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23% of children regularly visit porn websites

15 April 2014 / 17:04:00  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Protecting children in the digital age, one of the major challenges facing modern man, was at the centre of a conference that took place under the Greek Presidency of the European Union in Athens.

Its participants shared the opinion that porn sites as well as those with contents inciting intolerance, hatred, anorexia, self-harm, suicide and drugs are the main dangers for children on line. The problem of the free access to them takes on even more frightening dimensions when considering the fact that in many countries the age limit of children browsing the Internet has fallen to 6 and even to 4 years.

A piece of research conducted in six Western European countries shows that 14% of children aged between 6 and 14 years visited at least once the so-called "adults only websites". "21.6% of them were boys and 5.4% girls. 36% of the total number were aged over 10 years," said Christian Grass from the European Audiovisual Observatory in France.

He stressed that 14% of children visited websites with particularly hard porn contents and the specific activity took 35% of the total time they spent on the Internet.

"The data must be interpreted very carefully because there is no available data on the websites visited by children via smartphones and tablets," said Grass. He added that many of these websites are located in countries outside the European Union where the European legislation is not applicable. "Moreover, the balance between the measures to be taken to protect children and free speech is very fragile. It is therefore necessary to train children to properly use the Internet."

Eva Torslund from the Swedish Media Council presented the best practices in her country but in terms of protecting children from other types of online threats, namely anti-democratic messages and attempts by extremists to involve them in their actions.

"These mostly right-wing extremists try to push their ideas mostly through forums and websites. A few years ago they could be identified relatively easily because of their unprofessionally written texts, but this is not so at present. The far right is very active and the government has assigned us to draw an action plan for child protection." The experts proposed the Swedish government the following measures: to fund programmes for computer and Internet literacy for children and adults at the local level, to coordinate these activities across the country, to deliver educational materials to schools, to introduce mandatory teacher training on how to work with children on this topic, to conduct research and, last but not least, to conduct training for those working in the media on how to present news related to the activities of extremists.

According to Torslund, "The campaigns against extremism are not effective. Demonizing the far right does not work, it is necessary to learn how to treat this type of content on the Internet and how to protect ourselves," she said in conclusion.

Hungary also attaches great importance to the education of children in relation to both the virtual and traditional media. Giorgi Ozhko from the Secretariat of the Media Council presented the pilot programme "Magic Valley", which aims to train students and teachers. At the centre, which was established with public and private funding, children can learn through practice different things from the media world. There are programmes related to the creation of news, to the introduction to different types of press and newspaper printing. "Advertising experts acquaint them with ads, with their impact on consumers, and inform them how ads can deceive or mislead them. The children learn how to create a radio show and then make their own, they air their own news feed, from a real studio, learn to choose the news according to the audience, make films and learn how to use modern technology in a safe way," he said during his presentation.

Informatics teacher Panagiotis Angelopoulos presented the Hellenic School Network that connects all primary and secondary schools in the country as well as the local offices of the Ministry of Education. It is the place where teachers, students and parents discuss a variety of topics related to teaching children and find tools to protect them from the bad contents on the Internet.

"The most popular topic on the blogs related to the web is the safety on the Internet. The information on the web passes through a central filter and we can remove such contents."

In turn Yiannis Trifiatis, a teacher and expert in the introduction of new technologies in education, stressed that a modern school should be open to society and it should have no walls, even in the literal sense. "In it a teacher ceases to be a "lector" and only coordinates the use of training tools. Students learn, create and express themselves in their own way." In conclusion, he stressed that the role of teachers is to teach the students to work together, have a critical eye on things and to protect themselves from things that threaten them.

Tags: SocietyChildrenStudentsInternetSafetyConference
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