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Let Us Protect our Children on the Internet!

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we do things in the Internet environment that we would never dare do in the real world? We have nicknames, we take part in the mob-like structure of political portals. We believe that we are completely safe, and who cares if some unknown person sends an E-mail in which he seeks information about an attractive girl? So the person earns the girls trust and finds out where she lives so what? On the street we avoid contacts with strange and suspicious people. We lock our doors, but on the Internet we completely forget about caution. How can that be? Latvia has launched the Net-Safe project as part of the European Unions Insafe network, and the aim is to be focus attention on Internet security issues, particularly insofar as students, teachers and parents are concerned. The Insafe network has been operational in some European countries since 2002. The project is being co-ordinated in Latvia by the Secretariat of Special Assignments Minister for Electronic Government Affairs, and the Latvian Internet Association is actively involved.

Guna Kavia, Sakaru Pasaule, Latvia


 The Net-Safe project has already done things which have been very visible in Latvia.  At the beginning of 2007, an Internet portal dedicated to Internet security went on line, or  This homepage resembles a vivid cartoon or playground visitors can even play the piano in virtual terms!  For students who have greater experience and more serious perceptions about life, there is an intellectual quiz on safe Internet use.  The portal also offers lots of useful advice.  There are sections for teachers and parents, as well.
It is important that the portal is instantly of interest to children and adolescents who visit it.  The aim is to make sure that young people wish to visit the portal again and again to play a game at first, perhaps, but then to be interested in what can be found in other virtual rooms and links, as well.  An instructive research project in the spring of 2007 showed how safe young people, parents and teachers feel on the Internet.  Respondents were asked about their habits and concerns in this regard.  The portal, of course, reflects all aspects of the Net-Safe project.  At the beginning of the year, schoolchildren could take part in a competition to find a new logo for the European Insafe network.  They could leave their comments on a global blog.  An essay competition on the subject Young People-Internet-Security was completed in early May.  In July and August, there were seminars on the subject of Internet safety in many places in Latvia.
A look at the events of the Net-Safe project in the first phase (through March 2008) shows that there are many attractive and very valuable events.  It is certainly true that they have attracted a great deal of attention.


It is very possible that once the Net-Safe project is concluded, active young people might establish their own club or virtual forum of safe Internet users.  This would allow them to share in their knowledge and experience when it comes to unpleasant incidents on the Internet.  At this time, this is happening in the context of the Net-Safe project and in the competitions which the secretariat is organising.
As noted, one Net-Safe project was called Young People-Internet-Security, and it ended in May of this year.  Schoolchildren were asked to submit work related to the subject at hand, but there were no limits on genre or style.  Young people found all kinds of interesting ways of addressing the issues of Internet security drawings, games and, in one case, a video film presenting risks related to meeting others via the Internet.
During the summer of 2007, there were seminars about Internet safety all over Latvia 15 seminars and 460 students in all.  The seminars were held in two or three towns in each of Latvias regions, and the process lasted all day long.  The agenda for each seminar was a bit different.  Guest lecturers talked about Internet safety, and then students used computers and the Internet to develop their own projects in the area of Internet security.

Few facts:
 Nearly one-half of young people aged 14 to 18 chat with strangers on the Internet;
 66% of young people (14-18) and 60% of children (6-13) feel that Internet use creates no threats;
 61% of young people and 45% of children have never been told about Internet security;
 83% of parents, 80% of young people and 66% of children do not know what to do if they find illegal or harmful materials on the Internet.


The Net-Safe project and all of its components are aimed at ensuring that children and adolescents can feel safe on the Internet.  Young people must be very familiar with those things that they absolutely must not do on the Internet.  They must know about how to avoid becoming involved with frauds or people who have malicious intent.  The greatest concern is about the fact that young people in the 14-18 age group are far too ready to start corresponding with complete strangers, without any thought given to the possible dangers which this might entail.
One of the targets, alas, of frauds, blackmailers and mentally imbalanced individuals is the portal Access to the profiles of registered users show that both girls and boys sometimes post very provocative photographs on their profiles, and these are far easier to access than one might think.  It is particularly dangerous for such adolescents to start corresponding with strangers who are clearly imbalanced.  Those who wish to find new friends require detailed information about the dangers which prevail on the portal.  Its owners are trying to do so, but parents should devote greater attention to what the kids are doing on the Internet.  There have been examples in which the parents of a teenager monitor the young persons profile to make sure that correspondence between the child and other people does not lead to dangerous situations, whether a stranger is trying to get the child to state his or her address, personal data, etc., and so on.
It may seem to us that it is easier to avoid the obvious cyber criminals of our world paedophiles, those who seek to foment hatred, those who seek to defraud people on the basis of stolen personal data, etc.  The fact is, however, that it is not all that easy to spot all dangerous situations, and that is true even among experienced Internet users.  Criminals are becoming more and more tricky and professional.  Thats why children and young people must never ignore a suspicious situation.  They must ask parents or teachers for advice.  If necessary, they must also contact the police.  On the Internet, it is better to feel safe than to be too foolhardy.

Authors contacts: gunta(at)

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