Around one in three internet users is a child, and these children are accessing the Internet at ever-younger ages across a diverse range of devices. They are spending more and more of their time on the Internet, browsing social media, playing online games and using mobile apps. This frequently happens without adult supervision.
While the Internet offers many opportunities for learning, communication, creativity and entertainment, it also opens up certain risks to vulnerable users such as children.
Children can be exposed to harmful content and behaviour online, such as cyberbullying, sexual harassment, pornography, violence, or self-harm. Efficient responses are needed to prevent negative consequences for their cognitive, social and emotional development.
The Commission wants to ensure young people have a safe and stimulating environment online while engaging with new technologies and spending time online. Indeed, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, increased connectivity, and augmented and virtual reality will cause an important shift in the way children engage and interact in society.
The European strategy for a better Internet for kids provides a set of complementary measures, ranging from funding, coordination and self-regulation to help create a safer online environment.
The Commission co-funds Safer Internet Centres in Member States (coordinated by Insafe), with the Better Internet for Kids portal as the single entry point for resources and sharing best practices across Europe. Their main task is to raise awareness and foster digital literacy among minors, parents and teachers. They also fight against online child sexual abuse material through its network of hotlines (INHOPE).
Through a special group composed of industry, civil society, and academia representatives, the Commission is facilitating an EU Code of conduct on age-appropriate design (BIK Code) to reinforce the involvement of industry in protecting children when using digital products, with the goal of ensuring their privacy, safety and security online.
Awareness-raising is an essential element of online safety: every year, Safer Internet Day, is celebrated in around 170 countries, reaching millions of people worldwide through events and various activities.