Safer Internet Forum 2015 - October 2015
the 28th and 29th of October, INSAFE, INHOPE and the EU Commissionheld
the 2015 edition of the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg. The topic
ofthe conference was to debate how to break down barriers to help make
theinternet a better and more trusted place for young people across
During the forum, four main themes that emerged during the debate were:
- Defining and securing children’s rights in the digital world.
- Dealing with problematic youth-produced user-content.
- Promoting user control and community participation.
- Understanding the impact of new concepts of connectivity.
Martin Schmalzried chaired the session that tackled user control
andcommunity participation, with panelists Brittany Smith (Google),
Richard Steppe(University of Leuven) and Ľuboš (Youth representative).
Many key points were touched upon during this session.
- More transparency about how user data is processed, accessed and
aboutprivacy settings. This can translate into clearer terms of service,
centralizedand easy to use privacy settings, log files that enable
users to know exactlyhow, when and for what purpose their data was
- Securing data portability in order to
increase competition acrossonline platforms. This means enabling the
user to retrieve his/her data in areadable and usable format and upload
it to another online service. Google’s"take out” feature is a good
example of this.
- User control over privacy which should not
be limited to privacyvis-à-vis other users, but also vis-à-vis the
service itself. The issue of"critical mass” is important: deciding
whether companies should abide by muchstronger privacy regulation and
rules once they have reached a "critical mass”of users. Good practices
in user control over privacy include the recentAndroid 6.0 update where
users can disable app access to their contacts, GPSand other features.
- The underlying business model for services should ideally propose
a"paid for” option, keeping in mind that there are certain risks
associated withthis: the danger of a "new” digital divide between the
"well off” who can enjoybetter; advertising free services and the rest
of the users, the danger ofkilling the "free with advertising” model
altogether should all users withfinancial resources opt for the "paid
for” option; and finally, it is up tocompanies to decide which business
model they wish to adopt.
- User participation in moderation
is a tricky issue. Most services relyon "flags” and professional
moderation, however, the response time and feedbackcontinue to be a
problem. While community based moderation could potentiallysolve the
problem of response time and feedback, it also carries some risks:user
inflicted punishments go against the rule of law as users need to
betreated equally and expect similar outcomes for infringing the terms
of use.Should such a system be put in place, it needs to be well
designed to addressthese shortcomings.
For more information about the Safer Internet Forum 2015, please visit the official website here
You can find the presentations, a short report and graphic recordings from the event here
Net Children 2020 - European Expert Conference in Berlin on MediaEducation and Child Protection - April 2015
the 17th and 18th of April, the German FederalMinistry for Family
Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, in cooperationwith the Hans
Bredow Institute and KlickSafe organized a European ExpertConference in
Berlin on Media Education and Child Protection.
aim of the conference was to develop a "NetChildren 2020-Growing up
with Media” roadmap proposing specific future actionsto foster media
education and the protection of children and youths at thenational and
European levels. The participants were called upon to play anactive part
in drafting this roadmap and to contribute their individual skillsand
standpoints. COFACE was representedby Martin Schmalzried who was a
rapporteur on the workshop dealing withChildren as Media Users in Need
of Protection – Avoiding Risk, Reducing Harm(Protection).
The world café sessions during the workshop helpedidentify a variety of key recommendations and challenges among which:
Adapting child protection initiatives to both thechild's age and
personal development.For very young children, for instance, high quality
white lists withsafe and positive content, can be of great benefit to
enable them to discoverthe internet, use a search engine, without taking
- Increasing user
participation and control over theircontent. As the web 2.0 continues
togrow, moderation by professionals encounters more and more problems to
keep upwith the mass of data posted each second.Online communities such
as League of Legends or Wikipedia have beensuccessfully relied on users
to both moderate content and resolve cases ofharassment or bullying.
Advertising and children seen as consumers. Children are increasingly
seen not"just" as children, but as consumers with a real purchasing
power.Measures to protect young children from exposure to advertising
andcommercially driven content need to be put in place.
Finding the right balance between protection and thenecessity to
develop resilience. A balance needs to be found betweenoverprotection
which hampers the development of resilience and a total lack
ofprotection which may negatively affect the healthy development of a
child. This is linked to the first issue related toage-appropriate
- Determining the "real"
value of data andrelated consumer rights. While many services claim to
be "free" forusers, they exploit personal data as their business model.
With data becoming the "new" currency,policy makers need to examine its
value in monetary terms and define the rightsthat users have.
