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European Commission - Press release

Digital Agenda: further action needed to safeguard children – Commission report

Brussels, 13 September 2011 – How Member States are implementing EU Recommendations ensuring children can enjoy the digital world confidently and safely are reviewed by the European Commission in a report presented today. Member States and industry are increasingly making efforts to implement EU Recommendations dating from 1998 and 2006 on the protection of minors using audiovisual and online services. But the measures taken have been insufficient overall.

In concrete terms, the report shows that EU countries are not responding adequately, or have varying approaches to tackling and reporting illegal or harmful content, ensuring children access age-appropriate content, making social networks safer for children and protecting children from harmful video games. For example, there are many differences between Member States in the way hotlines check the illegality of, or the harm involved in, the content reported to them, track its source and notify it to the competent authorities. Similarly, EU countries use different age rating systems and technical means to keep website and games age-appropriate. The report shows that there is considerable scope for enhancing children's protection in these sectors. The Commission will address these issues later this year in a comprehensive initiative to empower and protect children who use new technologies.

Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said: "Children are going online more, and younger, and are exploring an exciting digital world of opportunity. But we urgently need to step up a gear on what we do, and how we work together to empower and protect children in this ever changing digital world. We need to give parents and teachers the confidence to take on their responsibilities. The strategy I will present later this year will tackle these problems head on".

The report suggests several actions including:

Harmful and illegal content: making hotlines better known and improving the supporting infrastructures to make the removal of illegal content more efficient.

Social networking and privacy: improving awareness of the risks and ways to mitigate them.

Age classification and rating systems: wider use of age-rating systems (like PEGI) for online games; developing codes of codes of conduct and other ways of making retailers more aware of age-ratings, to prevent "under-age" sales of games.

Background

Making the Internet a better place for children is one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

According to an EUKidsOnline survey (IP/11/479), 9-10 year olds in Europe who use the Internet report that, on average, they started to go online from age 7. 33% of those who go online use a mobile phone or a handheld device. 77 % of 13-16 year olds and 38 % of 9-12 year olds in Europe who use the Internet say they have a profile on a social networking site; a quarter of those who use social networking sites say their profile is public. Any EU-wide strategy in this field has to take account of the global and constantly changing nature of the digital environment and respond flexibly to new challenges.

The 1998 and 2006 EU Recommendations on Protection of Minors responded to the fact that EU and national regulation cannot always keep pace with the rapid pace of developments in the field of audiovisual and online information services. At EU level (via the Audiovisual Media Services – AVMS - Directive) and in most of Member States, there are specific rules only for the content of audiovisual media. This makes it even more important for Member States and service providers to be aware of the new challenges for the protection of minors and to promote appropriate framework conditions through stakeholder cooperation and co- or self regulation.

The report is relevant to several actions outlined in the Digital Agenda for Europe. In particular, the Commission has committed to "foster multi-stakeholder dialogue and self-regulation of European and global service providers (e.g. social networking platforms, mobile communications providers), especially as regards the use of their services by minors"(Action 37).

The Digital Agenda also calls on Member States to "fully implement hotlines for reporting offensive or harmful online content, organise awareness raising campaigns on online safety for children, and offer teaching online safety in schools, and encourage providers of online services to implement self-regulatory measures regarding online safety for children by 2013" (Action 40).

The Commission is also working to promote the creation of high quality and age-appropriate online content (IP/11/746). One in three 9-12 year olds feels that there are enough good things for them online, according to an EUKidsOnline survey (IP/10/1368).

Useful links:

Commission Report on the Protection of Minors – "Protecting Children in the Digital World" and accompanying Commission Staff Working Paper:

http://ec.europa.eu/avpolicy/reg/minors/rec/2011_report/index_en.htm

The EU's Safer Internet programme: http://ec.europa.eu/saferinternet

Digital Agenda for Europe:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/digital-agenda/index_en.htm

Digital Agenda website:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/digital-agenda/index_en.htm

Neelie Kroes' website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/kroes/

Follow Neelie Kroes on Twitter: http://twitter.com/neeliekroeseu

Contacts :

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

Linda Cain (+32 2 299 90 19)


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