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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 16:54 GMT
EU plans safer net for children
Child porn
EU plans talk of using net filters to control content
European Union officials are proposing to spend more than 30m to try to make the internet safer for children.

The four-year plan has been put forward by the European Commission.

The program, which needs to be approved by the EU governments comes at a time of growing concern over the potential dangers to children online.

"Children should have the right to use the internet freely, to chat, to learn or to play games," said Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.

"But to move freely online, children must be protected from risks of being exploited or cheated by adults."

United front

The commission said there was a disturbing gap between what children did online and what their parents thought they were doing.

It said that several surveys had shown that European parents were seriously underestimating their children's daily exposure to harmful content and dangerous situations online.

A recent study by Cyberspace Research Unit at the University of Central Lancashire found that children were still arranging face-to-face meetings with people they talk to online despite warnings about the dangers of internet chatrooms.

And the study showed that 60% of children did not know that people they chat to online might not be who they say they are.

To counter the problem, the commission urged EU states to join forces and raise awareness about harmful content online.

It proposed to fund development of effective net filters and promote their use among parents to prevent pornographic material reaching children.

The commission also suggested the EU pay for telephone hotlines so that people could report suspect sites targeted at children.

The Safer Internet plus programme would launch next year and run until 2008.


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