Keeping children safe online is a key commitment of the Digital Agenda. Hence the European Commission put together a coalition of 28 leading companies on 1 December to help protect children on the Internet. The founding members include big names from technology and media including operating systems providers, mobile phone and gaming manufacturers, telecom providers and social networks.
The new coalition, which was formed following a call by European Commission Vice-President Nellie Kroes agreed a Statement of Purpose to take action in five areas:
1. Provide simple and robust reporting tools
2. Offer age-appropriate privacy settings
3. Develop a wider use of content classification
4. Increase the availability and use of parental control and
5. Implement more effective takedown of child abuse material.
For each area, there are deadlines and performance indicators, with a review scheduled for the summer of 2012. However, the Coalition is set up as a cooperative voluntary intervention. The Commission’s expectation is that solutions developed by the founding members will be embraced by a growing number of companies, and new members will be welcome.
Therefore, while EPHA is pleased about the Commission’s initiative to make the Internet a better place for children, there remains a concern that self-regulation is insufficient given the complexity of issues that children and their parents are confronted with online, and the fact that children go online at a very young age.
As EPHA’s Briefing on the Digital Agenda for Europe points out, there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed in order for the Digital Agenda to succeed, e.g. pertaining to online security and data protection, digital literacy, as well as concerns related to the uptake of eHealth. The dangers of online marketing targeting children, as well as privacy settings for computers and mobile devices are part of that. The implementatiton of the Digital Agenda will have to be closely monitored and independently evaluated in order to determine whether or not more legislation is required to protect children and other vulnerable users of new technology.
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