A line up of some of the speakers at the Child Safety online Conference.

The fresh amazing discovery of ICT facilities, including internet and television, have brought comfort, happiness to our homes and facilitated the development in education, communication and business sectors throughout the whole world.  Unfortunately, the pollution of the internet has brought misery, mishaps, abuse, trafficking and sexual predators lurking around the internet and putting the lives of children in danger.
To make internet a safe place for children, Microsoft, Disney Club Penguin Company, The Walt Disney Company Europe, Middle East and Africa, under the platform of Forum Europe, co- organized a day conference on November 12, 2013, at the Renaissance Hotel in Brussels, an event to discuss and address risks faced online by children in both Europe, developed and developing countries, with solutions and strategies to help children and young adults safe when on the internet.

Round the table for discussion were distinguished professionals who have experience on child issues. Among them was Mr. David Miles, Director EMEA. Family online Institute, Mr. Robert Madelin, Director General for DG Connect, European Commission, who gave the keynote presentation. Doreen Bodgan-Martin, Chief Strategic Planning and Membership Department, Sabine Verheyen  Member European Parliament,  John Brown Executive Board Member, eNACSO and Ambassador Sylvia Poll, Deputy Permanent Representative (Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office of Geneva) Sarah Taylor, Head of Creative Economy and Bojana Lobe, Assistant Professor: University Ljubljana and EU Kids online.

Children actually never aware or understand the potential dangers on the internet until being a victim. The excellent speakers each painstakingly addressed the participants on the hazard and the misuse of all emerging technology, which include cyber bullying, masturbation, and abuse by online predators, sexual kissing and exposure to inappropriate content including self-harm, racist, suicide, hate, adult pornography and child prostitution. 

In an attempt to fight against internet abuse to protect children many governments, including Britain have come out with preventive measures. For example, the UK’s biggest internet service providers have agreed to the filters scheme meaning it should cover 95% of homes. Other measures announced by the prime minister included new laws in regard to videos streamed online in the UK will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops.

The debate was tense as journalists and other media representatives ask challenging questions. Do parents actually know what the children are busy with on the internet? Providing tools and safeguards to protect children online is part of the conference solutions. Here it is essential for both children and parents to have very good understanding of the potential risks available on the internet for children and carefully control what the children are doing on the internet.

If children aren’t aware of the risks on the internet and parents are, then what schemes, resources, and other tools available to help educate kids from early age on the risks they may encounter when online? How can these risks be spotted and what action to be taken?  Manuela Matra, Project Officer, inclusion, skills, youth, European Commission, Lucy Woodward, Interactive, Live Services Director, The Walt Disney Company, Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft  and Tommaso Bertollotti of  the University of Pavia, immensely contributed on these topics. 

Even though internet dangers are difficult to be seen since they are uncensored, yet progress has been made in tracking down the internet violating criminals and pedophiles to face justice and imprisonment.  Some of the measures include Software paired with a child’s social network account; monitoring activities on whatever platform the network is accessed, and set up institutions which daily deal with such issues.

The conference came to an end with Mr. Fred Langford, Director of Global Operation, IWF, Jean-Charles Schweitzer, Senior Specialist, Child Sexual Exploitation Team, European Cyber Crime Center, Erik Barnett, AttachĂ© to the European Union for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Uwe Manuel Rasmussen, Legal Counsel, Microsoft, on issues dealing with global strategy to combat child abuse material and inappropriate content issues. Silence fell at the conference hall when one of the speakers narrates a thrilling story involving child abuse and the way the investigation was successful to bring the culprits to justice.

What did participants learn from this significant conference? On the issue of Child Safety importance, I quote “It’s not just about protection through the action of others by the way; it’s also about empowering kids to protect themselves. Children are fascinated by the internet. 

I am convinced we can create a better internet, one we don’t have to choose between being educational, safe or fun. We can have all three of these aspects if we accept the idea that protecting children is a shared responsibility. 

Children, parents, teachers, technology companies and child welfare organizations, all have a role to play. I see my role as bringing people together to enhance the quality of our actions.” – Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda.
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