- Informing users in a realistic way about theservices they use or the content they download.
studies have shown that users don't take time toreal terms and
agreements, especially not children. Therefore, we need to finda better
way to communicate essential information to users without falling
intothe "tick box" default agreement which only serves to transfer
anyliability on to the user. A concreteexample could be the price
transparency in a "free to play" gamewhere a user has no idea how much
he/she will have to pay on average to"finish" the game.
conference was a first step in defining the futurestrategy of the
German Federal Government on the issues around child safetyonline and a
better internet for children and COFACE will closely follow
andcontribute to the development of the roadmap.
For more information, visit the official website ofthe conference here
Safer Internet Forum 2014
Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is a key annualinternational conference in
Europe where policy-makers, researchers, lawenforcement bodies, youth,
parents and carers, teachers, NGOs, industry representatives,experts and
other relevant actors come together to discuss the latest trends,risks
and solutions related to child online safety. It is organised and
fundedby the European Commission under the Safer Internet Programme as
part of theEuropean Strategy for a Better Internet for Children.
The theme of the 11thedition of the Safer Internet Forum (SIF) was ‘Growing Up Digitally’.More
than 260 stakeholders in the field of child online safety
fromapproximately 40 countries across the globe attended the event to
discuss thelatest trends, risks and solutions related to child online
safety. Participantsincluded youth ambassadors, academics, industry,
teachers, NGOs, the EuropeanCommission and Ministry representatives.
The forum examined access to high qualityand safe content on the
Internet for children of all ages. Several worksessions were organised
on themes such as Internet access for very youngchildren, apps, young
people's online creativity and expression. Youthrepresentatives also
exchanged their point of view on how the Internet shoulddevelop, as well
as new technologies for children and how these can influencetheir lives
and behaviour. Martin Schmalzried, Policy officer at COFACE, was
apanellist on the session dedicated to advertising entitled "Advertising – what’s too much?”
Research has shown that children are an economicagent. In the US,
children from 8 to 12 "heavily influence” more than $30billion in
spending by parents and children up to 11 spend around $18 billion
ayear. Furthermore, other studies havefocused on the phenomenon of brand
loyalty and showed that adults were morelikely to consume and buy
brands that they consumed when they were children.
advertisers, children are therefore a target ofchoice, not only as a
future investment, but also as direct economic agentseither spending
their allowance or influencing their parents in theirpurchasing
While much ink has been spilled already on
theinfluence of advertising on children via the (now) "traditional
media” such asTV, radio, paper, boards etc, the study of the impact of
online advertising onchildren has yet to be measured, with the added
difficulty of accounting forthe extremely fast paced development of
online technologies and with it,advertising techniques. In just a
coupleof years we have moved from pop-ups to website takeovers or from
banners toseamless blending of advertising with the content. Even adults
have trouble differentiatingadvertising from content, which makes it
virtually an impossible task forchildren.
For the moment,
protective measures exist mostly underself-regulation or third party
tools (the kind that block advertising orprotect your privacy).
On self-regulation, the devil is always in thedetails. The danger is
for companies to look at their current practices anddraw the line of
what is permitted behind them, thereafter claiming a fullcompliance with
their internal rules.For instance, a closer look at some of the rules
that govern advertisersregarding food are not very restrictive as they
allow products that supposedlyfulfil certain nutritional criteria, but
the same products would be banned fromadvertising to children if we look
at governmental standards such as Ofcom inthe UK.
third party tools, they are always playinga "catch up” game with
innovation in advertising techniques in the long run,they cannot win,
For instance regarding pop-ups, third party tools provide areal relief
and solution for users.Nowadays, it’s more about blocking cookies and
third party advertisingon websites but more and more advertising
techniques are harder to block. Some websites don’t work or are buggy if
youblock cookies, and advertising on social networks which is plugged
directly inthe feed can be virtually impossible to filter. Besides, for
the moment, they work well especially on computers but onmobile devices
they are still in the very early stages of development. Therewill always
be role for such tools but they cannot be seen as a silver
bullet,especially considering that not all parents will make a use of
them and protecttheir children.
Therefore, there is a need
for some form of regulationon advertising online. Advertising
andmarketing online is still a wild west: pop-ups, pre-screening videos,
websitetakeover or overlays, interactive or auto-play videos or
messages… all of which spark some form of reaction fromtools but
ultimately, we will need some form of regulation since tools havetheir
Some key questions to address with regards toregulation in the field of online advertising include:
The balance between advertising content and other content. With no rules, the race to thebottom phenomenon carries the risk that
advertising content will impede moreand more on content in the same way
as pre-screening videos rolled out to allonline video platforms since
once this becomes the standard, a platformrefusing to follow would see
its advertising revenue collapse. On children’s websites, it is about
where thead is placed (in the center, on the sides) and the visual and
other clues tomake sure that children recognize ads for what they are.
