ITsec vendors rally to support Safer Internet Day

The emphasis of today's initiative is, of course, making the internet safer for younger users of the web, but the good news is that, in doing so, the internet - and ITsec industry - are also making the internet safer for companies and their staff.

Companies supporting this, the sixth Safer Internet Day initiative, include Facebook, Microsoft Europe, MySpace, Sulake/Habbo Hotel and Zap.lu, many of whose sites are also used by companies for B2B and B2C services.

Speaking with Infosecurity, Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman of Microsoft Europe, said that - along with other signatories - his company has signed the `Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU' voluntary code of practice which has been developed by social networking service providers in consultation with the European Commission.

The code, he says, aims to provide good practice recommendations for the providers of social networking and other interactive sites, to enhance the safety of young people using their services.

"As part of the initiative our staff will be entering schools and other training facilities to help train teachers and students to safely use the internet and social media services," he told Infosecurity.

Delving into the raft of research released by the industry in conjunction with today's initiative reveals that, whilst 77% of parents in the UK use filtering software on their PCs, other countries seem to be doing better in terms of controlling access to the internet for their offspring.

According to the report, from the EU Kids Online research project at the London School of Economics, French (88%), Portuguese (84%) and Greek (81%) parents were the most concerned about their offspring seeing inappropriate content such as violent images or pornography.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for information society and media, meanwhile, said the initiative is "an important step forward towards making our children's clicks on social networking sites safer in Europe."

In a statement, she noted that the potential for social networking sites to flourish should only happen when children have the trust and tools to stay safe while they use such web destinations.

She added that her department plans to closely monitor the implementation of today's agreement and the Commission will come back to this matter in a year's time.

In the UK, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has co-ordinated a series of workshops, parent training, debates, competitions and knowledge surveys.

CEOP has also launched two new educational packages for teachers containing films with the latest safety advice.

According to CEOP's chief executive, Jim Gamble, there are many resources out there aimed at helping young people stay safe online - software and other tools which can feel reassuring.

"But none of these will help unless people take notice of what the threat really is. This is where CEOP comes in, providing information on what children are actually doing in the virtual world and how offenders are using online environments to target young victims," he said.

"With training and support from the CEOP Centre's education team, Microsoft volunteers will be the among the first people from industry to deliver the Thinkuknow internet safety education programme directly to children," he added.

Infosecurity notes that tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the UK and Europe are marking Safer Internet Day at a series of special assemblies.

Events are also taking place across Europe to highlight the potential dangers young people face while exploring online.

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