Safer Internet Day: Neelie Kroes Says Parents Must Protect Children Online

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EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes says the government cannot keep your kids safe online

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has warned parents they are not doing enough to protect their children on the Internet in a statement made on the Safer Internet Day, which encourages the IT industry to come together to promote more responsible use of online technology.

In the last few years, the UK government has become increasingly involved in making the Internet ‘safer’, with the introduction of compulsory ‘porn filters’ by ISPs and campaigns like Cyber Streetwise being launched to educate the public. But even after throwing taxpayer money at the problem, protecting children online remains a serious challenge and, according to Kroes, today the main responsibility lies with parents.

“I want today to be a wake-up call for parents. You need to know what your kids are doing online. That’s not the EU’s job or a government’s job, it’s your job, and there are lots of websites and organisations to help,” said Kroes, while appearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC via video link.

Talking responsibility

Co-founded by the European Union as part of the SafeBorders project, the first Safer Internet Day was held in 2004, and the initiative runs in more than 100 countries worldwide. The US is participating for the first time this year.

European commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie KroesBut despite its cheerful name, Safer Internet Day deals with the darker side of the Internet – malware, pornography and cyber bullying.

According to a survey of 1,000 UK families by security software vendor ESET, 10.5 years old is the average age parents feel it is suitable for children to use the Internet unsupervised. However, more than half of parents who bought their children an Internet-enabled device in 2013 failed to install anti-virus software to protect it.

The company also found that one in four parents never talk to their children about online safety, and 45 percent believe this is the school’s responsibility. Over half want more support from the Government in having conversations about online safety with their children.

Think of the children

“Children are spending more time online than ever before, whether this be for education, gaming or socialising with their friends. With this however, we’re also seeing a diversification in the dangers they face,” commented David Wright, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre.

“As such, parents and carers ought to feel comfortable with the technology their children are using. Informed parental guidance and best practise are critical in teaching children life lessons in navigating the Internet safely until it’s second nature.”

“I see children and young people doing amazing things with digital tools. We need to encourage that, help them to be safe, and give them ways to stand up against cyber-bullies,” said Kroes.

On Tuesday, the Commissioner will reward the creators of the best online content for kids, including both adults and children from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile in the US, 11 February has been designated as ‘The Day We Fight Back’, with dozens of organisations including Reddit, Tumblr, Mozilla and thousands of activists protesting against NSA’s data collection practices revealed by Edward Snowden.

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