ETNO ThinkDigital Blog Post - A Safer Internet: Unleashing opportunities for the young too.
ETNO's Child Protection Task Team Chair Pedro Gonçalves, Manager, International Relations at Portugal Telecom, elaborates on the role of telcos in creating a safer Internet for all. #ThinkDigital
Creating a better and safer Internet
The Internet has proven to be an exceptional tool - a major source of information and entertainment. As studies show and as can easily be observed every day, the Internet, smart phones, tablets and other connected devices have become intrinsic to people’s lives, whether for work, education, leisure or “simply” to communicate. The younger generations are no exception: they are also increasingly online, starting earlier and using multiple devices for longer periods of time. Children are growing up and developing in a connected world. This is why online child safety and the promotion of a responsible use of ICT services should be a top priority.
ETNO members are strongly committed to protecting the younger generations
As leading, innovative ICT players, ETNO members are committed to ensuring a safer and better internet experience for Children. Since 2008, ETNO has consistently addressed Child Safety issues in the agenda of its Corporate Responsibility Working Group (WG). In 2009, the WG established a Child Protection Task Force, aiming to create a base of knowledge and awareness to help ETNO members identify and understand existing and potential risks, new trends, adopt new measures and improve existing ones, thus contributing to making ICT services and its use safer for children.
ETNO’s positioning in terms of Corporate Responsibility and its continuous motivation to address new societal challenges also led to the inclusion of the “child protection” topic in its new Corporate Responsibility Charter, adopted in 2012.
By monitoring external initiatives, performing benchmarks and promoting the exchange of best practices ETNO has been encouraging its member companies to maintain a continuous and proactive approach to Child Safety, based on 3 essential pillars:
- Education and awareness: ETNO companies promote knowledge and responsible use of ICT services through educational programmes targeted at young people, parents and teachers, through online material and campaigns.
- Safer and better products and services: ETNO members continuously strive to make their services better and safer with the development of specially designed services for young people and children (special tariffs, dedicated areas and quality content, function-limited mobile devices, cost control solutions) and the inclusion of safety features in “established” broadband, mobile and IPTV services, such as parental control tools, PINs, reporting options, privacy settings and content classification.
- Cooperation and Self-Regulation: ETNO members are committed to self-regulation and engage in national, European and international collaborative initiatives addressing Child Safety.
ETNO’s Child Protection website provides an overview of members’ good practices, projects and approaches in this field.
Cooperation, engagement and self-regulation
The Internet and the “cyber world” have a predominantly positive impact on society, offering great services and content as well as a wealth of opportunities. Naturally, like in other areas of life – in the so-called “real world” as it is sometimes referred to, as if the “cyber world” was somehow less real - there are potential risks and threats. It is crucial that all stakeholders understand their role and work together to tackle these risks. Younger generations need to be taught and helped to use the Internet in a safe and responsible way and thus get the best out of it!
ICT Coalition for Children Online and the ICT Principles
ETNO and its members have been particularly active in supporting the ICT Coalition for Children Online (ICT Coalition), a recognised industry collaborative, self-regulatory initiative that developed the ICT Principles for the Safer Use of Connected Devices and Online Services by Children and Young People in the EU (ICT Principles) and provides a continuous, future looking platform promoting a constructive multi-stakeholder dialogue and innovative approaches to child safety in the Europe.
The ICT Coalition and its ICT Principles represent the Industry coordinated response to the European Commissions’ challenge to increase self-regulation regarding online safety for children, a Commission’s high priority expressed in the 2010 European Digital Agenda.
By that time, there were already two Codes of Conduct for online child safety, one for mobile services - the European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children and another one for social media services - the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. And there was also the expectation that fixed communications services should be covered by online child safety self-regulation.
In the summer of 2010, with the aim of delivering on this European Commission priority, a group of industry players from different ICT sectors, backed by 3 trade associations - Digital Europe, ETNO and GSMA -, began to discuss how the industry could better cooperate in the field of child safety in this “fragmented context” in which several initiatives and approaches led by different group of actors had already been set up.
