Meetings: 2nd YPRT-Meeting


The 2nd Youth Protection Roundtable took place in Rome on the 23rd of November at the European Commission Representation in Italy. Thanks to our colleagues from ADICONSUM for their great support.

Web 2.0 – A risky adventure playground for young people?

On November 23rd the members of the Youth Protection Roundtable came together for their 2nd meeting in Rome. They warmly welcomed Annie Mullins from Vodafone who joined the group in the role of an observer and reporter from the viewpoint of the mobile industry.

As 126 experts from 26 European countries, which responded to the survey carried out by the Germany based Stiftung Digitale Chancen within the Youth Protection Roundtable, came to the conclusion that Web 2.0 provides a lot of risks and threats to young people, this topic was put on the agenda for the meeting. The purpose was to describe the requirements of technicians and pedagogues as regards youth protection and the development of a common view taking into account the needs of both groups. Furthermore, the involvement of young people in the project's work was discussed.

Camille de Stempel from AOL UK introduced to the question 'What does Web 2.0 mean for youth protection?' While in the year 1996 about 45 million users worldwide accessed the 250,000 websites of the Internet primarily to read information online, ten years later in 2006 more than 1 billion users took part in the 80 million read-and-write platforms of the web. Not only illegal content raises concerns about youth protection, but also questions of copyright and harmful but legal content as well as offensive user-generated content. Strong co-operation with all stakeholders, education initiatives and effective reporting mechanisms are considered as measures to deal with the threats.

In the following the requirements for the development of technical solutions with focus on the youth protection features of Windows Vista and Web 2.0 applications were described by Thomas Myrup Kristensen from Microsoft. The industry can provide technical measures like parental control appliances, web content filtering, time usage control etc. to create a safe family environment. To ensure effective use of the technical measures, consumer education is necessary as well. Kristensen therefore also emphasised the relevance of co-operation between the different stakeholders in the centre of all efforts for youth protection.

Then Riitta Kaupinnen from the Mannerheim League Finland provided insight in the work of a children's welfare organisation and explained the requirements of pedagogues for the task of youth protection with the focus on adequate use and appropriate configuration of security solutions and Web 2.0 appliances. She stressed that as social media cause new forms of online behaviour of young people, the measures now need to go beyond awareness raising and parental control. Youths in the era of Web 2.0 need a special kind of digital literacy and they need guidance from their 'virtual raisers' as well as from peers.

Veronica Samara, Extreme Media Solutions Greece, drew the attention of the YPRT members to the currently published ENISA study (see Research from the field). Nowadays social community platforms can be sold for huge amounts of money. Users should know that their profiles are sold to advertisers as well as to other stakeholders with commercial interests, Samara stressed, and they should learn how to protect their privacy.
Young people are aware of the threats, but they are willing to take risks and feel confident to deal with them, and with private data they trifle quite carelessly. The Internet is an adventure playground for kids, but nevertheless a big opportunity. To ensure that young people benefit from the opportunities of the Internet, risks and threats must be minimised. Younger children can be safeguarded by adequate protective means – for example access only to walled garden offers; with the older ones the severe consequences their online behaviour might cause should be discussed. Therefore, in the next months, the Youth Protection Roundtable will involve young people from the countries gathered at the roundtable in the development of guidelines for the use of social networking communities and other web applications.

As a model for further development of guidelines the Italian Media and Minors Code of Conduct was introduced to the YPRT members by Mr. Alessandro Caroselli from the Italian Ministry for Telecommunications. He announced a specific Internet and Minors Code of Conduct to come out in spring 2008. Dr. Paolo Landi, President of Adiconsum and councillor of the CNU emphasised the necessity to involve consumer advocates in the developing process from the beginning.