EU marks Internet Safety Day

EU marks Internet Safety Day

This year’s event focuses on the dangers of social networking

About 50 countries have joined forces to raise awareness of the online threats facing children and their parents.

The allegiance is part of the fifth annual Safer Internet Day, which takes place today and has been created by the European Commission.

Run by EU Information Society and Media leader Viviane Reding, this year’s event aims to educate children globally on the risks of sharing too much personal data on social networking sites, through school assemblies and youth meetings. It will also highlight the risks of befriending dangerous adults who chat online under the guise of other children.

To celebrate Safer Internet Day 2008, several organisations have also announced schemes that involve getting young people’s opinions on how to prevent the dangers found online.

The European Commission has organised a Youth Forum on Safer Internet in Brussels where 14- to 17-year-olds from the UK and the rest of Europe will meet to discuss issues related to their use of online technologies.

This will include experiences and precautions taken in using mobile phones and social networking sites as well as how effective they think security tools are.

Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, the EU's Consumer Commissioner said: “Surveys suggest that children's use of online technologies and their views on potential problems can be different from adults' views and knowledge.

"That is why talking directly to youth – today on Safer Internet Day, but also on the other 364 days of the year – is crucial for us."

Microsoft, Virgin Media and Visa Europe have also announced that they will be sponsoring an International Youth Advisory Congress, which is run by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. The event will take place in the summer and will see 200 people aged between eight and 16 from across the world gathering to talk about online safety and security.

Jim Gamble director at CEOP said: “Young people are the natives of the online world. It is they who have made the virtual and the offline a converged reality and it is they who should have a real say in how they want to be protected.”

However internet security company PC Tools was not convinced that these events would help. It claimed that teenagers didn’t care enough about the security risks facing them and were only interested in playing the latest online game or meeting new friends in online chatrooms.

It said that Safer Internet Day would be a “waste of time” unless people woke up to the dangers and stopped using an “it will never happen to me attitude”.