The Internet Literacy Handbook
Original version compiled by Janice
Andrea Milwood Hargrave, Basil
Dominic Venter and Rene de Vries
First revision in 2005 by
Burdick, Chris Coakley
revision in 2007 by the Insafe network
Information Society Division
General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs
Good Governance in the Information Society
Directorate General of Political Affairs
Council of Europe
Manuel de maîtrise de l’Internet
The views expressed in this publication are the authors’ and do not necessarily
reflect those of the Council of Europe.
reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system or transmitted, in any form or by any means – whether electronic (CD-ROM,
Internet, etc.), mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the
prior permission of the Publishing Division, Directorate of Communication and
Graphic Design Workshop
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tips for the reader
Fact Sheet 1 – Getting connected
Fact Sheet 2 – Setting up websites
Fact Sheet 3 – Searching for information
Fact Sheet 4 – Portals
Fact Sheet 5 – E-mail
Fact Sheet 6 – Spam
Fact Sheet 7 – Chat
Fact Sheet 8 – Newsgroups
Fact Sheet 9 – World-wide libraries
Fact Sheet 10 – Music and images on the Internet
Fact Sheet 11 – Creativity
Fact Sheet 12 – Games
Fact Sheet 13 – Distance learning
Fact Sheet 14 – Labelling and filtering
Fact Sheet 15 – Privacy
Fact Sheet 16 – Security
Fact Sheet 17 – Bullying and harassment
Fact Sheet 18 – Shopping online
Fact Sheet 19 – Becoming an active e-citizen
Fact Sheet 20 – Mobile technology
Fact Sheet 21 – Blogs
Fact Sheet 22 – Social networking
Fact Sheet 23 – Web 2.0
Fact Sheet 24 – e-Democracy
Fact Sheet 25 – Getting assistance
Tips for the reader
1. For an explanation of the terms used in this handbook, the authors refer you
Wikipedia – a
free-content encyclopaedia, written collaboratively by users from around the
world, and which is constantly updated. The handbook provides web addresses that
will take you directly to many specific terms in Wikipedia, such as “Boolean
search”, “zombie computer” or “phishing” to name but a few; others can be found
via the Wikipedia home page at <http://www.wikipedia.org>.
Please take note that Wikipedia references in the handbook link directly to the
English language version of the Wikipedia website, which offers a number of
other language version to choose from.
2. The handbook uses the term “student” throughout. It refers to any young
person, whether a student, school student or pupil, who is learning in a school
or at home, regardless of age or level.
All Internet addresses cited were last accessed in December 2008.
Why create Internet literacy fact sheets?
Over the past decade or so, the Internet and mobile technology have transformed
multiple facets of life in society across the world. They have changed our work
and leisure patterns and they place greater demands on us as active citizens.
The Council of Europe's Internet literacy fact sheets are intended as an aid and
a guide in using this remarkable network of information and communication. The
aim is to:
offer teachers and parents
sufficient technical know-how to allow them to share young people’s and
children’s voyages of discovery through communication technology;
highlight ethical issues and give
insight into added-value in education;
provide ideas for constructive,
practical activities in class or at home to draw benefits from the Internet and
share best practice in widely
varying domains of Internet use;
provide links that will give
further information or practical examples.
This revised version provides more practical tips for teachers and parents as
well as updated web links and useful information on recent technological
innovations that are changing the way we access and use the Internet.
Ethical issues and dangers on the Internet
As we point out in
each fact sheet, alongside the many advantages the Internet has brought, we must
also respond to certain challenges.
estimated that viruses
are contained in about 2% of all email traffic, for example, cost
administrations and private enterprise in Europe alone some billions of euros
annually. Unsolicited e-mails, otherwise known as spam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-mail_spam),
now account for approximately 90% of all e-mails.
number of malicious code samples doubled during 2007,
having taken 20 years to reach the size it was at the beginning of the year, and
serious evidence highlights an evolution from hacking and virus writing for fun
to creating malicious code for profit (source: F-secure).
A significant percentage of content on the Internet is either illicit,
harmful or prejudicial, undermining the very basis of human rights and human
dignity. Furthermore, that permanently fragile concept of equality is once again
under threat as the
separates the information “haves” and “have nots”. Many young people are
experiencing a growing disadvantage due to lack of material means to access the
Internet, technical skills and online skills to search for information and use
Getting the most out of information and
The Internet is, as its name indicates, no more than a route between information
networks. As access means are continually evolving and technologies converging,
the manual is not limited to the Internet as such but also deals with innovative
gaming applications, mobile phones and more.
Nowadays every citizen needs to be
a 21st-century form of literacy built upon the four fundamental pillars of
education which constitute the very foundations of society. These are learning
to know, to do, to be and to live together. Readers are reminded, too, that we
all have a role to play in making the Internet a user-friendly environment fully
respectful of human rights, and the manual underlines actions they can take to
An evolving manual to respond to teacher and
As technologies evolve and other information sources become available, these
fact sheets will be updated and new ones added. You are welcome to participate
in this project by sending us your feedback or your ideas on classroom
activities, best practice or pertinent links. Please send your contribution to
the Council of Europe at: media.IS@coe.int.
Fact Sheet 1
The Internet is a worldwide network of computers
linked together through servers which function as connection
In November 2007 there were an estimated 1.26 billion Internet users in the
world of which almost 344 million were in Europe.
The Internet offers a wealth of new
ideas and resources for teachers. Lesson plans, online exercises for students
and electronic educational games.
The Internet facilitates exchange
of experience and communication between teachers and students across
The Internet provides students with
the opportunity to take part in projects to practise language and share
cultures. This can be quicker and more efficient than traditional pen pal
exchanges and does not involve the expense of a school trip.
The Internet makes research tools
accessible even to those who do not regularly visit a traditional library.
Ethical considerations and risks
As in the offline world, there is
fraud, false information and inappropriate material for children.
While Internet offers a number of
new possibilities, technical solutions are not always better than traditional
ones. For example, e-mail has revolutionised communication and although
video-conferencing can give a feeling of ‘almost being there’, it will never
replace face-to-face communication.
If you are connecting from an
institution (school, university, administration) your computer is probably
automatically linked to an in-house
To get connected to the Internet
with a computer from home, you will need:
- a computer equipped with a
modem – some
Internet Service Providers (ISP) automatically provide subscribers with a modem;
- a telephone connection with or without
or a satellite connection
- a subscription to an
Internet service provider
form the necessary link between the user and the Internet. They can be private
companies such as telecom or cable companies, or organisations such as
universities. ISPs usually require a monthly subscription fee, and offer a range
connection allows the user to access the Internet through a standard analogue
telephone line. The user is often charged according to time connected, as with a
normal phone call. An analogue line does not allow an Internet connection and
phone connection at the same time. Connection speeds are slow.
connection provides access through a digital line or a cable.
are examples. Cable operators and ISPs’ broadband subscriptions usually
allow unlimited access time for a fixed fee. However, a cap may be set on how
much data can be downloaded. Connection speeds are much faster and these lines
allow a phone to be used without disconnecting the Internet.
An increasing number of computers,
especially laptops, are fitted with wireless network cards (Wifi)
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/wifi) These allow cable-free access to the
Internet at home or at “wireless hotspots”. Wireless hotspots can be found at
public places such as cafés and airports. WiMAX is a new type of wireless
connection available in a very limited number of areas across the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMAX).
Choose a connection appropriate for
your Internet usage. A broadband connection is likely to be worthwhile if you
use the Internet regularly.
If you have broadband, do not
remain connected unless you are using it. It may not cost extra money, but it
increases the security risk to your data (see Fact Sheet 16 on security).
Sit next to your children whenever
you can while they are surfing the Internet, in order to stimulate discussion
about their online experiences and to increase trust; make it a challenge to
Draw up an
acceptable use policy
if others will be using the computer or network you are responsible for.
Setting up websites
So you want to set up a website?
School administrators, teachers and students increasingly feel the need to
present their school and/or work on the World Wide Web – the growth in the
amount of homepages is incredible. A good school website is a wonderful public
relations tool that can be used in many different ways, for example for
presenting school information or publishing lesson plans. It is also, of course,
a very important pedagogical tool.
But since websites can be used in so many ways, it is sometimes overwhelming for
administrators, teachers, students or parents who want to start their own
website to know where to begin.
Before starting to build your own website, you should consider the following
What is the purpose of your
Why do you need a website?
Who is your website audience –
world, district, hometown or just students and parents?
What will the content be?
Turning local schools into international schools
The Internet makes it possible for
students all over the world to communicate and collaborate very easily. Today’s
classroom defies the traditional image of a brick and mortar room in a fixed
geographical location. When using the Internet as a communication tool,
classroom walls disappear and local schools go global.
A good school website is
interactive and, by means of tools such as
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Message_boards), it is possible for students,
parents and teachers to access the latest school information anytime anywhere.
Students can play an active role in
setting up websites. In fact, when we look at website contests like
Think Quest at <http://www.thinkquest.org/>,
CyberFair at <http://www.globalschoolnet.org/index.html>
and others, websites made by lower and upper secondary school students are very
often of a better quality then the websites made by teachers.
Web-building basics can be taught
as part of the curriculum: students can create websites as assignments for math,
biology, language or music. In fact, all subject areas are compatible with
The wonderful thing about the
Internet is that students are not restricted to creating websites with their own
classmates: they can collaborate with students from all over the world using
communication tools like
For further information, take a closer look at Fact Sheet 7 on chat, 11 on
creativity and 1 on getting connected.
It is important to consider safety issues when putting together any kind of
School policy on Internet safety
and acceptable use must be clearly defined before creating an official website
or having students participate in website-building competitions.
The layout and the way photos are
used should reflect school Internet safety policy.
Because of safety and privacy
concerns, many schools do not provide the names, or only give first names, of
those in photos they publish. This is something to consider when you set up your
website: what is your safety protocol in this matter?
It is a good idea to screen all
external hyperlinks to other websites in order to ensure integrity of
information and that the websites adequately reflect the school’s stance on
Will you filter your Internet
access or will you teach your students to be more “streetwise”? Many schools
find a combination of these two techniques to be effective.
When students create a website as
an assignment, keep in mind that it can be visited by users from all over the
world. Think of these websites as a kind of public relations tool for your
school. Therefore it would be wise for teachers to supervise students’ work and
guide them during the creative process.
Teachers are ultimately responsible
for all work students produce. Therefore, teachers need to have the power to
refuse web pages or remove them from a school or project website. In order to
adequately supervise students’ work, teachers should always have access to
and so forth.
Building a school website
When used correctly a school website can serve as a powerful tool to draw
together the many different facets of a community. It can foster a sense of
cohesion and is a valuable communication tool which makes information easily
accessible to all parties. Here are some helpful suggestions for Web content.
Teachers could provide lesson
plans, or overviews of what students did during a certain period.
Administrators might post schedules
Students may want to publish art,
poems, stories, reports or other work.
Parents can use the site to
announce parent-teacher activities, such as festivals or other gatherings.
