Safer Internet Forum (SIF)
The Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is a key annual 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 took place online on 6-7 October 2021 and explored 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 showcased 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 highlighted 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.