23 % of children between 9 and 16 have been bullied online
Targeted measures needed to protect vulnerable children
Social media platforms should obtain parental consent before allowing accounts of underage children
In a resolution adopted on Thursday MEPs call on the EU to keep children safe online, prevent cyberbullying and child sexual abuse, including online grooming.
In the text adopted by show of hands, MEPs mention cyberhate, cyberbullying, sexualised content, violent images, content that promotes eating disorders and disinformation among the risks to children’s mental and physical health. Those may cause increased aggression, problematic sexual behaviours, unhealthy eating habits and distorted values and attitudes, they say.
MEPs call for targeted measures to protect children with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds and for inclusion of digital skills and competences as mandatory school curriculum across the EU. Parents and carers need to be educated on online safety, parental control and how to recognise and report online grooming.
They say EU needs a dedicated strategy against bullying and cyberbullying in schools and EU and the member states should invest in protection from cyberbullying, including in the metaverse.
Quoting evidence of significant number of children being active on social media under the minimum age set by social media platforms, Members refer to the upcoming European standard on online age verification from 2024 and say that social media platforms should make efforts to verify parental consent before children under the relevant age limit may create an account.
Saying that children should not be passive technology consumers but actively in charge, MEPs finally ask the Commission to ensure that children of all ages are involved in the monitoring process and the effective implementation of the new EU strategy “Better Internet for Kids”.
In the preceding debate with Commission’s Vice-president Dubravka Šuica MEPs called on Member States to allocate necessary resources to strengthen hotlines, helplines, Safer Internet Centres, and meaningful prevention raising campaigns in schools, as well as for better support tp victims of online child abuse and grooming and their families.
You can listen to the full debate here
According to the EU Kids Online 2020 survey 23 % of children between 9 and 16 have been bullied online, however during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to a recent EU study encompasing 11 EU countries, 49 % of children between 10 and 18 experienced at least one form of online aggression.
The new European strategy for a “Better Internet for Kids”, adopted in May 2022, has three pillars: safe digital experiences that seek to protect children from harmful and illegal online content; empowerment or digital literacy, so that children can make informed choices; promoting active participation — giving children a say in the digital environment.