The community-at-large may use it
as a forum for announcements from soccer teams, field trips, police, road
workers and so forth.
wide variety of content may enrich a website, but a wide base of contributors
can also make Web maintenance chaotic. It is important that a small team of
people is chosen to be responsible for collecting and editing content. This task
might be best carried out by a teacher or administrator or other person chosen
to function as the information and communication technology (ICT) co-ordinator.
Some basic requirements to consider before website set-up are:
Most webmasters and web editors prefer to work
html editors such as Dreamweaver and FrontPage. These programs allow editing in
a familiar environment without necessarily requiring the user to know html. Web
content management systems are often used and some have been designed with
schools in mind.
Modest hardware resources are helpful, such as
digital photo cameras, digital video cameras, tripods and tape recorders.
Schools need to find an organisation which will provide an online system
for storing web pages, images, files video and so forth and making them
accessible via the web. It is important to research different providers and
services offered to ensure that the plan meets your school’s needs.
Through trial and error, your school will develop a method to reach your target
audience in an efficient manner. A model school website often includes:
Contact information such as school
address and telephone number.
Information about the school, for
example lessons plans, care and so forth.
Public information about the staff.
Information about the involvement
of the parent-teacher organisations.
Classroom pages with the latest
information, drawings and photos from students (avoid posting full names
together with photos of students and always get parents’ permission for posting
photos, even of school events).
Links to related educational sites.
A “guest book” for visitors to
Some technical considerations for best
practice would include:
A pleasant, easy-to-read design.
Web accessibility compliance to
cater to users with disabilities.
Avoiding large graphics or other
files that will take a lot of time to load.
Consistent use of layout, easy
navigation and information on when the last update was made.
Versions in different languages
when appropriate. English is often chosen as a common language when reaching out
to students from different countries.
A healthy respect for children's
rights, social and cultural diversity, personal and physical integrity, and the
democratic values of equality, privacy, freedom and friendship. For example, if
students will be using your school website to connect with each other, it might
be helpful to employ guidelines such as those published on
Searching for information
The Internet is the source of an unprecedented amount of information, and is
constantly changing and expanding. The first search engines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine)
for the Internet appeared in 1993.
Most searches work by collecting information about websites using an automatic
web crawler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_crawler)
which follows links and stores information about content. Many search engines
check not only web pages but also online
newsgroups (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsgroup) and databases, and a
search for the word “website” on the popular search engine
Google at <http://www.google.fr/>
finds more than 1 billion results in 0.07 seconds.
The Internet is an exceptional
resource that allows quick and efficient research on any number of topics.
The skills necessary to perform
research on the Internet and in traditional libraries are similar. Successful
searches require critical content analysis and Internet literacy.
Ethical considerations and risks
Maintain a healthy scepticism about
material you find. The Internet offers a free space for people to air opinions
and put forward ideas. Be sure to evaluate with a critical eye in order to avoid
propagating myths or falling for false claims.
A number of websites offer complete
essays on a wide variety of subjects for use by students. By using these files,
students are misrepresenting their work and committing plagiarism.
Be conscious of copyright issues if
you use material you find on the Internet (see Fact Sheet 10 on music and
As far as possible, credit the
author and give the source of material you quote or use. This is important
- it gives the author and source due credit;
- it protects you from accusations of plagiarism;
- it helps others form their own judgment about
the credibility of the material.
Websites use a variety of means,
including payment, to improve their ranking in search engine results. Some
search engines, such as Google, clearly identify which results are sponsored
advertisements. Many others do not make this distinction.
The most common search terms
entered to search engines are used to find sexually explicit content. However,
search engines generally censor these terms when listing the top searches
performed on their websites.
majority of people search for information on the Internet by using a
or “ferret” allows searching several search engines simultaneously.
Search engines usually require
the user to input a number of key words.
searches can specify that key words appear together, or exclude results
containing certain key words. These work slightly differently according to the
search engine. Using quotation marks, plus and minus signs are the most common
Some search engines include
directories which involve searching through categories and sub-categories.
Use specialist sites instead of
standard searches. For example, when searching for the meaning of a word, use a
such as <http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/>
site instead of search engine.
Vary search terms. Different
combinations of key words will bring out different results and a selection of
searches will bring out more relevant results.
Bookmark useful sites so you do not
have to search for them again.
If you find useful material, print
or save it. You may not find it again or it may be taken offline without
Enclose specific phrases in
quotation marks in order to narrow down searches and find exact matches.
If you cannot find the answers
through a search engine, post a query in a relevant newsgroup (see Fact Sheet 8
Portals are websites that serve as a
starting point to find targeted material or activities on the Internet. They
provide the user with focused links and information specific to categories or
areas of interest. Typically a portal appears as a web page with a map of links
to topics or fields of interest. It often includes
a search engine
news feeds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_%28file_format%29)
and content among other things.
Portals can be classified into two general types – horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal portals offer a broad range of services, activities and content. They can
provide items such as news, weather, financial information and links to popular
culture items, like movies or music, in addition to directories of links to
specific topic areas.
Yahoo! at <http://www.yahoo.com/>
is probably the best known example.
Vertical portals provide a wide variety of
content aimed at a specific type of user. A good example of an education-related
vertical portal is the
Educational Portal: <http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/eosportal_index.asp>.
What are portals used for?
Portals function as a starting point for investigation into a topic. Searching
the Internet for information is similar to using a traditional library. Searches
must be done in a methodical way and a portal can assist you by breaking down
topics into logical categories
Portals offer a useful “at-a-glance” function for the range of topics within a
theme. For example, within the subject of science, we can view various forms of
biology, such as oceanography or botany. Similarly, the category of art history
is an expansive field within the history category.
Ethical issues on portals
Portals are very often dependent on sponsorship or advertising, and will promote
products and services accordingly. It is important to remember that the links
offered by portals reflect the value sets of a particular group. Make sure that
these values are acceptable to you for your students or children, before
including them as a hyperlink on your website.
Some portals may require membership or registration, which may be paying. Before
you register (even for “free” services) make sure that you understand the terms
and conditions of service, and that you have examined and understood the
of the website. See <http://www.netlingo.com/right.cfm?term=privacy%20policy>.
Continue using your critical thinking skills! It is a good idea to try new
portal resources on a regular basis just to reinforce the information you
receive from your shortlist of favourite standbys.
Following links from a portal may lead the unsuspecting user to sites that
contain content, products or participatory processes inappropriate for your
children or students. You can limit the “active” links according to your
or settings in your browser.
Using portals for classroom activities
Set a search target for any topic:
create teams that use different portals, as well as a team that uses other
search techniques described in Fact Sheet 3 on searching for information. Allow
the teams to compare results, ease of access and quality of information.
Create a topic for exploration, for
example 18th-century art depicting children, or ecosystem dynamics of a
particular species in the ocean. Provide your class with portal
that will lead to links supporting the lesson plan. As there will probably be
too many links for individuals to follow, create teams to divide up the links
and cover as many as possible, and allow each team to present their findings.
Team results may differ, thus providing a narrower focus for further refinement
of the class’ learning.
Create a portal for either of the
above two projects. This would involve creating a web page, defining the
categories that emerge from your projects, creating the links that inform these
categories, and testing the page with another class.
Be prepared: you need to take
several steps before introducing portals into your school environment. Create a
staff team to develop a list of portal resource adapted to your particular
Identify the subject areas you wish
your students to investigate with the use of portals. Now identify a range of
portals, using search engines, for each subject area you are interested in.
Apply an evaluation of each portal according to criteria agreed as policy in
your school, or use the evaluation process guidelines in Fact Sheet 3.
In addition to evaluating
information, you may also establish whether the service is free or not; what
value system underpins the service; whether there are any cultural or language
issues to be taken care of; if the site promotes or sells any products; if the
site offers services such as e-mail or chat; and if you would want students to
access these services (see “Best practice in Education Portals” below for an
Make a selection of the best
portals. Now explore these portals thoroughly, testing and evaluating links as
you go. Make lists of problem areas, and filter inappropriate links. Remember to
use the skills learned from Fact Sheet 3. Saving, referencing and cataloguing
your process will make it easier to obtain a useful outcome.
short for electronic mail, is the system for sending messages between computers
connected in a network such as the Internet. The term also refers to the message
itself. An e-mail is usually transferred successfully in a matter of seconds and
the recipient can access and reply whenever it is convenient. A flexible and
efficient system, e-mail has drastically changed the way we work and
communicate. Billions of messages are sent every day.
An e-mail address is composed of two parts: local and domain, separated by the
“@” sign. The local name will often – but not always – indicate the name of a
user. The domain will indicate their organisation, company or Internet service
provider. Domain names may indicate type of organisation and/or country. For
example, firstname.lastname@example.org would be someone working or studying at Oxford
An e-mail message is divided into a header and a body. The header includes
information about the sender, recipient(s), date and time, and a subject line.
The body includes the main text of a message, perhaps with a “signature”
including the sender’s contact details.
E-mail can be sent and received via a
mail user agent
MUAs are computer applications that need to be installed on a computer. Although
current messages can be accessed remotely, the mail program is usually used from
the same location.
Another method for e-mail transmission is via
which allows the user to download and send e-mail from any computer that has an
Internet connection. Messages are stored at a remote location and are therefore
available regardless of the user’s location.
E-mail is increasingly being used as a channel of communication between teacher
and student. For example, teachers can inform an entire group of upcoming
changes or distribute and receive study material for distance learning (see Fact
Sheet 13 on
E-mail is a valuable tool in cross-cultural projects between classes of students
in different countries. Students can use it to develop their language skills and
share information about their cultures.
Some quiet and shy students express themselves better through e-mail than they
would in face-to-face classroom discussion.
Ethical considerations and risks
Discussion tends to be less formal
in e-mail than it would be in a traditional written letter.
The expression of emotions via e-mail is difficult. This problem can be
solved through the use mall caricatures called “emoticons”
Use these sparingly, however, to keep from distracting from your message.
A high proportion of e-mail sent is unsolicited and usually undesired
(See Fact Sheet 6 on spam).
Apart from commercial spam, there
is also an issue with e-mail sent between friends and colleagues. Some users
copy in more people than are relevant to an issue, or distribute jokes and other
such forwarded e-mails to those who may not want them.
Some “forwards” are false or
fraudulent. One example is where an e-mail claims to be tracked. Often citing a
cause such as a sick child requiring surgery, it falsely claims that a company
or organisation has promised that money will be paid each time it is forwarded.
E-mail is the
most common method for spreading
It is easy to conceal a name in
order to be misleading. This can be done by simply changing the name in the
settings or creating a webmail address such as
Even if you recognise the e-mail address, be aware that that the owner’s machine
affected by a hacker or virus.
· A link may appear to be directing
you to one website when in fact it leads to another. This is particularly common
Create several email accounts for
different purposes (signing up to social networking site, purchasing products
online etc) and keep one of them as private as possible by not publishing it on
Keep e-mails messages short and to
the point. Try to avoid long blocks of text.
Make sure you include relevant
words in the subject line. This helps the recipient identify your message as
being genuine and aids finding the mail at a later time.
Be considerate in the volume of
e-mail you send out. Use the “reply-to-all” facility only if the message is
relevant for all, and avoid forwarding mails to those who may not appreciate it.
Avoid checking your e-mails every
10 minutes. Many people allow e-mail to be a constant interruption.
