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Protecting children online: MEPs vote on new approach

How safe are our children online? Young people are increasingly making more use of social networking sites: 38% of 9 to 12-year-olds and 77% aged 15 and 16 are now signed up to sites such as Facebook. On Monday MEPs discussed the need to focus on education and to combat illegal and unsuitable content as proposed in a report by Italian Social Democrat Silvia Costa. The proposals will be voted today Tuesday.

The report stresses the need for children to be taught about the "digital world". The original Commission report also focussed on education as parents and educators are failing to keep pace with technological changes in the lives of their children.

The EU's Safer Internet Programme funds public awareness activities, actions for fighting illegal and harmful content online and actions promoting a safer online environment. Ms Costa said the programme should be continued and be given more resources as illegal and harmful content is still too easy to access.

Ms Costa also spoke out in support of the Commission proposal for a "right to be forgotten". This could lead to a ban on preserving personal data online. According to her member states should also continue to harmonise the classification of digital content for minors.

The report also calls on the Commission to propose a single framework directive on children's rights in the digital world.

Statement by Sean Kelly

Our youngest citizens face new social challenges in grappling with the new digital world and it is the responsibility of legislators, parents and educators to empower children and teenagers with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves online", Mr Kelly said in Strasbourg, as MEPs discussed a new report.

"Cyber bullying is one negative result from our increasing use of online technology. It has caused great anguish and sadness in the lives of some Irish teenagers with the most tragic consequences in some cases. We need to act now and examine ways in which we can support young people so they feel confident in their right to be treated respectfully, free from abuse in their daily interactions - online or offline.

"I would ask that Europe looks towards a broader educational focus on appropriate internet behaviour so young children can identify cyber bullying or inappropriate content. They also need a safe and effective means of reporting any internet activity that they are uncomfortable with," MEP Kelly, a former school teacher added.


Statement by Pat The Cope Gallagher

Ireland North West MEP, Pat the Cope Gallagher called on EU policymakers "to wake up to the consequences of online bullying". Mr. Gallagher was speaking during a key debate on protecting children in the digital world held in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday evening.

"In Ireland, we unfortunately have become all too aware of the terrible consequences of online bullying due to several tragic incidents".

"The report recognises the risk posed by the internet in terms of online intimidation and bullying."

"I fully support the recommendation contained in the report which calls for an educational alliance among families, schools and civil society to protect all children on the internet."

"I also support the need for greater awareness raising initiatives aimed at parents and schools. It is also necessary to introduce the proper mechanisms at school level to support those who have been affected by online bullying."

"It is vital that we continue to train and educate both parents and teachers to keep them up to speed with new technologies, social networking sites and crucially how young people use them."