Insafe network meeting and Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg

02 Dec 2016 Becca Cawthorne

Last week the UK Safer Internet Centre attended the Insafe network meeting and the Safer Internet Forum in Luxembourg.

Louiza Jeffcoat, from the South West Grid for Learning, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, has written this blog about her experience of the events.

Last week our team from the UK Safer Internet Centre took part in two events held in Luxembourg. On Wednesday 23 November we met with our colleagues from the other Safer Internet Centres across Europe to share information around online safety issues we face and how we are working to address them, both in awareness raising and through our helplines.

What is Insafe?

Insafe is a European network of Awareness Centres promoting the safer and better usage of internet. Insafe is co-funded by the European Commission. Insafe coordinate Safer Internet Day across the globe and we here at the UK Safer Internet Centre are their UK based centre.

The Insafe network of centres is a really strong community – built on real trust and sense of partnership and collaboration.

The Insafe network meeting

The Insafe network meeting started with a very thought-provoking session on keeping children safe online as seen from four perspectives – policy, research, awareness raising and campaigns. There was a constant thread running through the day as we heard from a wide range of speakers and in discussions with colleagues that, in the words of Bob Dylan ‘times are a-changing’ in the world of online safety. 

While we are seeing relatively ‘newer’ issues like sexting, online hate and radicalisation becoming more prominent, issues that have been around for a while such as grooming need re-visiting and our awareness raising messages and campaigns need to evolve and become more solution-focused. It was so emotional and sad to hear from Lorin LaFave and her personal story which led her to establish the Breck Foundation and work tirelessly to raise awareness of grooming. Her message that every child is vulnerable resonated across the room and will have an effect on the way we approach our work with all young people.

Dr Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University talked about online addiction and screen time, a topic we know parents are concerned about and often ask us for advice.  The afternoon was focused on an ideas exchange – where each centre shared plans for a future resource or campaign they are planning – a great way to help us link and collaborate with each other on common topics. And of course, as we approach Safer Internet Day 2017, we couldn’t have a meeting without a session on plans for the day – as always across the network there is an astonishing range of activities and events being planned in the run up and for the day itself.

The Safer Internet Forum

The following day we attended the Safer Internet Forum (SIF) organised by the European Commission with the help of European Schoolnet.

The SIF is the biggest annual stakeholder event focusing on children’s use of technology held in Europe and was attended by young people, policy makers, industry, NGOs, researchers and many more. It ran under the title: Be the change: principles, policies and practices for a better internet.

The keynote was delivered by Dr Mary Aitken from University College Dublin – a forensic cyber psychologist who presented a very thought-provoking session on the impact of the internet on the development and behaviour of children and young people. She talked about the cyberpsychology of the child and age appropriate content as well as children’s welfare and cyber rights. She presented the notion of cyberspaces as an environment and called for a better cyber society involving cyber corporate social responsibility, self-regulation, governance and cyber ethics.

The afternoon sessions at the Forum were on online hate and radicalisation, as well as on harmful (but not illegal) content. The event ended with a session looking at the future of the internet and challenges we will be facing in online safety with the advent of virtual reality, voice-controlled technology, artificial intelligence and an increase in cyber-security threats.

Youth involvement

A group of young people from across Europe, including Katie our youth participant from the UK, took part in the Youth Safer Internet Forum and were very active and passionate participants in the main Safer Internet Forum events asking really challenging questions and voicing their opinions.

All in all, two very different events that gave us a lot of new information and food for thought.

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