Think carefully before including
private or sensitive information, such as bank details. E-mails can be
intercepted and are easily forwarded.
Use the “plain text only” setting
in your e-mail. Html can allow for more attractive presentation but can also be
used to spread malicious code.
Maintain a healthy scepticism about
e-mails you receive. Do not open e-mails if you do not trust the source.
Teach children to ignore and not to
open emails from senders they don't know.
Be especially wary of attachments.
If you were not expecting an attachment from the sender or do not trust it for
any other reason, delete without opening. Even attachments from known and
trusted senders should be first saved then scanned before opening.
Be sure to consult Fact Sheet 6 on
spam and 16 on security for additional advice on e-mail.
E-mail with a
requires the program to be installed on your computer. Most computers come with
such as Microsoft Outlook.
Setting up a
free web-based e-mail account is very simple. Popular webmail sites such as
have a straightforward registration procedure.
For information on setting up a
spam filter see Fact Sheet 6.
Spam refers to the mass mailing of unsolicited messages to multiple recipients.
It is most commonly associated with e-mail, but also applies to newsgroups,
instant messaging and so forth.
Different countries have different legal definitions for spam and use different
approaches to counter it.
The Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has put together a task
force to try and homologise these approaches: see <http://www.oecd.org/department/0,2688,en_2649_22555297_1_1_1_1_1,00.html>.
is a more recent evolution of spam and represents a growing concern in the world
of consumer safety. In this version, recipients receive spam which is disguised
as legitimate mail from a known institution such as a bank. These mails often
contain links to false websites which are used to gather sensitive user
Spam is popular for commercial purposes because it is an extremely cheap and
effective way of reaching a large audience. E-mail addresses for mass-mailings
are usually collected using
web bots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_bot)
which search the Internet and harvest addresses from various websites.
Spam often includes false or
fraudulent information. Because the sender remains anonymous, it is currently
not possible to prosecute for false claims.
Spammers often prey on the goodwill
of recipients in order to gather mail addresses for their databases. For
example, mails may be sent requesting recipients to add their personal
information to a list in order to support a petition or cause. Often citing a
cause such as a sick child requiring surgery, it falsely claims that a company
or organisation has promised that money will be paid each time it is forwarded.
Spam may contain
Another type of online
fraud is “419” named after a Nigerian law prohibiting this type of
victimisation. This typically involves promises of a share of a large sum of
money in return for help with bank transfers.
Spam can also be used as sabotage.
One example is the bombardment and subsequent overloading of discussion groups
with false messages.
Use different email accounts for
different purposes to avoid giving out your “personal” email address (e.g.
registering on forums, filling out forms etc).
Maintain a healthy scepticism about
e-mails you receive. Do not open e-mails if you do not trust the source.
Be especially wary of attachments.
If you receive something that looks suspicious, or that you have not requested,
delete it immediately without opening it.
Check all links in e-mails before
clicking on them. This can be done by holding your cursor over the link – the
URL should appear in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen just above the
task bar. If you are suspicious that a link does not lead to where it claims,
type it into your browser instead of clicking on it.
to avoid wasting time deleting unwanted mails: http://spam-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/).
Avoid distributing your e-mail
address on a large scale. Bear in mind that if you include your e-mail address
on a website, web crawlers can pick it up and add it to distribution lists for
If you do need to post your e-mail
address, you can disguise it by adding characters which will fool a web bot.
Lancaster University’s tips on
reducing your visibility
Do not respond to spam. This will
confirm your e-mail address to the spammer. Be aware that links promising to
remove you from their mailing list may not be genuine. Automatic out-of-office
replies also pose a problem since they send responses to spammers as well as
Chat is a generic term that refers to interactive communication which takes
place on a dedicated discussion channel. Users can talk to groups of people in
or hold private conversations with selected friends by using
Chatting is a very informal means of communication similar to face-to-face
conversations and occurs between two or more persons. Chat discussions are
usually typed but can also include video or audio
through the use of headsets or webcams. This form of communication is
instantaneous and therefore different from e-mail, which does not depend on the
recipient being present at the same time as the sender.
There has been a lot of negative publicity in recent months about risks young
people might encounter when using chatrooms. Due to several high-profile
criminal cases, parents and teachers often worry about the possibility of
children coming into contact with paedophiles in chatrooms. Although these
dangers do exist, it is important to keep these fears in perspective. A vast
majority of chatroom users are who they say they are, and most chat
communication is completely innocent. Rather than preaching fear or banning the
use of chat, adults should empower the young by teaching them how to stay safe.
Here are some basic rules that you should have children follow:
Choose a chatroom appropriate to
your age group and with a live moderator, and report any negative incidents to
Use a gender-neutral user name and
never give out your personal information or post photos of yourself (see Fact
Sheet 15 on Privacy).
If you are really going to meet a
chatroom friend, discuss it first with your parents and take a trusted adult
along with you.
Tell an adult if anything you have
encountered in a chat session makes you feel uncomfortable.
If you encounter any problems in a chatroom or
anywhere else on Internet you can always discuss it with experienced advisors at
you national helpline: <http://www.saferinternet.org/ww/en/pub/insafe/focus/national_helplines.htm>
If you want to chat with people you
know, consider using instant messaging (e.g. MSN, skype) instead of a chat room
so that you can control your contact list.
Educational applications of chat
Teachers often underestimate how important chat is to young people. Chat and
instant messaging are popular pastimes and are transforming the way young people
communicate with each other. It is entirely feasible to harness this force and
apply it as an educational tool. Some ideas include:
Brainstorming sessions and
problem-centred real time discussions.
Role-playing games and simulations.
Exchange of opinions and debates
and small-group panel discussions.
Tutoring and guidance.
Creation of an online community.
There are many kinds of free chat programes available on the Web. You can find a
wide range by searching for “chat” in any
Many web-based chat programs such as
Yahoo Chat at
ICQ at <http://www.icq.com/>
AOL Chat at <http://peopleconnection.aol.com/main/>
provide a wide variety of chatrooms with real-time discussion groups. Users must
often first download a small application to enable chat and register with the
moderator but can then login and participate freely.
applications, which allow private conversations with selected users, now
surpass chatrooms in
popularity, see <http://www.saferinternet.org/ww/en/pub/insafe/news/articles/0305/uk_ukcgo.htm>.
These capabilities can be found by searching for “instant messaging” in any
Users download an application to enable instant messaging and then compile a
list of people with whom they want to chat. Because communication takes place in
a restricted user group, instant messaging is often considered “safer” than
chatting in chatrooms.
Open your chat program.
Provide a username and password if
Choose an appropriate, humanly
moderated chatroom. Usually there are rooms for different purposes and topics,
for example automotive interest groups, subject-specific study groups, chats for
teachers and so forth.
Once you are logged in, you will
see the participants’ conversation scrolling on the main text screen.
Type your message and press “enter”
or click “send” to post it so that chat participants can see it.
If you want to send a message to
one specific person, select a person from the participant list in the window.
Many chatrooms can also be used for
Chatrooms enable the swapping of files too large to be sent by
How to use instant messaging?
Check your list of contacts to find
out who is online and available to chat.
You can add new contacts by
entering in their
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email and inviting them to join your contact
group. They will receive an e-mail invitation and if they agree, they will be
registered in your list. This will enable you to chat with them real-time when
you are both online.
Click on that person’s ID to send a
message and open a dialogue for communication.
Type your message and press “enter”
or click “send” to post it so that chat participants can see it.
When Chat is text-based,
social cues, gestures and non-verbal communication cannot be transmitted while
typing, misunderstandings can easily occur online. One should be as agreeable,
polite and well-mannered as in real-life situations and make a habit of using
Humour and emotions can also be shown through use of
small symbols that look like faces written sideways.
When chatting with strangers on the Web, one should also remember that it is
always possible that people are not who or what they say they are. Closed
chats which provide conferencing possibilities for use in a school or classroom
setting are safer to use and do not have this problem because participants
represent a limited user group. See <http://www.netlingo.com/right.cfm?term=username>.
It is important to remember that file exchange between users is vulnerable to
security. Make sure that all files have been scanned for viruses before sharing
them and scan anything you receive before opening it (see Fact Sheet 16 on
The language used in chatting is fragmented, associative and very colloquial; a
chat participant must not only be fast but flexible enough to switch from one
topic and even one discussion to another. The supporting role of the teacher is
very important when assuring quality of content and balanced participation by
all those who contribute to the chat. The younger students are, the more
important it is that the chat is hosted and moderated by the teacher.
Follow the discussion actively
during the whole chat session.
Agree on the schedule of the
session beforehand: everyone should be present at the same time.
Be polite and kind, as if you were
Remember that a carelessly written
message can hurt even if this was not your intention.
A short message works best. Do not
monopolise a real-time chat session by pasting chunks of pre-written text which
the others are obliged to read and respond to.
Chat style is close to a stream of
consciousness style. Try to read carefully others’ messages and understand what
they are trying to say. This may involve filling in the blanks.
Remember not to share your username
Some ideas for classroom work
Pick a topic and have students ask
each other questions and exchange information in a chat setting.
Decide on a study topic, such as
poetry in 19th-century England. Gather some orientation material to help
students to do their pre-lesson activities. Have the students work on their
assignments in pairs or small groups. This working phase should be organised
along the lines of a group study model. (Chat works at its best in small-group
interactions, that is 2-6 students).
At the end of the project, students
prepare presentations suitable for a chat session. Chat starts with small-group
presentations of different study topics. The study community sums up together
what they have learned during the course.
Because chat sessions model
real-life conversations, they offer students opportunities for authentic
interaction and are therefore useful in studying foreign languages. The teacher
can encourage students to participate in the discussion, advising them to post
short messages. Interaction can be enhanced by creating roles for students: one
may be an innovator, another a critic. The other students can follow the
discussions at first and later provide feedback.
(ENO) at <http://eno.joensuu.fi/tools/chat.htm>
is an international web-based environmental education project. At the beginning
of the course, students get their topics from the web pages of the project. The
students collect scientific and empirical environmental data, measure different
phenomena or take photographs.
During each theme period, virtual lessons are arranged in the form of
interactive and synchronous
electronic questionnaires and
Before and after lesson activities, students share ideas and monitor their tasks
via chat and reflect on what they have learned.
newsgroup is a discussion group with a focus on a particular topic. They date
back to the early days of the Internet and even predate the World Wide Web
Each newsgroup consists of a collection of communication in the form of
electronic mail messages. There are hundreds of thousands of newsgroups
worldwide and the more active groups receive hundreds of new messages each day.
The messages are divided into threads, which record and display the sender’s
name and the time the message was sent.
They are still used extensively, and most servers and browsers today make them
available to interested users.
Newsgroups are a useful resource
for finding out information.
Newsgroups can provide a fertile
forum for discussions, thereby sharpening students’ debating skills.
Teachers can share information and
experiences about a subject or teaching methodology.
Ethical considerations and risks
Very few newsgroups are fully
moderated and users are not tracked. This can be exploited for illegal
activities such as distribution of copyrighted material or child pornography.
Newsgroups have their own social
conventions called “netiquette”
Some newsgroup users abusing their
anonymity post critical messages and exhibit anti-social behaviour such as
is the network which supports newsgroups. Your Internet service provider
(ISP) decides which ones to offer. It is also possible to find public servers
which will allow access.
