But, as we spend more and more time online, the dangers are also increasing. How are children and young people affected by a widespread digital everyday life where friends, school, games and dance videos are mixed with bullying and the exploitation of sensitive personal data? What kind of problems do they experience themselves and how can we, as adults, empower them so that they can navigate safely within their digital worlds? These questions, and many more, were discussed on Safer Internet Day 2021, in a webinar arranged by The Swedish Media Council and the children’s rights organisation Bris.
Participants in the panel included the Director of The Swedish Media Council, Anette Novak, the General Secretary of Bris, Magnus Jägerskog, a representative from The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden and Stockholm University, Kim Ringmar Sylwander, and a youth representative from Save the Children Sweden and The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights, Elias Artur Fjellander.
All of the panellists stressed the importance of adult participation online. Parents, teachers, youth workers and other adults that are in contact with kids need to increase their internet and media knowledge. It should be as natural for parents to ask their kids what they are doing online as to ask them what they are doing in school.
“The internet and being online is unavoidable for kids today. It's everywhere from the playroom to the schoolyard to the confidential conversation in the classrooms”, says Anette Novak, Director of the Swedish Media Council.
There are certain groups of kids and youths that are extra exposed to harmful online activities. One of these groups are, for example, girls with neuropsychiatric disabilities. According to a recent report by the Swedish Media Council, 65 per cent of girls aged 13-16 with a neuropsychiatric diagnosis have experienced that someone has asked them for lightly dressed pictures. These alarming numbers shows that this specific group might be of extra importance when it comes to developing materials and creating preventative measures.
To be subjected to violations online, especially when it comes to sexual violations, can cause feelings of shame. Children who have been in situations like these might not turn to a parent, or even a teacher, to talk about what they have been experiencing. Hence helplines where the kids can be anonymous are important. The children’s rights agency, Bris, which serves as the Swedish helpline within the Safer Internet Centre (SIC), has seen a big increase in internet-related questions from kids in the past five years.
“Adults who see, hear and understand. That is the most important protection factor for children and young people, both online and offline”, said Magnus Jägerskog, General Secretary of Bris.
Find out more about Safer Internet Day in Sweden. Alternatively, find out more about the work of the Swedish Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.