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Safer Internet Day raises awareness of net dangers

European-wide initiative to educate parents and children

Today marks the 5th Safer Internet Day, part of a global drive to promote a safer internet for all users, especially children and teens.

Organised by the European Commissioner of Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding and co-ordinated by the Insafe awareness network, the event involves 50 European countries taking part in events to raise awareness for both children and adults of the dangers that lurk on the web.

In the UK, schools have been encouraged by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which is working in conjunction with Insafe, to host assemblies introducing internet safety to students.

A competition is also held every year prior to the event, which sees students create multimedia material designed to promote the theme 'Life online is what you make of it' and allows everything from posters and leaflets to short films to be submitted. Votes are submitted for the material online and the winner of the European-wide competition will be announced today.

A spokesperson from Insafe said: "Our children and young people spend hours online every day. As responsible citizens, are we confident that they adventure, network and seek information out there in safety?"

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre told the BBC: "It's about getting them talking about the issue, the personal information they put online and their social-networking profiles," she said.

However, not everyone feels the initiative will work. While antimalware manufacturer PC Tools is supporting attempts to educate children, the company feels that many of the measures won't make any difference unless the lessons being taught are carried through to everyday internet and online etiquette.

"Naivety and indifference fuel online crime through a mix of poor etiquette and out-of-date protection so it is imperative that parents and young users sit up and take notice," said PC Tools' online security expert Mike Greene.

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