More knowledge about risks linked to the use of social media

The seventh edition of the BeSmartOnline project was launched, with the aim that this project gives protection to children in relation to the difficulties brought about by the use of technology, as well as giving more knowledge to parents and – educators. The launch was made on Friday morning by the Minister for Social Policy and Children’s Rights Michael Falzon and by the Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Clifton Grima.

The project has a collaboration between a number of different entities, including the Foundation for Social Protection Services (FSWS), the Office of the Commissioner for Children, the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programs and s – section of the Cybercrime Unit of the Malta Police.

This project, through the Safer Internet Centre, works continuously to raise more awareness on the subject and through the helpline offers support to those who encounter online abuse or are victims of abuse.

In fact, helpline 179, which is also the national helpline, received 505 calls in the year 2020 and 691 calls in the year 2021 related to internet security. The numbers reflect the period where the lockdown led to more time on the internet.

Minister Michael Falzon claimed that such initiatives should continue to be strengthened, especially in schools, because they create knowledge at an early stage that leads to better decisions by children, when faced with pressures in the online world. Minister Falzon said that, “This project is part of a measure of the electoral manifesto and therefore the FSWS will be responsible for implementing this measure, with the aim of offering guidance to children, teenagers and – parents to make wise use of social media.”

Minister Clifton Grima spoke about the importance of digital means in today’s world, even in the educational sector. “A study carried out in 2021 shows that 75% of children under the age of eight have access to a tablet or mobile, an increase of 25% in just two years. We must recognize that through the good use of technology, both parents and educators are using these means to nurture children in key skills through educational games, research and in academic disciplines.”

BeSmartOnline also collaborated with the popular musical group The Travelers to produce a disc with the theme of cyberbullying, called ‘Simili’, with the aim of getting the message to children and young people more effectively.