The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Fifth edition of BeSmartOnline! launched

Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 18:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

The fifth edition of the BeSmartOnline! Project (BSO 5) was launched today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri. 

The BeSmartOnline! project concerts 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. 

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BSO 5 will be implemented over 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 and which brings together FSWS Aġenzija Appoġġ, the Office of the Commissioner for Children, the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes, particularly the PSCD 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  regards to the better use of the internet and has promoted the internet as a tool for children to avail themselves of, in a safe and responsible manner. 

Presenting the findings of the EU Kids Online Survey, Ms Lorleen Farrugia, from the University of Malta said that 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. 36% 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. 37% 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% of children talk to their parents, 17% talk to one of their peers, 15% close the window or app or block the person. Another 15% 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 participation in the Europe-wide survey EU Kids Online IV was approached. 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.

"Whilst it is a positive thing to see the young generation keeping up with technological advancements, as time goes by, technology is becoming part of our daily routine hence, it is a must to work together to ensure that children are well-informed of the risks, be aware how to avoid them and most importantly use the internet with responsibility," remarked Schembri.

Dana Farrugia, CEO at Tech.mt said that, "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 & 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 public, 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.

This year's summer campaign, with the theme 'Find the right balance', was launched today. The campaign is targeted towards kids and parents and aims at raising awareness about online/offline balance, and at promoting life off screen.  


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