Safer Internet Day highlights online safety for children, young people, and adults
While cupid was busy sharpening his arrows and hunting for your Valentine, there was also another event on this month – in case you missed it through your rose-tinted glasses. That important day, was Safer Internet Day.
Yes, there’s a whole day dedicated to it! There’s a whole day dedicated to everything, but this one is definitely a worthwhile initiative as it highlights how important it is for children, young people, and adults to update their knowledge and skills to protect themselves as society becomes more and more dependent on internet use and smartphones, and there is growing concern about privacy and data protection.
This month’s eBulletin will take a look at Safer Internet Day, some ECC Ireland tips and advice and it has also picked out some of the campaigns, reports and news items that helped spread the word. The eBulletin also features ECC Ireland’s latest press release which warned those seeking love online to be wary of romance fraud.
The consumer query of the month is back and this time looks at how online services, such as dating websites, should provide clear information in relation to auto-renewals and terminating the contract.
To find out more read on below or download your free copy of ECC Ireland’s February 2017 eBulletin.
Safer Internet Day 2017 – spreading online safety tips and advice
Safer Internet Day, which took place this year on February 7th, is an annual initiative jointly organised by the Insafe network (coordinated by European Schoolnet, a network of 30 European Ministries of Education) and INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines), with the support of the European Commission. Now in its 14th consecutive year, the initiative aims to promote safer and more responsible use of the internet and smartphones, especially among children and young people.
The theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day was: ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’. This was to highlight the fact that we all have a role to play and that, by uniting and working together, we can achieve a safer and better internet for all. This year’s event saw more than 120 countries worldwide, including 28 countries of the European Union, along with many organisational supporters take part. ECC Ireland and other centres throughout the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) did their part by helping to raise awareness about this important issue.
Irish consumers spending more online and children logging on younger
The internet is a tool that we as a society can’t do without these days. We use it for everything, from buying a dress, banking, to even finding love, and that’s just the adults. Children and young people seem to be connected and logged on from birth – there’s probably a child out there who’s first word was Google and searching for ‘how to get mummy to stop posting picture of me in stupid outfits?’
According to figures from dot ie Digital Health Index, Irish consumers are spending more than €9 billion online. A recent report from Zeeko, an Irish EdTech start-up, found that 86 per cent of primary school pupils have access to a smartphone, tablet or iPad, and that the age that kids are accessing the internet is getting younger.
This is why the campaigns taking place on Safer Internet Day are so important as they help to raise awareness about online safety issues, to educate and empower not just children, but also give parents the extra knowledge they need to use the internet more safely and better protect their children.
With this in mind, ECC-Net put together ‘The 5 Commandments For Safer Internet Use’ to help children and young people be more aware of certain risks involved in using the web.
Log on and use the internet safely while following these five commandments:
Although it’s important to teach children and young people to use the internet safely, it is also vital that adults also learn how to protect their personal information when surfing the net. Here’s some tips and advice to follow:
- Read the small print –when downloading new apps or signing up to new websites, make sure to read the terms and conditions and any small print. Consumers should pay particular attention to privacy settings, especially when using social networking websites.
- Be cautious when making in-app purchases– certain apps, such as games, allow consumers to make in-app purchases for credits or special features. However, these can lead to costly bills if they are not monitored.
- Phone security– smartphones are not always as secure as traditional PCs or laptops. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid accessing sensitive information (such as online banking) when using a public or unsecured WiFi network.
- Use a secure payment method– when purchasing online, consumers are encouraged to use secure methods of payment (e.g. a credit card or PayPal) as these can provide greater protection if something goes wrong.
- Avoid buying counterfeit goods –the sale of counterfeit goods is illegal and can have links to organised crime. If you are making a brand name or designer purchase online but you’re not certain about the seller, it is a good idea to contact the company directly to check whether the website is a verified seller. Consumers should be wary of websites offering expensive items at significantly reduced prices as these may not be authentic.
- Beware disreputable free trials –some free trial offers may be fronts for costly subscription services which can leave consumers greatly out of pocket.
What other Safer Internet Day campaigns took place this month?
Safer Internet Day was promoted in Ireland by the PDST Technology in Education and Webwise with more than 420 events taking place in schools and organisations across the country and an estimated 75,000 children participating.
To help promote the event Webwise came up with this video which is funny but has a serious message. Check it out:
Webwise also hosted a live parenting panel discussion at Facebook HQ to launch a new online hub for parents and guide. Webwise Parents aims to provide parents with easy access to practical advice and information to help address their concerns about the various issues facing their children online.
Resources for parents also includes the Family e-Safety Kit which is aimed at 6 to 12 year olds and is there to help parents share the benefits and risks of internet use. There are resources for teachers too including the Myselfie and the Wider World and the #Up2Us Anti-Bullying Kit. Click here to find out more.
