Today, 100 organizations in over 40 countries worldwide celebrate Safer Internet Day. In the European Union (EU), conferences and campaigns showcase already existing safer Internet activities of the private and the public sector, from filtering technologies to media literacy program. The purpose is to raise awareness -- in particular at schools, among parents and teachers -- about the best ways for protecting minors in an online environment of growing importance for our daily lives.

"The Internet offers tremendous opportunities to all. But many remain unaware of its darker side, from child pornography to sexual grooming online by pedophiles," said EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Today, I am calling upon all decision-makers in the private and in the public sector to help make the Internet a safer place also for the most vulnerable of our society. In today's digital age learning how to avoid online pitfalls is a valuable life skill that all young people need to know. For this purpose, we need to spread the message about safer Internet use among teachers and parents as well as children themselves."

To mark Safer Internet Day, the results of a competition to create Internet safety awareness material, as part of a worldwide blogathon, will be published. The competition involved more than 200 schools in 29 countries, which teamed up to create safety material during the last three months. Entries in the competition addressed one of three themes: e-privacy, "netiquette", and the power of image.

Safer Internet events organized in the EU at national level include this year the following:

  • In Germany, visitors are being quizzed on their Internet safety knowledge and video clips are being broadcast by over 10 TV stations and shown in over 250 cinemas
  • In the Netherlands, Princess Maxima is the special guest at an event featuring theatre, music and stories
  • In Portugal, a national contest for schools on safer Internet use is being launched and awareness sessions are taking place in schools nationally
  • In Luxembourg, a week-long exhibition on safer Internet use has been running
  • In Bulgaria, the results of a nationwide safer Internet competition for school children are being presented, with the participation of around 1000 children
  • In Slovenia, young people are showcasing art projects and Slovenian national television is broadcasting Internet safety clips.
The United Kingdom is holding the Crossing Borders and Dissolving Boundaries conference in London. This conference, sponsored by both the Home Office and the Cyberspace Research Unit at University of Central Lancashire, is aimed to increase awareness of the risks that exist in the online world, including issues such as cyberbullying and social networks. The conference will also discuss the challenges associated with successfully educating children and young people, parents, teachers and others involved in education and child services, about the risks and opportunities associated with the Internet and social networking.

UK Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker, under-secretary of state for policing, security and community safety, said "Protecting children from harm is of the highest priority for the government. We will do everything we can to ensure children are protected -- whether that is in communities or on the Internet.

"The Internet brings huge opportunities for children -- but also big risks which we all need to be aware of. It's particularly important that people such as teachers, youth group leaders and other child welfare workers are fully aware of the issues surrounding the Internet.

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer