The internet is the natural playground and place of encounter, learning and creativity for the youth of today. However, children are going online younger and younger in an environment not specifically designed for them, either in terms of easily accessible content and services or in terms of adequate protection and support measures when they encounter risks. They use an increasingly diverse range of interconnected and mobile devices – they can go online, anytime, anywhere and to any site, often without adult supervision.
The internet is also one of the main distribution channels for material (images, films etc.) depicting sexual abuse of children. The content is becoming worse: 53% of the content reported to the hotline in the UK in 2012 depicts the rape or torture of a child and 81% of the victims are under the age of 10. The overall challenge is to improve the quality of experience and content for children, appropriate to their ages, to provide tools and services to protect children online according to their age, and to prevent online exploitation of children through child pornography, grooming etc. Making use of the ESIF to co-finance activities aimed at creating a better internet for children and young people would help regions to become active players in contributing to EU objectives on promoting a safer use of the internet and in supporting the removal of online child sexual abuse content.
This area of activity can be an important element of a digital strategy. It might, however, not be eligible for funding through ESIF.