On 7 February, 2023, for the 20th time, more than 180 countries from all continents, including Bulgaria, celebrated the international Safer Internet Day under the motto "Together for a better Internet". The main event to mark it in Bulgaria was organized by the Bulgarian Safer Internet Cetre and included an online discussion, which this year was dedicated to the topic "Screen time and its impact".
According to established tradition, the members of the Bulgarian SIC’s Youth Panel played a leading role in the event, as they actively participated in its planning and moderated the discussion panels. Experts and representatives of various state institutions, civil organizations and companies participated, including members of the Public Council on Safer Internet Use (the Bulgarian SIC's Advisory Board).
The event was opened by Dr. Emanuil Georgiev from the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre and Inspector Emil Iliev from the Cybercrime Unit of the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The purpose of the panel discussions was to draw specific conclusions and recommendations to institutions, parents, young people and professionals working with children.
The first discussion panel, hosted by Elena Ognyanova from the Bulgarian SIC’s Youth Panel, was dedicated to the topic "What is the optimal screen time for children?". The psychologists Ivet Prokopova and Mirela Dimitrova took part in it as panellists. During the first panel, the health risks to children of too much time spent in front of the screens of digital devices were discussed, as well as how parents can communicate the topic with their children and the question of the balance between the time spent online and the physical activities of adolescents.
During the second discussion panel, hosted by Simona Todorova from the Youth Panel at the Bulgarian SIC, it was discussed whether it is possible to develop an addiction to the Internet and to video games, as well as what could be the harms, but also the benefits from games and do they actually develop useful skills in children. Along with the psychologists Ivet Prokopova and Mirela Dimitrova, Associate Professor Mihail Okoliyski, a representative of the World Health Organization, joined the topic as a guest panellist.
The third discussion panel, hosted by Vanessa Filipova from the SIC’s Youth Panel, was dedicated to "The impact of the screen". Guest panellists were Ivaylo Spasov from UNICEF Bulgaria, Maria Brestnichka from the National Network for Children and Assoc. Prof. Mihail Okoliyski from the World Health Organization. During the discussion, the participants talked about whether children adopt and copy models of behavior they observe on social networks, what is the impact of so-called "influencers" as role models for young people and whether online and "traditional" media comply to ethical and professional standards when covering cases involving children. It was also discussed whether the massive advertising of potentially harmful services and products for young people, such as gambling, could lead to serious consequences such as the development of gambling addiction.
Along with the main panellists, other participants in the event - professionals, experts and young people also took part in the discussions. Among the participants was also Eva Zhecheva, Head of the Children's Rights Directorate at the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The event held with the support of the Disney Company.
A full recording of the discussion (in Bulgarian) can be found on the Safer Internet Center's Facebook page.
As usual, this year a number of schools, libraries and municipalities in Bulgaria also held their own parallel events to mark the Safer Internet Day. Among them were "Hristo Botev" High School in Oryahovo, where the teachers provided thematic lessons to acquaint the students with a variety of information about the main online risks for children and young people, using video lessons and other resources of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Center. Also, the Community Support Centre and Ivan Radoev Community Centre and Library in the town of Novi Pazar jointly organized discussions on the topic "Media literacy and safe surfing on the Internet " with students from the 3rd and 5th grades of "Khan Isperih" High School and "Vasil Levski" Hiigh School, which held between 6th and 10th of February.