According to established tradition, the members of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre’s Youth Panel played a leading role in the event, as they actively participated in its planning and moderated the discussion panels. Experts and representatives of various state institutions, civil organizations and companies participated, including members of the Public Council on Safer Internet Use (the SIC’s Advisory board).
The event was opened by Dr. Emanuil Georgiev from the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre and Inspector Emil Iliev from the Cybercrime Unit of the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The purpose of the panel discussions was to draw specific, practical conclusions and recommendations to institutions, parents, young people, and professionals working with children.
The discussion panels
The first discussion panel, hosted by Elena Ognyanova from the Bulgarian SIC’s Youth Panel at the Center for Safe Internet, was dedicated to the topic "What is the optimal time for children to spend in front of the screen?" and psychologists Ivet Prokopova and Mirela Dimitrova took part in it as panelists. During the first panel, the physical and mental health risks to children from an excessive screen time were discussed, as well as how parents can communicate the topic with their children and the question of the balance between the time spent online and the physical activities of adolescents.
During the second discussion panel, hosted by Simona Todorova from the Youth Panel at the Bulgarian SIC, it was discussed whether it is possible to develop an addiction to the internet and video games, as well as the benefits of online games and how can they develop useful skills in children. In addition to psychologists Ivet Prokopova and Mirela Dimitrova, Associate Professor Mihail Okoliyski, a representative of the World Health Organisation, joined the discussion as a guest panellist.
The third discussion panel, hosted by Vanessa Filipova from the SIC’s Youth Panel, was dedicated to "The impact of the screen". Guest panelists were Ivaylo Spasov from UNICEF Bulgaria, Maria Brestnička from the National Network for Children and Assoc. Prof. Mihail Okoliyski from the World Health Organisation. During the discussion, the participants reflected upon whether children adopt and copy models of behaviour they observe on social networks, what is the role of the so-called "influencers" as a model for young people and whether online media and "traditional" media respect ethical and professional standards when covering cases involving children. It was also discussed whether the massive advertising of potentially harmful services and products for young people, such as gambling, could lead to serious consequences such as the development of gambling addiction.
Along with the main panelists, other participants in the event - professionals, experts, and young people – also took part in the discussions. Among the participants was also Eva Zhecheva, Head of the Children's Rights Directorate at the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria.
This year, a number of schools, libraries and municipalities in Bulgaria also held their own parallel events to mark Safer Internet Day. Among them were "Hristo Botev" High School in Oryahovo, where the teachers provided thematic lessons to acquaint the students with a variety of information about the main online risks for children and young people, using video lessons and other resources of the Bulgarian Safe Internet Centre. Also, the Community Support Centre and Ivan Radoev Community Centre and Library in the town of Novi Pazar jointly organized discussions on the topic "Media literacy and safe surfing on the internet" with students from the 3rd and 5th grades of Khan Isperih high school and Vasil Levski high school, which were held between 6th and 10th of February.
Find out more about Safer Internet Day in Bulgaria. Alternatively, find out more about the work of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.