You can access many newsgroups using a news client. This is included in
some mail programs such as Outlook Express. See <http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/using/howto/oe/gettingnews.mspx>
for information on how to do this, with or without Outlook Express.
Newsgroups already cover a range of
specialised topics, but you can create your own newsgroup. This is a tricky
process however. The “Big 8” categories (the original 8 newsgroups) have a slow
and democratic process for accepting new groups. You should post your suggestion
The more anarchic “alt”
newsgroups are outside the Big 8. You can post your idea for a new alt group in
the alt.config newsgroup.
Be wary of publishing your e-mail
address. You may get unwanted mail either from other newsgroup users or from
junk mail spammers picking it up with web bots (see Fact Sheet 6 on spam).
When first joining a newsgroup be
sure to check the frequently asked questions (FAQ)
for guidelines. This will give you an idea of the
the newsgroup. Different newsgroups have different rules.
Keep your messages as short as
possible but make sure you give all relevant information. For example, if
seeking the answer to a technical problem, give precise details about the
hardware and software you are using.
What is the difference between an online and a
The original idea behind the
creation of the Internet
was to develop an electronic library for the easy access and distribution of
information: see <http://www.livinginternet.com/i/ii_summary.htm>.
In many ways this goal has been accomplished: today the Internet functions as an
enormous library. More than 18 000 libraries are now present on the Internet and
have a web page at <http://www.libdex.com/>.
distinction should be made between libraries with a presence on the Web, and
digital or electronic libraries. Online libraries maintain a simple web page
providing users with basic information on programmes, activities, collections
and contact details. They may include the lending of physical books listed in
catalogues and which can be ordered over the Internet. Universities and other
learning institution libraries often provide such services, though many public
libraries offer them on the Internet too. Digital libraries offer the service of
accessing books online, usually digitised as
html script (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Html),
meaning it looks like a web page, or as plain text (ASCII)
documents, or as MSWord or Adobe
Why use online libraries at school?
The research skills necessary to
navigate both traditional and online libraries are similar. It is crucial to
practise and hone these skills in all areas of the curriculum.
There are thousands of
libraries on the Web at <http://dir.yahoo.com/Reference/Libraries/>
that relate specifically to curriculum areas and themes. A webquest is "an
inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners
interact with comes from resources on the Internet."
The model at <http://webquest.org/>
can be very useful when creating activities for classroom participants to use
library facilities on the Internet while developing a range of core skills, such
as research, archiving, literacy, analysis and evaluation.
Individuals and institutions need
to apply the safety criteria listed in Fact Sheets 15, 16 and 18 on privacy,
security and shopping online respectively, and the evaluation criteria in Fact
Sheet 3 on searching for information. Libraries may require a subscription fee
or registration in order to use the facilities.
These libraries typically require an annual fee, and may require membership of a
university or institution.
Free libraries are
restricted to publishing materials which do not have copyright restrictions. The
original trendsetter is
the Gutenberg Project:
Registration libraries require a
simple registration of your details in order to access their materials. Be sure
to check the
and the conditions of use: <http://www.netlingo.com/right.cfm?term=privacy%20policy>.
Most libraries will provide access
according to certain rules. These rules at <http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/SCA/libraries.html#Copyright__Plagiarism>
will require at least that the user honours the
criteria of the material. Remember that unless the materials are in the public
domain, you may not redistribute or publish materials without the permission of
Copyright is also a personal
responsibility. The most common temptation is plagiarism, which is the use of
someone else’s work without crediting the source. Be sure to credit your
sources, and instil the habit among your students.
Using a current theme in your
classroom, identify a
Consider building a webquest around resources from this library, or use an
You can find webquests by using a
Using the same theme, identify a
text in the public domain
and proof read or translate this text as part of the voluntary online projects
to publish texts online.
Consider creating an electronic
library at school. This could start with one book, turned into a web page or
ASCII text, and stored on your school server. The
of School Librarianship (IASL), <http://www.iasl-online.org/>,
Before encouraging students to use
online libraries, make sure to review basic library skills and
Before requiring students to
download files, talk to your school’s network administrator. You should check to
make sure there is space on the school server for
and storing files and archiving (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archiving#Computing_sense)
Make sure that the online library
usage tasks you set are possible. Check that the resources exist, and that the
Many files that you will download
will be in Adobe PDF format to protect copyright. Make sure that you have
downloaded and installed a recent version of the
in order to ensure that students can open these files. This can be done from <http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html>.
The basic safety principles you
apply when using the Internet should be applied when using online libraries.
Check privacy statements, conditions of usage and scan files for viruses.
Music and images on the Internet
The Internet, as a multimedia platform, offers a large number of modes of
communication including exchange of audio files, video files and digital
photographs. Modern applications have largely facilitated the generation and
dissemination of such content, transcending linguistic, cultural and national
barriers and raising important issues related not only to the disclosure of
personal information (see Fact Sheet 15 on Privacy) but also to copyright
infringement and illegal content.
A number of international
laws and agreements are in place. In 1996 more than 100 countries signed two
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
aiming to address digital content: <http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/>.
A creator of audio-visual material
automatically has copyright unless he or she waives it.
Most countries’ laws maintain
copyright 50-70 years after the creator’s death.
There is usually more than one
copyright holder of a piece of music. Author, performing artist, record company
and publisher may all own rights or “related rights”.
Aside from the economic aspect, a
creator of audio-visual content has
This relates to the right to be recognised as the creator and the right for the
work not to be altered or edited without permission.
Music and films can be bought
online (see Fact Sheet 18 on online shopping). There are several sites for
purchasing music online, such as
iTunes at <http://www.apple.com/itunes/>
Napster at <http://free.napster.com/>,
but similar services for online movies are in their infancy. Film downloads are
becoming commonplace as more people have faster connections to download the
large files involved.
Buying music or films online
usually gives limited or no right to copy or distribute them. For example,
Apple’s online music store iTunes allows a purchased track of music to be
up to five computers within a household: <http://www.apple.com/itunes/overview/>.
The music industry has brought
legal proceedings against both peer-to-peer software companies and individual
filesharers. An uploader – someone who makes files available – is more likely to
be prosecuted than a downloader.
is a non-profit organisation offering an alternative to full copyright.
The definition of illegal content
varies from country to country.
Illegal content most commonly
refers to child pornography, extreme violence, political extremism or incitement
to hatred against minority groups.
Many countries have a
hotline for reporting
illegal content: <http://www.inhope.org/en/index.html>.
Taking action may be difficult or
slow depending on the nature of the content and where it is hosted.
Hotlines work together with
Internet service providers (ISPs) and the police, and are best-placed to tackle
illegal content. Inhope is a network of national hotlines.
Ethical considerations and risks
Despite a 25% decrease in global
record sales between 2001 and 2005 and a regular annual decrease of since then
have decreased at approximatey 5% since, latest reports from the USA show that
overall music purchases are increasing about 20% annually. This could be
attributed to the increased number of legal outlets now available for the
sale of digital music through services such as
YouTube, iTunes, MySpace, amongst others.
The music industry has also
responded by filing a number of lawsuits against websites and individual users.
can be a security risk to your computer, as
are often distributed by attaching them to music and image files.
Educational establishments are, in
certain cases, allowed to reproduce works and communicate them to the public.
Refer to your national legislation or to the Directive 2001/29/EEC of 22 May
Works used must be solely for
teaching or scientific research purposes.
Source, including the author’s name
should be indicated – except where this is impossible.
No direct or indirect economic or
commercial advantage must be gained from the use of this content.
Get written permission from a
parent or guardian before publishing photos of students online.
In the case of content published on
the school’s website, all content, including content originating from children,
is under the authority of the school.
Have a discussion on moral aspects.
Is piracy of audio-visual material stealing?
Inform students about the risks of
viruses and spyware from downloads.
Inform students about the
possibility of fines for downloading copyrighted music and film.
Discuss harmful and illegal
content. Surveys show many students deliberately or accidentally find this type
of content on the Internet, but few tell an adult.
Schools and companies should have
an acceptable use policy (AUP), which includes issues on copyright and illegal
Parents should agree certain rules
on Internet use with children.
Get written permission from a
copyright holder before using material
Credit the author/creator of any
material you use.
classifications to material you create to clarify how others may use it: <http://creativecommons.org/>.
Software filters can help block
some illegal websites.
No filter is perfect. It is also
important to discuss children’s use of the Internet.
Encourage children to talk about
their online experiences.
Report illegal content to a
hotline, see inhope below.
How does the Internet promote creativity?
Because of the flexible nature of the Internet, today’s classroom setting is
less rigid than ever before. Rapidly evolving technology provides students ample
opportunity to explore topics that interest them and learn in non-traditional
ways (see the Fact Sheet 23 on Web 2.0).
Using the tools that modern technology provides, students can create
professional-standard material that can be published for audiences anywhere in
the world. They can produce their own online products and conduct experiments
and simulations of all kinds within the classroom, or interactively with other
learners across the Internet.
The Internet has globalised education and provides the opportunity for students
to reach out real-time to peers all over the globe.
Enhancing creative processes in learning
Successful technology integration
in the classroom offers students a chance to show their innovation,
individuality and creativity.
The use of creativity software and
the Internet enables you to improve learning in your classroom in meaningful
The possibility to express
creativity and take on a more active role in the classroom encourages learning
Students can use the Internet to
contact artists anywhere in the world to ask for advice and opinions on their
work. Artists can use chat (see Fact Sheet 7),
or virtual meetings to give workshops.
students can work together, collaborating online on shared projects. This
provides a new creative outlet and the brainstorming involved can stimulate the
Web 2.0 offers a multitude of
exciting possibilities for teachers and students to create and upload their own
audio-visual content to the Internet.
How can we ensure that creativity is not inhibited?
There are several issues to be taken into consideration in the learning
Does everyone in your school have access to necessary equipment? Do all students
have the same access opportunities?
All students – boys and girls the world over regardless of age or ability –
should benefit from equal opportunities to be creative, that is to know how to
use and create with all available technology.
The online safety factor:
Do the filters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_filter)
put in place to keep students safe also inhibit access to material needed? How
can this be dealt with so that students can enjoy safe access to information
they need? (See Fact Sheet 14 on labelling and filtering.)
Training for teachers:
In many classrooms students are more Internet savvy than their teachers.
Teachers need to benefit from all training opportunities available to them in
order to properly guide their students in all aspects of ICT.
Technical support issues:
Does your school provide the technical support needed so that programmes and
projects are not inhibited?
A buffered environment:
creativity allows expression of your feelings as an individual. Although you
should ideally limit constraints on a student’s creative processes, it is
important to retain control over the output, especially if brainstorming occurs
in a group setting, such as chat. A teacher or other authority figure should be
present to guide the work in a constructive manner.
Privacy: Web 2.0 has largely
facilitated uploading photos and images to the Internet. Students should be
aware that one image can speak a thousand words and could put at risk their
private information and that of others.
Boosting creativity in the classroom
is an inquiry-based approach to integrating the Internet into the classroom.