Other Safer Internet day campaigns, reports, and news items that caught ECC Ireland’s eye include:
- The UK Safer Internet Centre showed the power of image in today’s digital youth culture. The centre’s research shows that the majority of children (84%) aged between eight and 17 have shared a photo online, with one in six doing so in the last hour. It says that four in five young people have been inspired by an online image or video to take positive action, but that more than one in five have been bullied with images or videos online and 70% have seen images and videos not suitable for their age.
- The European Schoolnet published a new anti-bullying resource for teens which is available here.
- Wired UK which came up with these cybersecurity tips for businesses.
- Microsoft UK had these five nuggets of information for safer internet use – https://twitter.com/mspartnersuk/status/828996805643923463
- It seems that Trump is not the only one talking about ‘fake news’. According to a study in Austria young people there feel unsettled by fake news. https://twitter.com/safeinternetday/status/831171150784954368/photo/1
- The BBC website has an interesting page about sharing pictures of your child online and asking is it advisable? http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3b6y4j
Love is in the air – protect your heart and your wallet from romance fraud
Safer internet use also applies to when you’re surfing the net in search of love. Ahead of Valentines, ECC Ireland issues a press release warning of the dangers of romance fraud not just because of the devastating impact it may have on consumers’ hearts but also their wallets.
Romance fraud is a lesser known but very serious form of scam which tends to be under-reported because people are embarrassed and don’t know where to go with their complaints. According to the UK’s cyber-crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, it receives 350 calls about romance scams a month. Just last month, The Belfast Telegraph reported that police in Northern Ireland had issued a warning about these scams.
Consumer success story of the month
A consumer booked a rental car through an airline website after making a flight booking. However, when he presented at the rental local, the car was not available and he had no option but to book another vehicle at the last minute. When he complained to the airline, he got no response. When he contacted the ECC, the ECC noted the airline website merely facilitated car rental bookings and the consumer’s contract was actually formed with a third party online car rental broker. The ECC contacted the car rental company who confirmed they had not received the original complaint as it was sent to a general airline complaints section rather than to the dedicated car rental complaints email address. The car rental company issued a full refund.
Consumer query of the month
Q: A number of months ago, I paid to access a dating website but after a few visits to the site found it poor and stopped using it. I didn’t even go on one date so imagine how shocked I was when I looked at my bank account recently that the website has been taking money from my account every month! When I emailed the website, they told me I had signed up to a monthly subscription. However, when I re-checked their website I saw that a price is quoted to “Unlock the Service” beside an asterisk that brings you to tiny grey print at the bottom of the page that says it is a monthly subscription. I never saw the small print. I feel I’ve been robbed. What are my rights?
A: Under Directive 2005/29/EC, communication that deceives or is likely to deceive a consumer in respect of the price to be charged is prohibited. What constitutes such communication needs of course to be decided on a case-by-case basis. However, it can be noted that even factually accurate communications can be considered misleading on the basis of its “overall presentation” where it is likely to deceive a consumer (2005/29/EC Art 6).
In the website you discussed, the wording “unlock the service” is ambiguous. Furthermore, information indicating that the consumer is entering into a monthly subscription is communicated by virtue of an asterisked footnote, which makes the information supplied less clear than having it in the main body of the text. Furthermore, the footnote is in a different lighter colour than the main body of text, which also makes it less clear. An argument could certainly be made on the grounds that the pricing is not clearly communicated in accordance with the requirements of the above-mentioned provision.
If the monthly charges are continuing, you should seek to ensure that this stops. This can be done in most cases by contacting the trader and requesting that the subscription be discontinued. With some companies the subscription may not be on a month-to-month subscription basis but could be a yearly contract putting the consumer at a disadvantage.
In such circumstances, depending on the method of payment used, it may be possible to block further payment or recover funds improperly drawn down by contacting your bank or credit/debit card provider. A credit/debit card provider could even be asked about the possibility of a “charge back” of funds already drawn down by the trader but this will not be available in all cases.
Where there is a dispute relating to on-going charges or charges previously levied, the ECC may be in a position to contact a trader to see whether an amicable settlement can be reached. In respect of such an intervention, however, as the ECC has no enforcement or sanctioning powers, the outcome will ultimately depend on the willingness of the trader to reach an amicable resolution. The European Small Claims Procedure could also be used to seek redress where the trader and consumer are in different EU countries and where the objectively misleading nature of the contract information and reliance on it can be proved to the court.
Press and Communications Officer
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
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This ebulletin is part of the action 670695 – ECC-Net IE FPA which has received funding under a grant for an ECC action from the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
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