The international Safer Internet Day was celebrated on February 7, 2017 in over 100 countries in all continents. The Bulgarian main event with the slogan “Ot Teb Z@visi” (trans. Be The Change) took place in the child science center Muzeiko in Sofia.
The event was officially opened by Ofelia Kaneva, chair of the State Agency of Child’s Protection and a deputy chair of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre’s advisory board. She expressed her gratitude for the long-term effective cooperation between the State Agency of Child’s Protection and the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC).
In a special video address, Sonia Livingstone of the London School of Economics, principal investigator of the “Global Kids Online” research network stressed on several of the most interesting results of the “Bulgaria’s Children Online” national representative survey, conducted at the end of 2016 by MarketLinks on behalf of the Bulgarian SIC (watch the video here).
Among the key findings of the survey, it was found that for the past 6 years the age at which the greatest number of Bulgarian children start using the internet has decreased from 10 years of age to 7 years of age. In addition, parental mediation starts decreasing before the children develop their digital and media literacy skills, necessary for avoiding the internet’s risks and taking advantage of its opportunities, while the education system isn’t focusing on these skills. The three thematic reports, focusing on the risks, on the digital and media literacy of Bulgarian children, and on parental mediation respectively are currently undergoing peer review and are expected to be published later in 2017. You can find the preliminary respective reports here, here, and here.
In celebration of the Safer Internet Day, Telenor Bulgaria, a partner of the Bulgarian SIC, gave start to an online campaign, entitled “Finding Emo”. Designed as a competition between 13-18 year olds, the campaign’s main goal is to raise awareness about the risks related to social networking.
In honoring tradition, 24 students from three Cyberscout teams from Stara Zagora, Bozhurishte, and Panagiurishte were rewarded for winning the top three spots in a national competition for organizing and implementing the most original and interesting projects aimed at raising awareness about the internet’s risks and the ways for overcoming them among children. All trained Cyberscouts in 2016 participated in the competition. The trainings were implemented by the Bulgarian SIC in 6 Bulgarian counties with the support of Telenor Bulgaria and the Ministry of Interior. (click here to find out more about the Cyberscout program).
The event continued with a discussion between students, teachers, experts, and NGO representatives, who brainstormed case studies, illustrating hate speech on the internet. The case studies were prepared by the Bulgarian SIC’s Youth Panel. The participants in the discussion pointed out ways of reporting hate speech, ways of solving online conflicts positively, the importance of exemplary behavior, and the distinction between constructive criticism and hate speech. They also discussed the crucial role of preventative measures.
The participants also took note of the key stakeholders in combating online hate speech: the young people themselves, parents, teachers, the Ministry of Education and Science, the State Agency of Child’s Protection, and the Ministry of Interior. The participants offered concrete recommendations for the Ministry of Education and Science: support teachers and give them more freedom in developing the digital and media literacy of children both offline and online. The students suggested that critical thinking should be incorporated in the study curriculum to a greater extend, which would help decrease hate speech and aggression both offline and online.
The discussion on these topics will continue in several Bulgarian towns as a part of the Bulgarian SIC’s school campaign, “Ot Teb Z@visi”. For implementing the discussion in the classroom, the Bulgarian SIC developed specific materials, lesson plans, and teacher's guide. The end results of the campaign will be communicated on the website after collecting information from the school participants.