Additional webquest resources are available from the Canadian SESD teaching
resources website: <http://www.educationatlas.com/teacher-resources.html
Students can challenge their
creativity by building their own websites. This stimulates creative thought
processes in different ways by requiring input on graphics and content.
Students can collaborate on
projects that develop writing skills by producing online books and stories.
software at <http://hotpot.uvic.ca/>
is free of charge and can be used to create interactive quizzes and activities
for the Web.
Students can create interactive
stories with multiple outcomes with software such as that available at
Secondary school and university
students can create their own 3D learning environment at <http://www.activeworlds.com/>
with software like
They can build their ideal landscape, their own virtual campus. They can also
collaborate with other students in projects on different topics.
The Internet can be used as a basic
research tool for background information on different topics. Students can then
apply the knowledge they have gained in an assignment that stimulates
creativity. Technology provides students the opportunity and the freedom to
develop higher-order thinking.
The Internet and other modern
technology allows for powerful communication and collaboration between students
of different countries and cultures. More than ever before, students have the
possibility to brainstorm creative solutions with a broad peer base.
Teachers have found that
implementing technology in the classroom in such a way as to provide hands-on
activities allows students opportunities for problem-solving and innovation.
Keep learning goals in mind: the
key to reaching these goals is to focus on the process taken to get to the
product rather than on the product itself.
When students publish the results
of creative activities online, they need to respect
Remind them to cite their sources when using material created by others.
2003 survey <http://www.saftonline.org/>
showed that over half of all children who use the Internet play online games:
70% in the United Kingdom and 90% in Scandinavian countries. These figures are
corroborated by the 2005 Nielsen Consumer study which also indicates that 39% of
surveyed gamers now play games using their mobile phone, in particular females
(44% of whom say they play) and younger groups (51% of 14 to 17 year olds in the
sample say they play games on their mobile and 45% of 18 to 24 year olds). In
terms of countries, the UK and Spain lead the way.
There are many different game genres such as arcade, role-playing, strategy and
sports games. They can be played alone or with partners, in closed circles or
with thousands of strangers playing together.
Investment in game development has increased rapidly in recent years. In 2005,
the average cost of making a game was $5-7 million, with some titles costing
over $20 million to develop. On the other hand, a report by
forecasts that global video game sales will reach $26 billion in 2010. The PWC
LLP ‘Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2007-2011’ projects that the video
game market will expand from $32 billion in 2006 to $49 billion in 2011, a 9.1
percent compound annual increase.
This shows that online gaming is indeed big business, with a very broad variety
of games being enjoyed by millions of users through internet and mobile phones
Personal development and educational value
Game-playing is more than
entertainment; it is an enriching collaborative activity enjoyed by children and
adults of all ages. It fosters creativity and interaction and plays an important
role in social and intellectual development.
Games represent one of the rare
occasions when adults and children can exchange ideas on an equal footing
Children learn about democracy by
playing within different social structures, in an environment bordered by rules
Games often involve sharing and
respecting the rights and property of others, sometimes even bringing players
into contact with other cultures and intercultural practices. Children can
practise social skills without fear of failure and with a sense of control.
Because games require children to
obey rules and follow directions, they increase their capacity for
self-discipline and autonomy.
Puzzles, board games, adventures
and quests offer opportunities for players to develop strategic thinking and
Other games can be used to increase
fine motor and spatial skills in younger children and for therapeutic purposes
with the physically disabled.
Online games are useful for
introducing newcomers to technology and generally fostering interest in
Games can be integrated into almost
any area of the curriculum, from mathematics to social studies and languages.
The violent nature of some computer
games has been loosely associated with violent behaviour in young people.
Danish Media Council
report in 2002 suggested that the violent aspects in some games were
not more influential than TV or film violence: <http://resources.eun.org/insafe/datorspel_Playing_with.pdf>.
attempting to determine the proportion of young people affected by computer game
addiction have had widely different results. This is because there is currently
no agreement on an objective way to decide at what stage heavy use of computer
games can be considered excessive or addictive. Gamers may play a high number of
hours per week without adverse effects to their social and professional lives.
However, it is generally accepted that addiction is a problem among a small
proportion of gamers. This problem was highlighted when the case of a Korean man
who died after a 50 hour game session was widely reported in the media in August
Some games have been accused of
supporting racial or gender stereotyping.
Some online games allow the
possibility to meet and communicate with strangers.
Labelling and rating systems
encourage games industry actors to act responsibly by requiring them to define
and describe their products. This also helps game buyers judge the content and
age suitability of games and to navigate the game market more safely. PEGI is
the only pan-European classification system that provides detailed
recommendations regarding age suitability of game content. The ratings of more
than 8,000 games can be found on its website
Monitor the number of hours spent
playing. Take action if other social activities are avoided or children and
young people skip school in order to spend time gaming.
Gaming communities can foster a
sense of belonging and can lead children to trust too readily. Remind them that
online friends may not always be who they say they are. It is important not to
give out personal information to anyone online.
The Council of Europe has produced
an attractive, interactive online game
http://www.wildwebwoods.org in the aim of promoting children’s rights and
protecting them from violence of any form.
For further information
Entertainment and Leisure
Software Publishers Association (ELSPA): <http://www.elspa.com/>.
International journal of computer game research: <http://www.gamestudies.org/>.
See charts of top-selling games,
and games news, descriptions, research reports and legislation reviews on the
Elspa site: <http://www.elspa.com/>.
Pan European Games
Information (PEGI) website contains rating and labelling information:
PEGI Online, an addendum to this system, aims to ensure a safer online gaming
environment. Game providers licensed with a PEGI Online label meet PEGI Online
Safety Code <http://www.pegionline.eu>
standards which include, amongst other things, obligations to try to keep
websites free of illegal and offensive user-created content and undesirable
links, protection of privacy and submission to an independent complaints
ignore game ratings” – BBC article, June 2005: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4118270.stm>.
Online games can be found at
“Playing with fire:
do computer games affect the player”,
Danish Council report: <http://resources.eun.org/insafe/datorspel_Playing_with.pdf>.
What is distance learning?
is defined by
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) as “a method of teaching in which
the students are not required to be physically present at a specific location
during the term”. This method opens up lifelong learning opportunities to
students of all countries and all ages, making it possible for them to earn
diplomas, certificates and degrees from almost any online university in the
Distance learning began with generations of adults seeking advanced education at
home, in the military or on the job. Courses used to be done by correspondence,
with material sent back and forth through the traditional postal system. These
days, however, distance learning has evolved to take advantage of current
technology. It thrives via the Internet, and students can study for degrees
without ever setting foot in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Advances in distance
learning have revolutionised the arena of advanced education. For example:
Lectures can be given via
or as printed material saved in files which are stored on the educator’s
Students communicate with the
teacher and each other through
Assignments are uploaded into a
drop box and even quizzes and exams can be automated and taken online.
Course materials are readily
available and easily updated.
The online format provides
unparalleled flexibility for self-paced work.
What are the advantages of distance learning?
The Internet is perfect for setting
up a virtual learning environment. Students can, for example, stay in their own
hometown while studying at a virtual university abroad.
Providing students with an access
to the whole base of learning material gives them the opportunity to become more
autonomous in their learning process.
Students have more ownership of
their own learning, and the role of the teacher is transformed into the role of
Courses are not restricted to the
opening hours of “normal” schools or universities, so everyone can benefit from
more opportunities to become lifelong learners.
Distance learning changes the
behaviour of both the teacher and the student. Successful students develop
persistence and organisational skills and the teacher must become more
conversant in technology.
Points to consider when choosing a
You should be aware that you, as the user, are responsible for taking certain
precautions when choosing a degree or other distance-learning programme.
Remember that the Internet is not a
regulated environment. There are dubious distance-learning institutions out
there right alongside the legitimate ones. Make sure you research a programme /
organisation thoroughly before enrolling.
Security issues are always key, as
with any exchange of information over the Internet.
can wreak havoc on a distance-learning system so be sure to consult Fact Sheets
15 and 16 on privacy and security to see which precautions you should take.
is usually protected by the law of the student’s home country. However, when
following distance-learning programmes in other countries be sure to check that
the learning sources are covered by international
Fair use and payment of courses is
also a hot issue: students are expected to use learning facilities in a
trustworthy way and to pay for their courses on time.
The Internet is changing the way we learn and it is very important for students
to have access to all information and tools available to help them learn. The “digital
is seen as a leading issue in the economic and social growth of many nations and
the use of distance learning can narrow this gap.
Distance learning can increase student learning in measurable ways. It provides
Internet training with hands-on experience for students, their families and
teachers. Distance learning provides an opportunity for students to build new
skills and qualifications and grow in new directions.
Fact Sheet 14
Labelling and filtering
Labelling refers to a quality-assurance tag or label displayed on software and
websites, or integrated into the content of websites. It ensures that the
product meets the criteria and standards designated by rating agencies such as
Platform for Internet
Content Selection (PICS) and the
Internet Content Rating
Sites are labelled in order to protect minors, increase public trust and use of
online transactions, and also to comply with legal standards. When labelling
website content, a code is written into the webpage html, thereby detailing its
contents so that the page can be rated. This rating – which is invisible on the
page itself, details the nature of the content and is detected by filtering
mechanisms, which will subsequently either block or load the page.
Websites can also be branded with “Quality Labels” and “Trustmarks”, labels
which signify that specific regulations have been met. These regulations often
include prescriptions about secure transactions (see Fact Sheet 18 on shopping
online). Two well-known quality labels include
Verisign at <http://www.verisign.com/>
The European Commission also supports the PEGI online labelling system for
online gaming websites. Game providers who meet the standards set out in the
PEGI Online Safety Code will be licensed to use a new PEGI Online label. These
standards include, amongst other things, obligations to try to keep websites
free of illegal and offensive user-created content and undesirable links,
protection of privacy and submission to an independent complaints mechanism. The
label will appear on websites with a (hyperlinked) url to a dedicated
Filtering is the process of
detecting and blocking inappropriate content on the Internet. It can be done
within browsers and proxies, or by installing software censors.
Filtering software is a very useful
supplement to shield minors from unsuitable content on the Internet, when used
together with appropriate guidance from parents and child carers.
An alternative to filtering is
“white listing”, whereby access is allowed only to certain pre-approved sites.
Filters can be valuable in reducing
the risk of students accessing inappropriate or harmful material.
The SIP-Bench study shows that
today’s filtering tools are capable of filtering potentially harmful content
without seriously detracting from the opportunities the Internet offers to
youngsters. More details are available at <http://www.sip-bench.eu>
The issues raised by labelling and
filtering practices are rich in material for citizenship and/or social studies
themes. Start a debate on the subject of online filtering. Is it an acceptable
and necessary form of censorship?
The labelling and rating of
websites remains a largely voluntary practice, except where countries have laws
to enforce certain standards.
Currently only a small percentage
of pages are labelled by the authors.
Filtering software-services label
pages according to their value systems and social agendas.
Filters may block useful sites
relating, for example, to World War history or sex education due to certain key
words they contain.
It is difficult to decide what
content is actually harmful for children of a particular age, who should decide
on the general rules which content providers should observe and who should
decide on the application of those rules. Therefore filtering tools need
to be very flexible so that child carers can choose the categories their
children should (not) see on the Internet. And filter vendors need to develop
techniques to ensure they filter in accordance with those criteria.
