Creating an inclusive digital environment for young Europeans


By the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Team

In times of crisis more than ever before, digital technologies have proven instrumental in empowering children and young people to find information, communicate, socialise, learn and play –to an extent that is sometimes not possible in their offline lives. Yet, a growing reliance on the internet also means increased exposure to harmful contact, harmful conduct and harmful content, to which children and young people are particularly vulnerable – especially those with diverse disabilities. Safer Internet Forum (SIF) 2020 will therefore offer an exploration into the many complex ways in which this segment of young internet users is impacted by online harms, but also how they benefit from the use of digital technologies.

For over two decades, the European Union has played an important role in promoting a safer and better internet through a range of legal measures, funding programmes and self-regulatory initiatives. The annual Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is a key international conference in Europe where policy makers, researchers, law enforcement bodies, youth, parents and carers, teachers, NGOs, industry representatives, experts and other relevant actors come together to discuss the latest trends, risks and solutions related to child online safety.

With a theme of “Digital (dis)advantage: creating an inclusive world for children and young people online”, Safer Internet Forum will take place online this year, with a range of sessions from Tuesday, 24 until Friday, 27 November 2020.

In the keynote session “Digital dividends and digital disadvantage: children with disabilities’ views and experiences of the digital environment” on Wednesday, 25 November 2020, Laura Lundy, Professor of Education Law and Children’s Rights at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University, Belfast, will discuss the challenges and opportunities that children with diverse disabilities encounter when participating in the online world.

During this session, participants will also have the opportunity to hear from several young people with disabilities, who will share their perspectives on the opportunities the digital environment has offered them, as well as the challenges they face in their daily lives. They will discuss the actions they would like to see taken by different stakeholders to ensure that children with disabilities can access and engage with the digital environment in the same conditions as other children do.

The topic of inclusivity online will be further explored in a number of deep dive sessions, with a focus on innovative technological and educational solutions.

  • The session “Public and private solutions” will look at how industry and non-profit organisations are responding to demands for increased accessibility and designing platforms with all users in mind.
  • The session “Online safety resource creation” will consider some of the existing content and resources created for vulnerable groups from a broader perspective.
  • Lastly, the session “Inclusive education” will consider some best practices in using technology in schools to support children and young people with disabilities.

Registrations for Safer Internet Forum are now open – you may also find more information on the Better Internet for Kids website and on social media.

The BIK team coordinates the Better Internet for Kids portal which provides information, guidance and resources on better internet issues from the joint Insafe-INHOPE network of Safer Internet Centres in Europe, and other key stakeholders, on behalf of the European Commission.