The Covid-19 pandemic significantly increased the interaction of children with the Internet. While the Internet is rich with educational and cultural content, it also fosters a plethora of multifaceted risks, particularly for young children. The realisation of these risks can be avoided when parents are well informed of potential dangers and can guide their children to navigate the web safely while benefiting most out of it.
In light of Safer Internet Day on 12th February 2021, CONNECT University brought together a panel of selected speakers who shared their thoughts and recommendations tailored for parents with young children, informing them how to keep kids safe when online and how to provide better support during these times. The discussion also touched on issues of extended screentime and coping with spending too much time online under the Covid-19 lockdown.
June Lowery-Kingston, Head of Unit Accessibility, Multilingualism & Safer Internet
June Lowery-Kingston is Head of Unit Accessibility, Multilingualism & Safer Internet, and a newly appointed Deputy to the Director at the European Commission at the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT) at the European Commission. Her work aims to promote a better internet for children by protecting and empowering children online, and improving the quality of content available to them. Her unit is also responsible for making digital life in Europe more accessible and inclusive, regardless of language, disability and age, and for coordinating CNECT actions for a Union of Equality.
Barbara Buchegger, Austrian Safer Internet Centre
Barbara Buchegger is pedagogical project manager for the Awareness Centre of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre. She is responsible for Saferinternet.at’s services for the educational sector, from the development of learning resources to teacher training. She is an expert in online safety, media education, digital literacy and collaborative e-learning. She is an on- and offline facilitator and trainer for teachers in the fields of internet use and e-learning. In her work for Saferinternet.at, she mainly works with pupils, teachers, head teachers and parents because of her pedagogical expertise. She is an in-demand speaker on both a national and international level in this field. She is chairperson of the European expert group on digitalisation and youth (DG Education and Culture) and also curates a popular parent blog (www.fragbarbara.at).
Maria Dara, Greek Safer Internet Centre
Ms. Maria Dara holds a diploma in psychology from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and a MSc degree in “Psychology of Child Development” from the University of Central Lancashire. Since 2009, she has been scientific collaborator of the Adolescent Health Unit, 2nd Pediatrics Clinic of the University of Athens (at the Panagiotis & Aglaia Kyriakou Hospital), where she has been responsible for diagnosing learning difficulties and providing counselling & support to adolescents and their parents. Since 2011, Ms. Dara has been working for the helpline of the Greek Safer Internet Centre, providing psychological support and counselling for issues related to the Internet. In the period 2014-2015 Ms Dara provided chat counseling to parents in the framework of sports academies of OPAP. In the Ariadne Project, Ms. Dara was responsible for the logistics of the project’s educational activities, and for the scientific forum among the 1000 participating mental health professionals and educators. She is also parent educator of the Ministry’s Parents Education Programme for issues related to respectful parenting and bullying-cyberbullying. She has worked as psychologist to private schools providing specific educational programme of 30 hours regarding Internet safety and bullying/cyberbullying and providing counseling and support to teachers, parents and students. In the period 2011-2014, Ms. Dara has been representing Greece at the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online – eNACSO, via the NGO Obrela. She is the President of the nonprofit organization “allaZO” for child welfare in online and offline environments (www.allazo.org.gr) and works as psychologist in private practice and she is scientific responsible of “Therapin” – specialized centre for parents and children. Ms. Dara has co-authored chapters related to Internet issues such as grooming, cyber suicide, or cyberbullying in the Greek books “New Forms of Abuse” and “Internet and Adolescence”, and is author of the “Addiction to Internet Pornography", "Sexual seduction of minors via the Internet", "Internet gambling addiction" and "Cyber-suicide” chapters of the Ariadni e-learning training kit. She is co-editor of the Greek book "The project Ariadne: The Answer to the modern maze” and the training manual “Addictive Behaviours on the Internet”.
Karl Hopwood, Independent esafety expert
Karl Hopwood is an independent online safety expert. He is a member of UKCIS (UK Council for Internet Safety) and sits on the UKCIS evidence group and the UKCIS education group as well as on the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre. He also sits on Twitter’s trust and safety council and the Roblox trust and safety board where he represents the Insafe network. Karl has worked for a number of key players in the UK and abroad including CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre), BECTA (British Educational and Communications Technology Agency), the European Commission, the UN and several Local Authorities within the UK and in Europe. As an ex primary headteacher, he continues to work closely in schools across Europe with children, young people, parents and teachers to develop safer online behaviours and the promotion of digital literacy. Karl has been employed for the last 14 years as an in-house consultant for INSAFE which is the coordinating node of the EU Better Internet for Kids programme where he is responsible for the coordination of safer internet helplines across Europe. Karl is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Marie Collins Foundation, a charity which supports young people who have been sexually abused and exploited online and is also a trustee of Childnet International and an executive committee member of SACPA (Safeguarding and Child Protection Association). Karl has recently worked with a team developing a national online safety strategy in Rwanda and chaired the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) working group to re-write their Child Online Protection Guidance.