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Safer Internet Day fights online foolhardiness

Kids get CEOP IE - rest of you can look after yourselves

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Young surfers are being encouraged to practise safe computing and use common sense online on Safer Internet Day today.

Safer Internet Day is a worldwide user education initiative designed to "promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people". The official theme of 2010's event is "Think B4 U post!", as explained on EU organisation Insafe's website here.

Considerable emphasis is being placed on the issue of privacy and social networking. Standard safe computing advice, such as running up-to-date personal security software and being wary of unsolicited emails from strangers, is also prominent.

The UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre is teaming with Microsoft to released a "customised version" of IE 8 that will provide "users of all ages with direct, access to CEOP's internet safety advice and guidance". The Click CEOP provides direct access to CEOP's advice pages, which cover issues including cyberbullying and viruses through to sexual abuse and inappropriate content.

This "customised version" of IE 8 sounds like the Microsoft browser with a different home page, though we can't be sure since CEOP's press release is unclear, and its spokespeople were yet to return our call at the time of going to press.

In addition O2, Visa Europe and Microsoft have teamed with CEOP to offer safety advice to UK schools.

Numerous information security firms have added their own spin on events, with some issuing top tips and others releasing new research. For example, Trend Micro has produced a study on the privacy problems associated with social networks.

The survey of 500 parents and 500 children (10-16 year olds) revealed that three in five parents (62 per cent) had no idea about what information was publicly available about themselves or their children online through forums such as social networks. By contrast, a number of adults confessed to finding information about their kids they did not know - such as their children’s sexuality as well as their drinking and smoking habits - via content posted on social networks.

A substantial minority of adults (18 per cent) and kids (12 per cent) expressed concern about their family stumbling across online pictures of them getting drunk, Trend's survey reveals. The finding suggests young and old alike are struggling with the concept of keeping potentially embarrassing photos private, instead allowing images of their drunken antics to be shared online via social networking. Some might even be daft enough to upload incriminating photos themselves.

Last year social networking firms agreed on guidelines to better protect the privacy of children and adolescents online. The European Commission is due to issue a report on "Safer Social Networking Principles of the EU" charting their progress at an event in Brussels later on Tuesday.

Initial signatories to the safer social networking principles included Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Google, Microsoft Europe, Myspace, and Yahoo!Europe, and Zap.lu. In June 2009, two more signatories joined (Ratee and Tuenti).

Meanwhile the The Council of Europe is launching a teacher’s guide to safer surfing for children in six languages: French, German, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish and Turkish, called Through the Wild Web Woods. Which sounds a bit like a lyric from a famous Paul Weller song, doesn't it?

The guide, launched in English last year, provides tips and practical exercises for kids on topics such as managing online identity, privacy, security and not spending too much time online to the detriment of learning and other activities. ®

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