MEPs adopt plan to protect children online

The Parliament has adopted, with a broad majority, a Recommendation for a number of measures to better shield minors from illegal content on the internet.

Researchers say that around half of European children use the internet for visiting web sites, chatting and sending and receiving emails. On average, minors spend more time on the internet than watching television. In doing so, between a quarter and a third are confronted with content of a sexually explicit nature or invited to meetings with strangers. 

The Parliament adopted, in its second reading on 14 December 2006 and without any amendments to the rapporteur’s proposal, a report by French Liberal MEP Marielle de Sarnez, which defines three key areas of responsibility for protecting children from internet risks: 

  • The online industry; 
  • better education, and; 
  • government control.

The report considers automatic filters to be the most effective measures for blocking access to violent or pornographic content. Presently, such filters can only work if they are provided with ‘blacklisted’ sites. The report calls on internet service providers to deliver and reguarly update such information. Estimates say that more than 250 million internet pages contain material of a pornographic nature. 

The Parliament also called for the creation of a sub-domain of the .eu top level domain, called .kid.eu, which would contain only constantly monitored content fit for children. Parents could then set filters to restrict their children’s access to this subdomain. MEPs called for information campaigns to be organised by member states in order to raise awareness of internet risks. In addition, they asked for the creation of hotlines to report illegal or suspected illegal content or behaviour on the web. 

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