Some countries block sites of
opposing political parties or ideologies; this can be and interesting starting
point to discussion human rights and democracy in class.
Some people consider filtering as a
form of censorship and therefore against the spirit of the Internet. Others
claim that if filter software did not exist, governments would be under pressure
to regulate online content.
Vendors of filtering software are
not yet sufficiently catering to Web 2.0
To label content you have created
on a site of your own, follow instructions on a rating site such as
ICRA at <http://www.icra.org/>.
You will be asked to classify the
material according to a number of set criteria.
Most browsers can be set to filter
out specific sites. For example, in Microsoft Explorer, this option can be found
under “security options”.
Very few computers are sold with
filter software pre-installed. You will need to purchase a dedicated filter
program for a more sophisticated approach to filtering sites. A
number of products
are available on the market.
Most filter programs will allow you
to specify what types of content you wish to filter or allow.
Have a close look at how a filter
works before you install it. Does it make any ideological or cultural decisions
in its filtering that you do not agree with?
Use electronic aids with
discrimination, and do not believe the hype. Test product claims against
Talk to students, parents and staff
about their usage and needs, and do so regularly. Creating an open discussion
environment will do more to add value to your learners’ Internet experience than
censorship or witch-hunts.
Consider “white listing” options –
allowing access only to approved sites – for the youngest Internet users.
Experts recommend that parents should take an interest in their children’s
online activities and spend time online together.
Bookmark child-friendly web sites
so that children can easily access safe sites they have used before.
Children and young people should be
encouraged to talk about inappropriate material they find on the Internet.
illegal content to a hotline: <http://www.inhope.org>.
Monitor your children’s activities
on gaming websites and look for the PEGI Online label to distinguish safe sites.
Fact Sheet 15
How private is the Internet?
refers to the degree of control that a person has concerning access to and use
of personal information.
users assume that personal information will not be used without permission and
that information exchanges are private and secure. The reality, however, is very
Every time you access a website or
send e-mail, you leave information about yourself that could include your
physical and computer address, telephone and credit card numbers, consumer
pattern data and much more.
Privacy is closely related to
security; be sure to read thoroughly Fact Sheet 16 on security.
Why talk about privacy in class or at home?
The technical and social aspects of
privacy and the risks of self-disclosure provide valuable learning themes.
Technical aspects may be included in information technology (IT) studies, but
should equally form part of a life-skills curriculum.
An important element of education
on privacy should be the concept of “profiling” and the linking together of
scattered elements of information about a person to deduce a more detailed
picture. The important educational implication is that a lot more information
can be found about us by “putting two and two together”. For example, an
“anonymous” social networking profile (hiding behind a pseudonym) may be
identified with your real-name by matching photos between the anonymous profile
and a full profile on another site.
The idea that privacy is only
violated by the disclosure of classic personal information should be examined
carefully. New marketing techniques which discriminate between people based on
their behavioural traits may also be considered to be privacy invasive.
Privacy is being increasingly
undermined by the rapidity and ease with which youngsters can publish and/or
stream digital images on Internet through Web 2.0 applications and via camera
and mms facilities on mobile phones. A simple rule of thumb for youngsters:
never publish anything you don’t want your teachers or parents to see!
Every student should have the
skills necessary to negotiate the Internet safely, and that includes knowledge
of self-protection, effective communication and responsibility toward others.
There is a natural flow from this
theme into the citizenship dimension of any curriculum. The issues raised about
online privacy accurately mirror social issues predominant in most cultures
today. Exploring the motivations of
and privacy activists offers rich possibilities to discuss the value of
Online privacy is one of the most
complex ethical and legal topics regarding the Internet.
Everyone has a right to privacy and
needs to be protected from malicious intent.
We are accountable for all
decisions we make about our own and others’ rights, for example
Freedom of speech is a politically
accepted notion, however in practice this is a grey area with no easy answers.
What is acceptable and what is not? How does one enforce the rules without
encroaching on the rights of the speaker?
Create a basic knowledge framework
for privacy with your class. Define concepts, both technical and social, and
identify prejudices and myths for discussion. Simply setting the questions “What
is privacy?” and “Is privacy necessary?” should generate some strong views.
Search for privacy sites on the
Internet, and use
programs to locate the physical addresses of these sites to demonstrate the
diverse geophysical issues governing legality on the Internet. Explore other
issues (cultural, political and historical) that come up from the trace results.
For example, choose a
site or anonymous proxy service, run a trace, then search for reasons why the
services would be located in those countries.
Explore the implications of privacy
law, copyright and freedom of speech and information across national boundaries,
or for different age and cultural groups.
how to create secure
Explore and compare user profiles
on some of the more popular social networking sites with your students (see Fact
Sheet 22 on Social networking). What private information are users inadvertenly
disclosing? Draw up a check list for creating a safe user profile.
Two golden rules:
- do not share your personal information with
anyone you do not know and trust;
- do not use any other person’s personal
information or photo without their permission.
Back up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_up)
your system, and have a regular backup policy.
Update security measures on your
system and do some research on
that will support your online preferences.
software are an absolute necessity. You might also want to consider other tools
Be sure to check your system regularly.
to protect your PC, e-mail and Internet connections.
Before giving out private data,
check for the locked padlock symbol that shows up in the toolbar. This is a sign
that your transaction is taking place over a secure connection.
is a text file left on your computer when you visit a website. It cannot harm
your computer, but will give access to information about your behaviour and
interests. This can provide a more personal surfing atmosphere. For example,
when registering with a website you may be greeted by name upon your return.
It is important to decide how
private you want to keep your online behavior. Since cookies can be used to
track usage patterns and contact information they provide a possibility for
encroachment on your privacy.
You can use anti-spyware
to help control the data your system is broadcasting and to clean out unwanted
Make sure your machine and e-mail
Most home machines have
“default” user and
password settings which allow access through standard passwords like
“test”. See <http://www.netlingo.com/right.cfm?term=default>.
Make sure you change these default settings to a more secure password and ID.
It is best to
any sensitive information which is sent over the Internet. Fortunately this is
standard for most e-commerce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecommerce)
transactions but you should still make sure that a page is secure before
transmitting credit card information or bank account numbers.
Different sections of your computer
can be secured using passwords. Create passwords for folders containing valuable
documents such as confidential projects, research, original designs and so
Your online security can be
compared to security at home. You protect the contents by keeping the windows
closed and the door locked.
is a generic term for malicious software such as
that can infect a computer. Malware can have a number of effects, such as
preventing the normal running of software or allowing unauthorised access or
deletion of data.
The most common forms of malware
which are self-replicating programs.
Despite the name, not all viruses
and other forms of malware are designed with malicious intent.
An average of 10 new viruses are
identified every day.
Many of the issues relevant for
security are also relevant for privacy (see Fact Sheet 15).
Discuss issues of self-protection
and responsibility with students. Since many of the young are better-informed
than adults, encourage them to share their knowledge and experience with each
other and their families.
A number of hackers and creators of
viruses are among the youngest users of the Internet. Have a classroom
discussion about these issues.
Ethical considerations and risks
Your computer’s security can have
an effect on others. Viruses that infect your computer can be passed on to
Anyone who stores personal data on
clients or other acquaintances is responsible for keeping this information
or other unauthorised access to information about others is a violation of
It is important to be cautious but
do not go overboard with security measures! One of the Web’s greatest qualities
is its accessibility. Restricting rights or activating excessive filtering may
constitute censorship or reduce accessibility.
Spyware refers to programs which
hijack a computer usually with commercial motives. This could involve adding
unwanted advertising or stealing credit card information. Dialers are a form of
spyware that cause modems to dial numbers without the user’s authorisation. This
has been used to make calls to premium rate phone lines.
Cookies involve the storing of
personal information. See Fact Sheet 15 on privacy for more details.
Install anti-virus software (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-virus_software)
and keep it updated.
Install security patches as soon as
they become available. You can set some operating systems and programs to update
automatically or inform you as soon as a patch is available for download.
to control traffic to and from your computer.
Do not leave your computer
unnecessarily connected to the Internet. Broadband subscriptions allow unlimited
connection time but this can compromise security.
that have an obvious connection with you. Use a combination of letters and
to “disable scripts”. You can enable scripts for trusted sites.
Do not open e-mails which may not
be genuine (see Fact Sheet 5 on e-mail).
Make sure you trust the source
before downloading anything to your computer. Be particularly aware of
which is notorious for aiding the distribution of spyware (see Fact Sheet 10 on
music and images).
Regularly back up important files
to a location separate from your computer, such as on CD-Roms.
If you are managing more than one
user of a computer or network, make sure each user has appropriate rights.
Restricting unnecessary user rights can help avoid accidental or deliberate
Network administrators should
so users do not jeopardise security of systems.
The Windows operating system and
Internet Explorer browser are the most common targets of malware. Consider
alternatives such as
open source software
Fact Sheet 17
Bullying and harassment
What is the connection between the Internet and
bullying or harassment?
have a huge impact on how people perceive themselves and the world around them.
The definition of bullying usually depends on who is defining it. However, for
most people, bullying is an action which is taken against another person in
order to cause harm, repeated in various forms over a period of time. Parents
and children do not usually have the same perception of the scale of this
Bullying can imply verbal or physical contact. These days, it can also include
virtual bullying via the Internet or mobile phone, involving offensive or
malicious messages, e-mails, chat room or message board comments or, even more
extreme, websites built with harmful intent towards an individual or certain
groups of people. Cyber bullies also use mobile phones to take embarrassing
pictures of others or send hurtful sms- or mms-messages. All forms of online
bullying have much greater impact than normal bullying since authors are
strengthened by a feeling of anonymity and victims have no place to hide from
the bully – they can be victims night and day, virtually wherever they are.
Educators have always had to deal with bullying and harassment inside and
outside of the classroom. It is imperative now for us to understand how this
type of harassment involves the Internet as well.
How can bullying and harassment be dealt with at
school or at home?
Students need to be able to take
responsibility for their own actions, but bullying undermines confidence and
self-esteem. When a person is being harassed or bullied, then learning is
restricted because the he/she is unable to focus, feels threatened and loses
Students who feel threatened
(either online or off) need the help of a trusted adult. We should also remember
that the person doing the bullying is also in need of guidance so that this
behaviour is not repeated in the future.
Handling bullying and harassment
calls for a global approach through open discussion in the family or in class
discussion about the nature and potential cause of the unacceptable behaviour
and remedial steps that can be implemented collectively. Bullying and harassment
are social problems. It is the responsibility of teachers and parents to
investigate any allegation of such behaviour and work in family or in class to
provide the best learning environment possible, whether in the classroom, on the
playground or working online.
Educate teachers on the dynamics of
the bullying-process and the ways in which Internet and mobile phones are used
to bully. Teach them how to read signals from victims as well as bullies and how
to react when they notice such signals.
Schools should have specific
guidelines in place as well. It would be a good idea to incorporate
precautionary measures in your school’s Internet policy to deal with bullying.
Students should be taught the three golden rules for dealing with cyber-bullying
or cyber-harassment: 1) make a copy of the offensive material if possible; 2)
switch off receiving device (computer or mobile phone); 3) report the incident
to a trusted adult.