The fairness of trading private/personal data against free content. A few decades ago, companies would pay hundreds of thousands of euro
tocollect surveys about consumers, their preferences, habits, etc,
nowadays, muchof this information is fed into forms and posted on social
networks by usersfor no compensation at all.
to minimize children’s exposure to advertising, marketing and
othercommercial content and maximize their exposure to positive, quality
content. We will need
independentorganisations or networks such as POSCON to weed out what is
quality contentand what isn’t. We need a trustworthysource for parents.
Furtherinformation about the SIF available at: http://www.saferinternet.org/sif
Better Internet for You(th): Safer Internet Forum 2013 - October 2013
The 2013 edition of the Safer Internet Forum (SIF) was a great success. COFACE was there, as for many years we are
actively involved in the cooperation with the European Commission, the
Internet companies, the Safer Internet centres and the family
organisations in asking for a safer and better internet for children,
and also more awareness and more information about the risks for
The highlight of the conference was the participation of the youth panelists,
who come from all over Europe, and have a separate meeting already the
days prior to the Safer Internet Forum. The SIF is one of the rare
forums that respect the principles of "not about us without us”, and it
is a great privilege being in the same conference with teenagers, who
are really involved, make great contributions and really raise the
overall quality of the event. It was also a special treat to see so many
of the young people, but also other partners again, who have come to our #DeleteCyberbullying conference in Madrid in June.
The conference is also incredibly interactive,
with multiple choice questions to the audience, before and during the
panel discussions, and this really creates a sense of community and
The organisers will prepare a comprehensive
documentation about the entire conference including all the
presentations; therefore here we won’t detail the different sessions,
and the numerous excellent presentations and talks...
to whom I would like to draw your attention to was Joel Bakan, a
Canadian writer, film-maker and academic, who researches extensively how
large corporations are using the open space and open access of the
internet to lure even the youngest children in, getting them to become
emotionally attached to services and games online, which makes them come
back to the site regularly, and either benefits from this as a
marketing audience, or even directly as customers, as after a while the
children (or rather their parents) have to pay for the continued use of
the services and products. Discussing this more darker side of the
internet, another participants said: "if you are not paying for the
service you are using online – then you are the product”.
short summary hopefully demonstrates, that while we all acknowledge the
unlimited possibilities the internet and the continuously evolving
services offer us, there is also a great deal about the internet that we
don’t know about, or that we would prefer not to know about, but these
need to be addressed to, and only in partnership with governments,
companies and civil societies can we be the co-creators of the web we
want for us and our children.
Link to the event page: http://www.saferinternet.org/sif
Children online: are empowerment and protection compatible? - March 2013
protection are often opposed to each other: too much protection would
meanfewer opportunities to develop digital skills for children, and
focusing onlyon empowerment would work in an ideal world with no
contradictory messages leadby commercial interests and unlimited time to
empower children in all relevantareas such as healthy nutrition,
sexuality education, financial education…
to strike the right balance betweenthese two strategies, we have to
start with the right premises: recognisingthat the average user does not
existand that users are vulnerable. Be itchildren, parents, grandparents, no one should be deemed inherently digitallyskilled (being a digital native).
in mind, policy makers need to focus on adopting policies, crafting
lawsand regulations that address thespecific vulnerabilities of the
different user groups without limitingtheir opportunities to learn and
cyberbullying has been in the political spotlight because
existingmeasures such as national or European laws or government action
plans are notaddressing the problem.
for their part, should designproducts and/or services that are
accessible, understandable and usable in aresponsible way by all users.
include Chatroulette or Snapchat, both of which have been misused by
youthand adults alike. Is it that the users are simply "evil" and
reallythink hard how to misuse a well thought and designed service or
are theircontroversial behaviors linked directly to the design of the
public and private actors, it is essential to consult with civil
society organizations, especially those workingat the grassroot level
(hotlines, helplines, safer internet centers, familyorganizations).
These organizations have extensive experience with the problemsfaced
online by children and can provide insightful advice on policy
measuresor product and service design.
public and private actors play a role in empowering children, only
civilsociety can ensure a conflict ofinterest free empowerment of
children. Consequently, especially in thisdifficult economic context
with many budget cuts, it would be a mistake to cutfunding to civil