The fifth edition of the BeSmartOnline! project (BSO 5) was launched by Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri.
The BeSmartOnline! project concerns the efforts of national stakeholders working towards the safer use of the internet by children and youths.
The initiative aims at raising awareness and educating minors, carers and educators on the safe use of the internet; establishing, operating and promoting reporting facilities for internet abuse; and supporting respective victims.
BSO 5 will be implemented over a period of two years with a total investment of €443,188, co-financed by the European Union, through a consortium coordinated by the Malta Communications Authority and Tech.mt, which includes the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, Aġenzija Appoġġ, the Office of the Commissioner for Children, the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes, particularly the Personal, Social and Career Development Department and the Malta Police Force.
Over the past nine years, BeSmartOnline! has become an integrated hub of services and positioned itself as a national contact with regard to the better use of the internet, and has promoted the internet as a tool for children to use in a safe and responsible manner.
Presenting the findings of the EU Kids Online Survey, Lorleen Farrugia, from the University of Malta said children spend an average of 3.3 hours online daily and this increases with age. At age 16 the average number of hours is 4.2 hours.
Thirty-six per cent of children claim to use a smartphone to go online almost all the time, and the most common activities are watching video clips and listening to music. Thirty-seven per cent of participants were bothered or upset by something that happened to them online. When this happens to them, children use several strategies to cope: 20 per cent of children talk to their parents, 17 per cent talk to one of their peers, 15 per cent close the window or app or block the person. Another 15 per cent claimed that they ignored the problem or hoped that it would go away.
Maltese households with dependent children have one of the highest rates of internet access in Europe. This is commendable and necessitates the availability of empirical research so that parents, policy makers, educators and other stakeholders can ensure that children benefit from internet use without being harmed by the related risks.
It is with this in mind that it was decided to participate in the Europe-wide survey EU Kids Online IV. In Malta, the survey was adapted, translated and administered by the National Safer Internet Centre, BeSmartOnline! and the University of Malta. The data collection took place in schools between March and May 2018.
Dana Farrugia, CEO at Tech.mt, said: “BeSmartOnline! is a project that creates awareness among children and youths on how to use the internet safely. We acknowledge that the use of technology is starting at a very young age and we must be in line with younger generations and assist them to behave safely while online. Tech.mt is fully committed to promoting Malta’s National Strategy for Technology and Innovation while ensuring that younger generations navigate the internet space in a safe manner.”
Throughout the years, the BSO project has reached more than 40,000 students across various state, private and church schools, every scholastic year, thanks to the resources and initiatives rolled out by the BSO team. These include educational campaigns, roadshows, workshops, seminars, live-ins, information days and awareness sessions.
By the end of 2020, BSO will also be creating an app for the positive use of the internet.
For more information visit www.besmartonline.org.mt and www.facebook.com/saferinternet.mt
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