EU PROTECTS > Our Safety > Safe surfing: How the EU protects us online

“If any other parents find themselves in this situation, they should contact their national Safer Internet Centre immediately.”


The benefits of the internet are almost limitless, be it learning, communication or entertainment. But like any powerful tool, it also comes with dangers. Children are especially vulnerable to online predators, bullies and trolls. One mother in Malta learnt this the hard way, when she discovered a nude photo of her daughter, Maria, had been posted by a friend online. Maria’s mother didn’t know where to turn for help. 

For the past 2 decades, the EU has been making the internet a safer place for people to share their experiences, interests and ideas. Through its support network, the EU provides every European country with a Safer Internet Centre, which you can call free of charge to seek help from experts on consent, data protection, online privacy, fake news and more. When Maria’s mother contacted the Safer Internet Centre in Malta, they made sure the photo was removed from Facebook, protecting Maria from bullies – not only online but also at her school.

Safe surfing: How the EU protects us online

Learn, play, shop, chat, browse, share, like or love: the internet is at the centre of modern life. But there are also dangers lurking online: bullies, trolls, scammers, groomers and hackers all pose a threat to uninformed users. This is why the EU has developed a protective network offering help and advice on how to become a smarter surfer, whatever your age.

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Mother of cyberbullying victim


Real name has been withheld to respect the privacy of the family.

“My 11–year-old daughter, Maria, had sent a nude photo to a friend on Facebook Messenger. It circulated online for a whole year, and Maria knew nothing about it. I only found out because my friend saw it and called me. She was shocked and worried."

"I immediately contacted Malta’s Safer Internet Centre, which has an internet helpline. Within a matter of weeks, they made sure Maria’s photo was removed."

“It was such a relief to have the Safer Internet Centre’s help and to know that the compromising photo of my daughter couldn’t be shared online anymore.”

 - Carmen

Deborah Vassallo

Safer Internet Centre


“When we received the call from Maria’s mother, we needed to understand where the photo was shared online and with whom. There were concerns that her classmates would start bullying her if they saw the photo that was circulating via Facebook Messenger. Once we had all the details from the mother and daughter, we passed this information to our Facebook contact. They made sure the photo was taken down.”

“Being part of a European network gives us more leverage with big social media platforms – so people's pictures cannot be shared online without their consent.”

 - Deborah Vassallo

Josianne Azzopardi

Foundation for Social Welfare Services – Agenzija Sedqa


“In collaboration with the Safer Internet Centre in Malta, we run courses on safe internet and technology use in Maltese workplaces both in the private and public sector. Parents find the sessions particularly useful when it comes to teaching their kids about privacy on the internet and reporting cyberbullying or other harmful behaviour online. We want to encourage younger audiences to use their mobile phones and other technologies in the safest way possible.”

“It's important to learn from our European colleagues, tapping into their expertise to make the internet safer for children and adults across the EU.”

 - Josianne Azzopardi

Hans Martens

EU Insafe Network of Safer Internet Centres


“I help coordinate the EU’s network of Safer Internet Centres. Rather than acting alone, as a network we’re in a good place to react when things, like cyberbullying, happen. The EU network isn’t just about preventing exposure to the dangers of the internet. We want people to enjoy the benefits of the internet by making informed decisions online.”

“Our entire European network of awareness centres, hotlines and youth panels is fighting for the same goal: creating a better and safer internet.”

 - Hans Martens

Rosanna Di Gioia

Joint Research Centre, European Commission


“We developed an interactive game – a bit like Snakes and Ladders – on the dos and don’ts of internet safety. The game is for 2-6 players, aged 8-12. Each player rolls a die and picks a card with a question on it. The winner is the first to reach the final square by correctly answering various quiz questions.”  

"Quiz questions – like ‘how to disclose information online’ – were vetted by thousands of children, teachers and parents throughout Europe. The real success of the game was this inter-generational dialogue.”

“Our research isn’t confined to a desk. We actively promote awareness about online privacy among children, teachers and parents in Europe.”

 - Rosanna Di Gioia

Did you know?


The proportion of the EU population using the internet in 2017, 87% of whom were online every day, with 8 of out 10 EU citizens surfing with a mobile phone.


The number one problem reported to Insafe's Safer Internet Centre helplines in Europe. Other top issues include potentially harmful content, data privacy, love/relationships/sexuality, and media literacy/education.


The EU and several IT companies (like Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) have signed a Code of Conduct to counter the spread of hate speech online. These platforms have agreed to screen user notifications for hate speech and remove such messages within 24 hours, if necessary.

Online crimes

Online sexual coercion and extortion (sometimes referred to as sextortion) is a type of scam or blackmail, committed by offenders using web or mobile devices. Victims’ online personal information – like sensitive photos or videos – is used against them for financial or sexual gain.

65% of the 10,843 contacts

made with Insafe helplines between 1 July and 30 September 2018 were from teenagers. These calls related to cyberbullying, sexting as well as other challenges that they face online.


Some of them may even come from your country.

Connected by the EU, there is a network of local heroes working together to help protect us from hate speech, data theft, cyberattacks and more. From police investigators to safer internet specialists, social workers to cyber experts, discover how the EU supports local heroes in your country.