In anticipation of Safer Internet Day 2024, celebrated worldwide on 6 February, the Office of the Commissioner for Children and the Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS) underlined the importance of creating a safer online environment for children and young people.
The Office of the Commissioner for Children, in collaboration with FSWS, is actively participating in the BeSmartOnline! campaign, which strives to raise awareness and provide support to safeguard children online.
The theme for Safer Internet Day 2024 is “Together for a Better Internet,” echoing the call for collective action to ensure a positive and secure online experience for everyone, with a special focus on children and young people.
In a statement, the Office of the Commissioner for Children highlighted the pervasive risks children face online, including excessive internet use, exposure to harmful content, sexual exploitation and abuse, cyberbullying, and misuse of private information. Both organizations emphasize the importance of instilling in children the skills to navigate the online world responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively.
To commemorate Safer Internet Day, numerous initiatives are being undertaken. Many schools have committed themselves to celebrate this day by organizing various activities with the support of the BeSmartOnline! Team. Schools and organizations have access to a toolkit, including lesson plans and resources, to educate children about responsible internet use.
This year, a video and other resources addressing the issue of digital footprint and the online trail left by children have been distributed in all schools. The video was produced by members of the Youth Panel coordinated by the Office of the Commissioner for Children, highlighting the importance of peer involvement in promoting online safety.
As part of their ongoing efforts, the BeSmartOnline! Team will set up an information stand in Valletta (next to the Parliament) on 13 February from 9am to 1pm. The stand aims to provide information on the wise use of technology, and activities for children will be organised, encouraging parents and guardians to participate in promoting a safer digital environment for their families.
In a related development, the FSWS BeSmartOnline! Team reflected on the critical role it played in 2023, receiving a total of 889 calls, with cyberbullying constituting the highest percentage. The team continues to address concerns related to cyberbullying, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, sexting, sextortion, grooming, and excessive internet use.
Michael Falzon, the Minister for Social Policy and Children’s Rights, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring children have the tools and awareness for a safer online environment. He emphasizes collaboration with stakeholders, including the Office of the Commissioner for Children, FSWS, and others, to invest in educating children and adolescents about responsible internet use.
BeSmartOnline! is a member of Inhope and Insafe international networks, and the project is co-funded by the European Commission under the Digital-2021 Trust-01 call.
For more information about Safer Internet Day 2024 and BeSmartOnline! initiatives, visit the Facebook page @saferinternet.mt.
For more support and guidance regarding online safety for children one can visit www.besmartonline.org.mt or call the support line 179. Abuse that takes place online should be reported through www.childwebalert.gov.mt.