The Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is a key annual international conference in Europe where policy makers, researchers, law enforcement bodies, youth, parents and carers, teachers, NGOs, industry representatives, experts and other relevant actors come together to discuss the latest trends, opportunities, risks and solutions related to child online safety. This year’s edition will take place online and will explore how to make Europe's Digital Decade fit for children and young people.
In March 2021, the European Commission adopted 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade, to translate the European Unionʼs digital ambitions for 2030 into concrete targets and to ensure that these objectives will be met. The document identifies four ‘cardinal points’ on digital capacities in infrastructures, education and skills, and on the digital transformation of business and public services. This European way for the digital society is also based on ensuring full respect of EU fundamental rights, and will propose a comprehensive set of digital principles, including protecting and empowering children in the online space. A corresponding consultation exercise has sought to gather the views of European citizens, and particularly those of children and young people, on these digital principles.
Alongside this, the importance of the rights of children and young people have been brought to the fore in recent months with the publication of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, the overarching ambition of which is to build the best possible life for children in the European Union and across the globe, including online. Additionally, the publication of General Comment No. 25 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child places a specific focus on the rights of young people online. In short, every child has the right to be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment.
The European Commission has long been committed to this aim, providing legislative and financial support to Member States to create a safer and better internet for more than 20 years. Central to this effort has been the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (commonly known as the BIK Strategy) which has provided a key point of reference for online safety policy making since 2012. Within the contexts outlined above, the time has now come to review and update the BIK Strategy.
Therefore, the 2021 Safer Internet Forum will showcase key findings from the recent digital principles consultation, amplifying the voices of children and young people to deliver a vision for a #DigitalDecade4YOUth. The event will highlight the priorities that different groups, including parents, carers and teachers, have identified in order to fulfil children’s rights in a digital world, while allowing them to engage, create and contribute within safe, ethical and inclusive online spaces.
The main SIF event will take place online on Wednesday, 6 and Thursday, 7 October 2021 and will consider what we want the digital world to look like in 2030. We will hear from a number of leading experts in the field who will offer their vision of the landscape over the next decade and discuss what key stakeholders need to do to ensure that we have the internet that we want and need. Importantly, the voices of young people will be present throughout the Forum as they share their hopes and concerns for their futures online.
On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, a number of deep dive sessions will explore in more depth the four pillars of the current BIK Strategy which provides a holistic approach to keeping children and young people safe online. Pillar 1 deals with high-quality content for children and young people, Pillar 2 is concerned with stepping up awareness and empowerment, Pillar 3 aims to create a safer online environment for children online through approaches such as parental control tools and age verification, while Pillar 4 leads the fight against child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.
Each in their own way, the deep dive sessions will take stock of these pillars, covering key topics and areas such as:
The youngest users and the opportunities and challenges that they face online.
New and emerging technologies highlighting some of the innovations and developments that we are likely to see by 2030.
Positive online experiences for children and active youth participation.
Age-appropriate design and the role of age assurance/verification.
Content which is harmful but not illegal (this includes content sometimes referred to as child sexual exploitation material (CSEM)).
Ongoing work to eradicate child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
All sessions will consider challenges, propose solutions and identify the range of actors who can provide them. Further details about the deep dive sessions can be found below.
Reflecting on the multistakeholder contributions during the event, the closing session of Safer Internet Forum 2021 will conclude with members of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Youth Panel presenting a digital declaration on behalf of children and young people across Europe. The European Commission will have the final word outlining the next steps to make it happen.