President Karis on the protection of children in cyberspace: Everything starts with education

Speaking at a high-level event on the protection of children in cyberspace taking place in parallel with the Paris Peace Forum, President Alar Karis said that although the Internet supports innovation and digitalisation is a positive thing, both come with inherent risks. In order to deal with them, France is establishing a lab to look for ways of making the Internet safer for children and to offer solutions.

“Everything starts with education,” the head of state remarked during the discussion. “We must do everything within our power to protect the vulnerable in cyberspace. Through education and training, we must raise the level of awareness of the threats posed by the Internet.” He also proposed agreeing on key elements for the development of coordinated training and handbooks, since the possibilities and risks presented by the Internet are in large part universal, and added that a unified approach would promote the training of new teachers and teacher exchanges. “Estonia is working closely with other countries in implementing programmes needed for the protection of children on the Internet, and we look forward to the ideas the lab will come up with in that regard,” he said.

During the meeting, President Karis provided an overview of Estonian initiatives designed to promote responsible online behaviour and protection against threats, highlighting the ‘Lasteabi’ children’s helpline, the project ‘Targalt internetis’ (‘Smartly on the Web’) and the online police officer service.

Held in the Élysée Palace, the roundtable led by President Emmanuel Macron of France agreed yesterday that on the initiative of France, Estonia, Argentina and New Zealand a laboratory would be established whose work would involve the input of representatives of a wide range of countries, NGOs, research institutes and Internet giants. This laboratory or working group will aim to develop solutions for use around the world in providing youngsters with a safer Internet experience and, with the help of service providers, more effectively protecting the rights of children and young adults online.

The idea for a children’s protection lab involving a range of stakeholders arose from the success of the Christchurch Call initiative, which was launched in order to detect and block terrorist content online. Based on the initiative’s experience, France has proposed that an experimental lab be established comprising a wide variety of experts, NGOs, private companies, countries and public law agencies involved in the issue.

The lab will be tasked with selecting, assessing, developing and implementing solutions that address children’s safety on the Internet. Each year the lab will choose projects to evaluate, and its expert group will outline the results at the annual Paris Peace Forum. The issues the lab will deal with first are the confirmation of children’s ages on the Internet, protection of children’s privacy in the distribution of content online, harassment and cyber-bullying, digital skills and parental support. Thereafter the lab will itself prioritise issues to examine.

The online media companies Amazon, Dailymotion, Google, Instagram, Meta, Microsoft, Snapchat, Twitter, Qwant and TikTok will be involved in the work of the lab, as will representatives of UNICEF, the UN and the civil society organisations Save the Children, WeProtect, E-enfance, RespectZone and Point de Contact.