The European Commission has published a report into the implementation by Member States of previous EU Recommendations regarding the protection of children online. The report concludes that further action at a European level may be required in order to help children reap the benefits of a constantly evolving digital world.

In 1998 and 2006, the EU published Recommendations which sought to address the protection of minors online. Member States were called upon to review existing protection mechanisms and encouraged to adopt safeguards which would protect children whilst using the internet. The Recommendations advocated self-regulation by Member States as it was thought that this would allow Member States the flexibility to be as responsive as possible to advances in technology.

Since these Recommendations, the use of online services by minors has dramatically increased. In particular, the growth of social networking sites has posed challenges to child protection which were not envisaged by the Recommendations. The European Commission has therefore reviewed the action already taken by Members States in order to consider whether further measures are necessary.

After reviewing the responses to a questionnaire distributed to Member States, the Commission has concluded that the current self-regulatory approach is not proving to be as effective as hoped. The Commission commended Member States for their awareness and attempts to address child protection issues, but commented that ultimately there is a lack of consistency and effective implementation between Member States. As a result, the Commission has concluded that further action at European level may be necessary in the future and has recommended several actions, including:

  • Harmful and illegal content: making hotlines better known and more easily accessible for Internet users, including children.
  • Social networking and privacy: improving awareness of the risks of social network and ways to mitigate them, including widespread adoption of "privacy by default" settings.
  • Age classification and rating systems: wider use of rating and content classification systems for online content.

Neelie Kroes, the Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda has said that she will present a strategy for further action later this year.

A copy of the European Commission's Report and Working Paper can be viewed here.