Online grooming of minors – instruments to combat this phenomenon

Online grooming of minors – instruments to combat this phenomenon

Investigations at EU level have shown that instances of online grooming are rising steadily and that many adults use the Internet to entice their young victims and gain their trust. The European Online Grooming Project, funded under the Commission’s Safer Internet Plus programme, seeks to raise public awareness of the issue and teach young people how to use the Internet safely. The behavioural patterns of perpetrators differ and this, together with their unpredictability, have so far made it difficult for protection systems put in place by social networks to be effective in eradicating the problem and mitigating the devastating effects on these young people.

On 01 October 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Gianantonio Da Re of the Identity and Democracy Political Group raised a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Da Re enquired from the Commission “will it launch an investigation to identify and retrain online behaviour and will it agree with the Member States ways of actively combating online this phenomenon?” and “what projects to support families and educators will it introduce to safeguard the physical and mental health of young people who are potential victims of psychological abuse?”

On 17 November, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton responded on behalf of the European Commission. In his answer, he highlighted that “children’s wellbeing online has been one of the Commission’s priorities since the Internet became widely available to them and is addressed through funding, coordination with the Member States and a legislative framework fit for the digital age”.

The Commissioner underlined that “online grooming is a key concern, the recent EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse (CSAM) announced several actions to tackle it”. He further explained that “the Commission proposed a temporary derogation from certain provisions of Directive 2002/58/EC for the processing of personal and other data for the purpose of combatting child sexual abuse online, including grooming in its scope, which is currently under legislative negotiation” and that “in 2021, the Commission will propose long-term legislation to tackle child sexual abuse happening online”.

Commissioner Breton reported that “the CSAM Strategy also announced the preparation of a prevention network of experts and practitioners to facilitate the exchange of best practices and support Member States in putting in place effective prevention measures, including measures to prevent grooming” and that “under the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children the Commission co-funds Safer Internet Centres (SICs) across Europe”.

Finally Commissioner Breton declared that “SICs run awareness campaigns, provide training for families and schools, run helplines answering questions on how to deal with harmful contact such as grooming, and offer hotlines to which the public can anonymously report online child sexual abuse material” and that “SICs share best practice and many resources through the EU funded portal”.

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