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Network Of Safer Internet Centres (SICs)

ExpectedOutcome:

National SICs as a one-stop-shop for reliable and age-appropriate information.

Digital literacy in Member States and associated countries in formal and informal education settings (e.g., youth participation activities, workshops, classroom visits, competitions, peer to peer activities).

Support to parents, carers, teachers, educators and other professionals working with children to better understand the risks and opportunities of children accessing digital content and services (e.g., information sessions, train the trainers programmes, and online and offline material).

Timely information to local, national, and European actors on emerging risks through the helpline service.

Access to resources and services by public authorities, including law enforcement agencies, and exchanges with hotline analysts to develop better preventive measures and to remove online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Increased cooperation of the private sector with the SICs, including those recognised in the future as “trusted flaggers” to assist the public, in particular children, when confronted with harmful and illegal content.

Objective:

The objective of the topic is to continue to support national SICs which may be composed of one or more NGOs, government bodies/agencies, private sector organisations in providing online safety information, educational resources, public awareness tools and counselling and reporting services (through dedicated helplines and hotlines) for young people, teachers, and parents. The activities performed by the SICs will help minors to tackle online risks and to become media-literate, resilient, digital citizens, and will allow citizens to anonymously report online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

To reach all children, the Safer Internet Centres will pay particular attention to children with special or specific needs, including those from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds.

Scope:

The funding will ensure the continuation of the well-established European network of national SICs, by enabling the awarded consortia to provide at least:

A centre for raising awareness among children, parents/carers, teachers and educators as well as other relevant professionals working with children about online opportunities and risks for the under 18s. The focus will be to identify and address:

specific and general emerging risks (e.g. new apps and games, but also AI, virtual, augmented and extended reality, the internet of things and other technological changes raising new social and ethical challenges that impact children);

issues such as mental and physical health risks related to the use of technologies (e.g. self-harm, cyberbullying, risky online challenges, promotion of eating disorders);

risks facing children as young consumers (e.g. nudges to spend money, aggressive marketing strategies, lootboxes) on which specific attention will be paid.

A helpline to give advice and support to parents and children on issues related to children’s use of digital technologies and services; to strengthen support to victims of cyberbullying, closer cooperation with the national Child Helpline 116111 service is required.

A hotline for tackling CSAM (i.e., receiving, analysing, and processing reports of such material). Closer cooperation with law enforcement and the private sector should be further explored in the context of the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse and the proposed new legislation.

A youth panel to engage directly with children from different demographic groups, including the organisation of regular youth participation activities, allowing them to express their views and pool their knowledge and experience of using online technologies. Adequate turnover and an open selection of participants is required.

SICs shall strengthen their support to children in vulnerable situations (such as children with disabilities, children from a minority, racial or ethnic background, refugee children, children in care, LGBTQI+ children, as well as children from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, who all may face additional challenges in the digital environment). For example, to address the digital divide, they should offer non-formal education and training to these groups and communities.

In addition, SICs will:

support the monitoring of the impact of the digital transformation on children’s well-being in cooperation with the BIK platform,

support the implementation of relevant EU strategies,

promote the distribution of relevant online training modules (MOOCs) for teachers,

expand the role of BIK Youth Ambassadors and BIK Youth Panels to support peer-to-peer activities at national, regional and local level,

provide trustworthy resources for and carry out campaigns targeting children, parents, carers and teachers, educators and other relevant contacts working with children (e.g. sports coaches, club leaders). Training on children’s rights online should also be included in these initiatives to create a stronger awareness that children’s rights online are the same as offline, as stipulated by UN General Comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment (CRC/C/GC/25).