Ethical and safety issues
Bullying and harassment in the
classroom can lower the morale of the whole class, creating an atmosphere of
fear and distrust and making learning nearly impossible.
One preventive measure to help keep
bullying or harassment from becoming a problem is to introduce anger management
and conflict resolution into your curriculum. Well-chosen programmes of this
type will allow children and teenagers to discover their own talents as
potential mediators in the conflicts. In this way, the risk of minor conflicts
developing into threatening behaviour will be reduced both offline and online.
Your school should have an explicit
policy in place – commonly called an
acceptable use policy
– to monitor when and how students and staff use the Internet and mobile phones
at school. This document should explicitly explain that vulgar language and
bullying / harassing language will not be tolerated. Direct consequences should
be spelled out clearly for anyone who uses the Internet or their mobile phone in
an inappropriate manner.
There should be a procedure in
place that can document Internet usage, including who is online, when and where.
Students should be told to
discontinue contact with anyone who is harassing them or making them
uncomfortable in any way when online.
Students should immediately tell a
trusted adult what has happened and, if possible, show them the offensive
material. Then the adult should follow the procedures spelled out in the
The procedure is the same as in
real life, were a child to be harassed by someone. They should discontinue
contact with the offender and tell a trusted adult about the incident. They
should not feel as though they are alone or have to deal with it themselves.
In summary, school Internet and mobile phone use policy should include
intervention methods such as conflict resolution, training of students and staff
about what to do in the case of harassment online, provision of positive support
to the targets of abuse and, wherever possible, help the abusers to change their
behaviour. With such a policy in place, schools should have little problem
dealing with bullying or harassment.
Role play: students participate in
a mock-conflict resolution process. The teacher assigns the roles and organises
groups in which students are responsible for settling a dispute. The next step
is to reverse the roles, allowing students to approach the issue from a
Discussion groups: students
participate in discussion groups to evaluate their participation in group work,
their impressions of topics such as bullying in general, do’s and don’ts on the
Here are some ideas on how to handle online bullying, harassing e-mails or
messages of any kind:
Students should be instructed not
to open e-mails from unknown sources.
If an e-mail or sms message is
opened and found to be offensive, make a copy of the offensive material to show
to a trusted adult. However, a victim should never react to offensive messages
as this only encourage the bully to continue.
If a person keeps sending offensive
or harassing e-mails or messages and it is possible (by means of the e-mail
address) to find out where they are being sent from, contact that
or mobile operator immediately to report the harassment.
Your school’s policy on bullying
and/or acceptable user policy should have provisions on how to handle online
harassment by students.
Just as with any other kind of
bullying, students should know they can come to you or another trusted adult
anytime they are harassed online or via their mobile phone. If a cyber-bullying
victim comes to you, reassure him/her and take the story seriously. However,
avoid the victim from taking the offence seriously.
Deal with bullies by explaining
that their behaviour can not be tolerated and should stop immediately, but also
find out what you can about their motives. Would they dare say or do the same
things in real life?
Always inform parents if their
child is being bullied or is a bully himself. When a bully uses the Internet or
mobile phone to bully, the offensive behaviour doesn’t usually stop at the
school gate and will probably continue from home.
Fact Sheet 18
E-commerce may be defined as
the collection of services, software, and procedures that allows the sale of
products online. Almost anything can be bought online from books to holidays,
from clothing to electronics. Apart from material goods, you can also pay for
services such as access to online content. According to
100 million European online shoppers were to spend an average of €1000 each in
2006, driving online retail past the €100 billion mark. Online retail sales in
Europe will more than double to €263 billion in 2011, as the number of online
shoppers grows to 174 million and more confident online shoppers increase their
average annual spending to €1,500 .
Young people need to be well-informed consumers. As online shopping gains in
importance, it is vital that they understand how to take advantage of the
benefits and avoid the risks associated with shopping online.
Educate students to find out about
the retailer and the conditions of sale.
Invite students, alone or in
groups, to look on specific commercial websites for products or services, with a
particular goal in mind. For example, planning a holiday according to a fixed
budget (see Fact Sheet 3 on
searching for information).
Plan an e-commerce website with
your students (to sell school products, for instance), or do further work on
existing initiatives of that kind already taken within the framework of the
school. Study the structure of a good e-commerce website.
Ethical considerations and risks
Protect your credit card data.
Hackers can obtain credit card information by accessing your computer or by
breaking into insecure websites holding your information.
Criminals also obtain credit card
or banking information by tricking people into giving them voluntarily.
falls into this category. These attacks often target users of online shopping or
payment sites, asking them to “reconfirm” details.
Since online shopping often
involves payment by credit card, consumers need to manage their finances
carefully to avoid overspending.
Find out about the retailer or
vendor. eBay, for example, allows vendors to build a reputation according to
their track record and feedback. Do not buy from untrustworthy sources,
especially those advertised by spam (see Fact Sheet 6).
Make sure you are insured against
fraudulent use of your credit cards. Check your statements carefully for any
Read the terms and conditions. The
text may be long and technical but do not click to say you have read and
understood it if you have not done so.
Hidden costs. These may be taxes or
delivery charges on the side of the seller. Customs duties may also be charged
if you are ordering products from abroad.
Is the site secure? A padlock or
key symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the web browser will indicate
secure pages. Look for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
certificates which ensure that data is encrypted before it is sent.
Make sure that you have control of
your personal data. Pay attention to boxes relating to the retailer’s options to
retain your data or contact you for marketing purposes.
Becoming an active e-citizen
Maintaining our rights as e-citizens
The widespread use of the Internet, and new communication technologies has been
a powerful engine for growth and jobs and has improved the quality of life for
The informed participation of all citizens in what is known as the digital
economy depends on the development of a much broader literacy. This includes the
ability to critically analyse the variety of information we are subject to (that
is audiovisual content), to form autonomous opinions and to be actively involved
in community issues. It also therefore involves being able to use Web 2.0 tools
(see Fact Sheet 23) and understanding the issues of e-privacy (see Fact Sheet
What new skills are required for citizens to be
active in society?
Information and communication
technologies are rapidly reaching into every aspect of our everyday lives and
changing the type of skills necessary to be active members of society.
As the Internet continues to evolve
with the growth of
and 3G <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G>,
increasing importance will be placed on the ability to use today's technology to
receive and transmit information efficiently in a way that transcends both media
literacy and Internet literacy.
What advantages does the Internet offer in
helping us become e-citizens?
The Internet makes it possible not
only to publish far more information more rapidly and to continually update this
information so that citizens are informed of the latest developments in any
areas of interest.
In the past, we had to rely on the
versions the press chose to publish to keep us informed; nowadays we can very
often go directly to the source to obtain our information first hand.
The fact that citizens are better
informed empowers them to better participate in the democratic life of their own
country and on a pan-European scale.
Geographical, traffic, cultural and
tourist information collected by public and private sector bodies considerably
enriches the lives of citizens. In some countries, citizens can even use the
Internet to officially change their address, apply for passport renewal or carry
out various other formerly time-consuming activities. Do not forget, however,
that a certain number of precautions should be taken when giving out private
information online (see Fact Sheets 15 and 16 on privacy and security).
The Internet also enables citizens
to participate in online discussions and debates about topics of interest in
public or local life and even take part in elections by
Ethical issues on e-citizenship
By having access to constantly updated, quality information, citizens are in a
better position to exercise their fundamental human rights. However, we must
remain wary of the negative effects that technology could have on these rights,
Equal access to information: the
digital divide is creating a two-tier society between the information “haves”
and “have-nots”. If the situation continues, democracy will be threatened as the
less fortunate gradually lose their autonomy of expression. Without direct
access to information, we are less able to form our own opinion and can
therefore be more easily manipulated by those who are fluent in the use of new
technologies. In addition, public sector information is very important for
democratic and civic life, and more particularly a key resource for economic
activity. If we are to ensure equal opportunities for all, then we need to
ensure equal information access for all.
Freedom of speech: information and
communication technologies are playing such an important role in our life today
that soon only those fluent in their use will really be capable of making their
Right to privacy: the huge increase
in means of transferring and exchanging information means that we must take care
to protect data about ourselves and therefore our right to privacy (see “Best
Civics: One good resource which
could serve as a basis for your civics study programme is the Council of
online human rights
activity programme at <http://www.hrea.org/erc/Library/First_Steps/index_eng.html>.
You could also ask your class to draw up a human rights charter of its own. Let
them apply their new knowledge about human rights to virtual environments, for
example, how they could make the Internet a better place for them to work and
History: the French revolution:
Help your students to distinguish facts
from hypothesis by comparing heroic revolutionary paintings of the storming of
the Bastille with modern accounts. They should be able to “explain how and why
the storming of the Bastille has been interpreted differently”. This could be
linked to media education concepts, such as how reality is represented for
different purposes, and the reliability of evidence.
Geography - passport to the world:
Invite students to discuss the ways in
which places of the world are represented on the Internet and analyse how the
websites differ in emphasis or attitude with regard to a particular place.
Choose a topic, and then look it up on news sites from different sources and
analyse them in class. Do different organisations use different approaches? Why
do you think this is so?
As mobile phones are an integral
part of students’ life outside the classroom, examine in class the way they can
be used to gather community information and actively participate in democracy.
List the services they make available and discuss their effect on privacy and
Every citizen has the right to
receive a copy of personal information which is gathered and stored. Insist on
this right, and do not give out private information unless you consider it
Always read the fine print on
questionnaires to see how the information you give about yourself is going to be
used, and do not forget to consult Fact Sheet 15 on privacy for more advice.
Communication of literacy skills
and the transfer of these across school, higher education and into civic society
is essential if participation in the democratic process is to increase.
A number of schools are currently
working on Internet proficiency programmes in an effort to ensure that their
students develop the skills necessary to live, work and play in the information
society of today. These include:
- skills for navigating in the labyrinth of
information available on the Internet;
- developing the capacity to discriminate between
information and misinformation;
- analysing information for relevance and
- understanding the ethical implications on
online tools on democracy;
- using information in project-based learning;
- understanding and using the multiple
opportunities that a browser and the Internet can offer.
Few people bought mobile phones when they first became available in 1983. In
1995, there were five mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the European
Union. According to Eurostat (2005), in 2003 the figure was 80 mobile phones per
100 inhabitants among the enlarged EU of 25 countries. Mobile phone usage is a
worldwide phenomenon; Nokia predicts that by 2009 there will be over 3
billion mobile phone users worldwide. In most countries in Europe approximately
80% of households own one or more mobile phones <
Standard features of mobile phones are voice calls, short message services (SMS)
and multimedia message services (MMS)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia_Messaging_Service, and even cameras,
some with video recording features. A wide variety of Web 2.0 services (see Fact
Sheet 23) are accessible through a mobile phone. In April 2006, an
estimated 28% of mobile users had accessed the Internet from their mobile
phones, up from 25% in late 2004.
The worlds of mobile technology and personal computing are becoming less and
less distinct as most mobile phones now have Internet browsing and e-mail
capabilities, and more and more computers are wireless, some using satellite
connections (e.g. WiMax).
