite channels, whilst parents and other adults will be reached by radio messages.
These are just a few examples of the many ways in which families across the world will be reached by messages relating to Safer Internet Day. One of GRID’s many strengths is the way in which it highlights not just the important dates in the online safety world, such as SID and Data Privacy Day, but also smaller, local efforts to bridge the digital and generational divides and to bring technology into communities. Here are a few examples you might have missed.
In the Dominican Republic, the First Lady, Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, supports the Community Technology Centers (CTC) program. The program takes technology to the least-developed parts of the country and acts as an access point for whole communities.5 In addition to receiving ICT training, individuals can undertake online courses in a variety of fields, such as business administration and family wellbeing.6 The initiative promotes development in the communities in which the CTCs operate, providing quality education to the poor.
The ICT Bus Project is an initiative implemented by the Rwanda Development Board through the eRwanda Project.7 Launched in 2009, its main objective is to help bridge the digital divide affecting the rural populations of the country. With the help of this mobile computer lab, training can be provided to rural people including school children and teachers, and the use of ICT as a tool for innovation, competitiveness, productivity and efficiency is encouraged, thus benefitting students, youth groups, traders, farmers and other rurally-based citizens.8
In Bangladesh, the remotest of villages can only be accessed by boat, which is where the mobile operator Grameenphone’s Information Boat plays a valuable role in educating communities.9 The boats provide education on the value of the Internet, computer access, training and allow residents to access education materials for their children, download music and other activities most of us take for granted.
As always, the GRID team will continue to research and report on new initiatives, highlighting the ways in which communities can becoming increasingly connected through the safe use of technology.
On November 9 and 10, FOSI held its fifth annual conference at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington DC. With the theme of ‘Evaluate. Innovate. Collaborate. Strategies for Safe and Healthy Online Use’, the 2011 conference was attended by over 450 people from thirteen different countries.
Highlights of the conference included the launch of a joint research project which was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, in partnership with FOSI and supported by Cable in the Classroom. Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites explores the issues faced by teenagers, as well as where they turn for advice on safe and responsible Internet use.
Another highlight was the release of FOSI’s State of Online Safety report. The report includes comprehensive regional profiles, maps and best practice case studies and provides a global overview of risks and insights into topics like digital citizenship. Dave Miles, FOSI’s Director Europe, Middle East and Africa, spoke to the conference about the report and highlighted some of the findings.
At the end of the first day, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Dra. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández (one of the first participants in FOSI’s First Ladies Initiative for Online Safety) was presented with a Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Further information on the conference can be found on FOSI’s website and on its YouTube channel.
A new EU Directive aimed at combating the sexual abuse of children, their sexual exploitation and child pornography has been adopted. The directive will see high penalties introduced for a range of offenses across European Member States. Individual Member States will be required to introduce or amend national laws to ensure compliance with the directive within two years. The full text of the directive is available here: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/pe00/pe00051.en11.pdf
John Carr, one of the UK’s leading experts on matters relating to online safety and Internet security, has written in detail about what the directive means for Member States on his blog. He calls the directive a “landmark piece of legislation” and examines elements such as Article 21 (mandatory deletion at source) and the approach taken to the blocking of content.
One aspect of the directive which is notable is that Member States will have to ensure that the online grooming of children is included in their national laws. In the event that the grooming leads to the production of child pornography or results in abuse, an additional year’s imprisonment must be imposed over and above any penalties already in place for offenses committed without the online element.
Who Needs Parental Controls? FOSI releases a new survey
A survey released today by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) shows that 87% of parents are aware of parental controls and more than half of parents (53%) say they have used parental controls for their children's Internet use. The nationwide telephone survey polled 702 parents of children ages 8 - 17 who access the Internet and was conducted by Hart Research Associates, an independent research company.
Key survey findings include:
Parents are aware: 87% of parents report awareness of at least one of the five types of parental controls tested in the survey: a tool or program offered by a software company, Internet service provider, a wireless company, a search engine, or video game. 53% of parents report using some type of parental control for Internet use. The use of parental controls is highest among parents with post-graduate education, parents who use social media and those under the age of 40.
Parents are concerned: Although not all use parental controls, most parents express concern about various online activities. The top concern (70%) is that children are receiving sexually explicit information or pictures.
Parents are getting involved: Among parents who have not used parental controls, the most common reason given for not using them (60%) is that parents believe they are not necessary because they have their own rules and limits in place regarding Internet use. However, nearly all parents (93%) say they have set rules or limits to monitor their children's online usage. These rules include requiring children to only use the computer in a certain area of the house (79%), limiting the amount of time a child can spend online (75%), setting rules for the times of day a child can be online (74%), and establishing time limits for use of a child's cell phone (59%).
Parents are looking to the future: Recognizing that computers are no longer the only way children access the Internet, 32% of parents whose children access the Internet using a smartphone feel very knowledgeable about protecting children's safety and privacy on smartphones, and another 23% feel fairly knowledgeable. Meanwhile, 35% of parents whose children access the Internet on a gaming console feel very knowledgeable about protecting children's safety and privacy on gaming consoles, and another 27% feel fairly knowledgeable.
The survey has been made possible with the support of AT&T, Google, Microsoft and Verizon. To read the report in full, go to www.fosi.org/research.html