Children and teenagers are keen internet users - 12 to 15-year-olds spend at least three hours a day on screen - but they are not always aware of the dangers of certain sites or content: not only material containing child pornography or violence but also the risk of harassment by individuals with harmful intentions. The EP Civil Liberties Committee called on Monday for children to be better protected against these dangers.The European Union plans to introduce the "Safer Internet plus" programme, with the aim of anticipating discernable trends in the on-line environment. The programme will combat illegal content, promote a safer on-line environment, raise public awareness and establish a "knowledge base" for investigatory purposes. The European Parliament is working on this matter in co-decision with the Council of Ministers.
Members of the Civil Liberties Committee on Monday adopted a draft report by Roberta Angelilli (UEN, IT), which supports the Commission proposal, with a number of amendments, including a greater emphasis on combating new developments such as the electronic harassment and psychological manipulation of children. The committee suggests setting up hotlines, a free European helpline and a common "child safe" label for webpages. Another proposal is the creation of an internet domain name "kid.eu" for children's websites.
A European database
In addition, MEPs wish to facilitate information exchange between Member States - since illegal content can be uploaded in one country and viewed in another. In the longer term they would like to see the creation of a European database, accessible by Europol, to collect images of sex abuse of minors. The Civil Liberties Committee also wants to involve the industry in the fight against illegal content by setting up a system to trace the exploitation of children. This would allow the criminal justice authorities to identify perpetrators of crimes on the internet.