That was the origin of the ICT Coalition, a unique, unprecedented initiative, which gathered key players from across the ICT and internet value chain, including network operators, equipment manufacturers, content and software providers, internet companies, social networking and gaming.
The ambitious goal was to develop and agree on a set of high-level European industry-wide principles to make the internet and ICT services increasingly safer for children and young people. The principles should be overarching and function as an umbrella for existing Codes of Conduct and for possible new initiatives.
After several months of complex debating and analysis, during which companies of a different “nature” and with different sensibilities and agendas demonstrated an outstanding good will to advance and to commit, the ICT Coalition announced the adoption of the ICT Principles in January 2012, aiming to encourage best practices in the following key areas: content, parental controls, dealing with abuse and misuse, child sexual abuse content or illegal contact, privacy and control and education and awareness.
Since then, the signatory companies (currently 23) have pledged to “develop innovative ways of enhancing online safety and encouraging responsible use of the internet and internet access devices by children and young people, to empower parents and carers to engage with and help protect their children, to provide easily accessible, clear and transparent information about online safety and behaviour and to raise awareness of how – and to whom – to report abuse and concerns”.
These first European industry-wide Principles on Child Safety propose a long-term roadmap for implementation, covering all aspects of accessing and using Internet services and highlighting the vital importance of education and parenting for a safer and responsible use of ICT services by children.
Since their intent is to extend good practices to a wide range of ICT industry players, the Principles are set at a high and conceptual level, allowing a large variety of companies to become signatories and to ensure child safety is an integral part of their services and products. The principles should be implemented and incorporated by signatories according to the specific services and products they offer, where and as is relevant.
Ensuring stakeholder engagement and contribution to Online Child Safety
The work is not finished and the ICT Principles are not the end of the story. They are the foundation of a pioneering process towards an effective self-regulatory practice. The ICT Coalition organises a Stakeholder Forum twice a year and representatives from relevant stakeholders, including the European Commission, the European Parliament, NGO’s, Support Networks, academia, industry and civil society, are invited to join efforts and discuss recent developments, innovations, new trends and challenges.
2010-2012 - Development, adoption and publication of the ICT Principles
2012-2013 - Implementation by signatories and submission of individual members’ commitments
2014, April - The first Independent Consolidated Report on the Implementation of the ICT Principles, prepared by Dr. Brian O’Neill, from the Dublin Institute of Technology, was presented at the Stakeholders’ Forum. It is an overview of how members apply and comply with the Principles and the result of the continuous collective effort started in 2010. Key Findings: “the ICT Principles have contributed to greater child online safety; represent good industry practice by companies that take safety and online child protection seriously; demonstrate commitment to cooperate on an industry wide basis; enhanced access, parental controls, report abuse mechanisms, privacy protection and education through implementation of ICT Principles; act as a foundation for future development”.
2015, June - On the occasion of the Stakeholders’ Forum, Dr. Jutta Croll, from I-KiZ, presented the preliminary findings of her study “Assessment of the emerging trends and evolutions in ICT services used by children and youths”, available here.
By Pedro Gonçalves for ETNO #ThinkDigital, 07.09.2015
Pedro Gonçalves was born in Lisbon in 1973. He is a graduate in International Relations from the UAL – Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa (1996) and a post-graduate in Telecommunications and Multimedia Management by ISEG – Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (2003). Pedro has worked for Portugal Telecom (PT) since 1997, the year he joined PT’s World Exhibition EXPO’98 Office. Since 1999, he has developed his career in the area of international and institutional relations as PT’s official liaison for international organisations including ETNO, ETSI and ITU, and also as a member in various initiatives and fora dedicated to regulation, public policy and ICT standardisation. Attentive to Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility issues since 2005, Pedro coordinated the creation of ETNO’s "Online Child Protection" Task Force in 2009. Pedro Gonçalves is married and has two children.Tweet