M-learning refers to learning with
the aid of mobile technologies, such as mobile phones, handheld computers and
research in 2003 found that 90% of teachers who had used mobile
technology found it contributed positively to student learning: <
M-learning offers the possibility
to personalise the teaching delivered to students. For example, a school in the
United States has set up a “paperless
classroom”, using the technology to give classes and provide extra
assistance to those who have English as a second language: <http://www.paperlessclassroom.org/>.
The future of m-learning depends
not only on the development of technology, but also the development of
educational material that can be delivered over handheld devices.
Korea is recognised as one of the
pioneers in mobile learning. Since 2004, students have been able to download
lectures to handheld mobile devices.
Games for mobile phones are
becoming increasingly popular as the technology improves and it is anticipated
that educational games and other types of informal learning will be well-suited
to the medium.
The portability of handheld
computers is beneficial for teachers who are on the move and for students
working in groups or doing fieldwork
Use of handheld computers has been
found to encourage students to take responsibility for their work and they are
less likely to lose notes and assignments.
Since mobile phones are so popular
with young people, teachers can engage students by incorporating use of SMSs and
so forth in classroom activities.
There are concerns about children
receiving mobiles too early. Research is inconclusive about the dangers of
radiation exposure over time, however minimal.
Computer use is still regulated
within the home. Mobile phone use, however is considered by many parents to be
private. Emboldened by newfound freedom, children could get themselves into
financial trouble by spending money on prize “giveaway” media campaigns or
accessories such as ringtones.
Mobiles may be used as tracking
devices. The issue of safety versus freedom is a controversial one.
raises security issues such as hacking and sending unsolicited messages.
are mobile phone blogs (web diaries). Young people are posting information and
photos and potentially compromising their safety.
Mobile bullying is of growing
concern. Young people called “happy
use mobile phones to record attacks and then post the images on the Web to
humiliate the victim (see Fact Sheet 17 on bullying and harassment).
Mobile phone cameras and easy
internet access capabilities can be a threat to privacy: there is a growing
trend amongst youngsters to take “compromising photos” (e.g. other youngsters in
the gym change room, teachers in class), sometimes morph these images and upload
them to the web.
Mobile phone costs: children are
often unaware of high costs of certain services such as online voting and
unwanted premium sms services.
Because they are a distraction,
mobiles can pose a risk while driving.
have been infecting mobiles since 2004. One example is the “Cabir worm”.
F-Secure estimates that currently over 200 mobile viruses exist <http://www.f-secure.com/news/fs_news_20060531_01_eng.html>
Mobile phones are popular and it is
easy and relatively inexpensive to own one.
Once you buy a handset you can
choose to pay a-la-carte for certain increments of minutes or you can subscribe
to a specific provider and pay a monthly fee for services.
Use a low-radiation mobile
phone (SAR < 0.6), and use a head-set – the best ones are equipped with a
Encourage young people to restrict
their use of mobile phones. Do not prohibit use, however. Mobile phone use is a
widespread phenomenon among teens and in many circles it is essential for
networking among peers.
Do not leave Bluetooth on if it is
not being used in order to avoid security risks.
As with e-mail, accept data only
from trusted sources. Beware of sms spam: only share your mobile number with
people you know well.
Before publishing pictures, make
sure they will not breach the legal rights of others.
Talk to your children about
exchange of harmful content and stress that it could be against national youth
Be considerate with your use of the
phone. People around you may not appreciate having to listen to your
If you are bothered by unwanted
calls or sms, contact your mobile operator or your national Insafe helpline <
Many mobile phones have a filter option: use a black list to block
unwanted numbers or a white list to only accept elected numbers (e.g. only
numbers in the address book. You can also download parental control filters from
the internet (freeware) or buy one from your mobile operator.
The word “blog”
is short for “weblog”, and refers to an online journal created and published by
groups and individuals. The term “weblog” was added to the Oxford dictionary in
2003. Blogs are a recent phenomenon on the Internet.
Because bloggers post articles and
information online, this trend has begun to take over a lot of newsgroup traffic
(see Fact Sheet 8 on newsgroups).
Although some politicians and
celebrities have taken up blogging, blogs continue to be most closely associated
with more ordinary people airing their views and talking about their daily
Because of the recent popularity of
blogs, many websites have been created which offer software to help create and
publish material. Each entry in a blog can be commented upon, which provides
opportunities for discussion and can help generate new ideas. Mobile blogs,
have recently emerged thanks to development of e-mail features in mobile
phones (see Fact Sheet 20 on mobile technology).
is a new trend in which users post video along with their commentary.
or rich site summary is now being used to syndicate blogs. Those who wish to
have their content published on other websites can make it available using an
or extensible mark-up language version for web syndication. XML is a type of
code similar to HTML and is also known as a “feed”. Basically it allows readers
to “subscribe” to content and have blog updates delivered to them so that they
do not have to visit the blog to get it. This sounds complicated but is actually
a standard option on most blogging software.
Educational uses of blogging
Blogs give students a chance to
take control of their learning and set up a public forum in which to publish
their thoughts and feelings.
Blogs can be used as an innovative
teaching tool for discussion and collaboration. For example, a modern literature
class used blogging to study the novel
The secret life of bees. (http://weblogs.hcrhs.k12.nj.us/bees/)
The author wrote an introduction to the lesson, and students and their parents
were invited to write about their impressions of each day’s reading assignment.
The author then commented on these. See: <http://weblogs.hcrhs.k12.nj.us/bees/>.
Experts note a
involved when blogging. This is described at <http://thejournal.com/Articles/2004/02/01/Content-Delivery-in-the-Blogosphere.aspx?sc_lang=en&Page=1>.
Bloggers must continually scour, filter and post material. By searching for
material to comment on, the student becomes increasingly familiar with different
theories and ideas and develops skills needed to critically analyse content.
Technology can be used as a
motivating factor in education. Students are interested in blogs because of
their novelty and the possibilities for self-expression. This can be used as a
vehicle to teach a wide variety of subject matter.
Blogs give every student in the
class a chance to participate in a discussion which exposes children to
Ethical considerations and risks
Remind students that they should
not give out personal information in public Internet spaces that they wouldn’t
disclose in an offline forum. This is a particular problem with blogs, which are
often personal by their very nature. Even anonymous blogging isn’t always
completely anonymous and taking down a blog doesn’t necessarily remove all
contents from view.
If you have the technical skills,
you can create a blog from scratch. Most people use sites which offer tools for
creating and publishing content as a blog. School Blogs at <http://www.schoolblogs.net>
below) are popular hosts which provide free services. They provide easy,
step-by-step instructions which help you create an account, name your blog and
choose a template.
Once your blog is up and running,
you compose and edit entries from a central webpage. The interface for popular
format and is extremely user-friendly.
Visitors to your blog can comment
on content by clicking on a comments link at the end of each entry.
Be sure to enrich your commentary
with hyperlinks and images! Buttons for these features should be included on the
toolbar above the text box where you enter your content.
A blog is a great opportunity to
air your views but you may wish to protect your privacy by using a pseudonym and
holding back certain personal details.
Children and young people should be
particularly careful about revealing personal information in a blog.
Respect copyright laws and do not
use other people’s blog designs without their permission.
Start your own blog to familiarise
yourself with the practice before introducing it into the classroom. It might
help to visit other blogs for ideas and inspiration. The School Blogs (http://www.schoolblogs.net/)website
has more than 4 000 members and gives users the possibility to launch their own
Spend time explaining the concept
of blogging to your students. Tell them why it is done and give examples of good
and bad blogs. Then give students a set of strict rules which might include
length and frequency of posts, topics, number of hyperlinks / photos and so
forth. Assign students to keep a blog, discuss their experiences and comment on
Fact Sheet 22
social network service <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking>
is a web-based system that provides a variety of means for users to interact
discussion groups, and so on. Social networks are based around personal
profiles containing key personal data, interests, their network of friends etc…
Social networking sites bring together communities of people who share interests
and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities
of others. They provide different types of
software for users to do this.
networking sites allow people to connect with each other (usually with
self-description pages for each network member) and provide recommender systems
built on trust to link users. Some sites contain directories of specific
categories of users (such as former classmates). Popular social networking sites
combine all or many of these aspects, with
Facebook being the most widely used in the
Friendster being the most widely used in
networks are organised around life experiences but there are also other
Communities of transactions which facilitate
buying and selling.
Communities of interest which are commonly
centered on a specific topic such as movies, health etc.
Communities of fantasy which are based around
imaginary environments and game playing such as world of warcraft and second
networks also offer simple features for managing the privacy of personal data.
These tools allow users to restrict access to parts of their profile to only
their friends, or only members with certain credentials. They also allow members
to restrict access by random searches and the availability of their content to
tagging by other members.
Consider carefully the material that you post
online – remember that once you post something you may never be able to
completely delete it from the net.
Be especially careful in posting images. Even if
you don’t put your name next to an image, it can still identify you and can
remain available in web caches long after you take it down.
Protect your personal information, especially
information that could identify or locate you.
Never post anything which may be offensive to
Remember that your profile can be set to public or
private. You should consider carefully which is the most appropriate setting to
Make use of the privacy features offered by social
networking sites. Think carefully before opening your profile to public viewing.
Remember that if your profile setting is public,
it can be seen by anyone. Even if it is not public, it may be seen by everyone
in the networks you are a member of.
If you experience problems such as hate-campaigns
or bullying, always ask for help from someone you trust, even if you think they
might not understand or approve.
Never give away your contact details on your
considerations and risks
talk of losing their inhibitions when using social networking sites. They feel
empowered and sometimes invincible, making comments and saying things to others
that they would not normally consider in a face to face conversation. This is
further exacerbated by the fact that it is very easy to exaggerate emotions in
the virtual world, or express things you would keep private if you were
communicating face to face with someone.
Networking Sites allow users to leave comments on other peoples profiles.
Consideration needs to be given as to the type and nature of such comments.
What advice should we give to
young people using social networking sites?
Make sure they realise the
dangers of allowing anyone to access their personal information – the rule of
thumb is to assume that everything is public unless you make sure that it isn’t
and consequently you shouldn’t say anything on a social networking site which
you wouldn’t be willing to broadcast in public in the offline world . Opting for
the private profile setting doesn’t always mean that only friends can see a
profile. In some cases it means that everything put on a profile can still be
seen by everyone, but only ‘friends’ can post comments or IM (Instant Message).
Also you should be aware that if you join big groups or networks (e.g. country
or city networks), this may give huge numbers of people access to your profile.
Teach young people to trust their instincts - If it doesn’t look or “feel
right”, it probably isn’t! If they find something online that they don't like or
that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should turn off the computer and tell
Be careful with personal information - The problem is that as soon as a person
posts personal information to the Internet, he/she has lost control over who
will see it and how it will be used. Pictures can easily be copied and shared
with thousands of others at the press of a button. Because of the digital nature
of the photos, they can even be altered or distorted. They can also be used by
new search software to identify people even if the picture is not attached to a
name. Young people should learn not to post any pictures they wouldn’t want
everyone to see, including their parents and teachers.
Not everyone online is who they appear to be - the fact that certain websites
claim to connect students from the same school means nothing. The information
provided by users when they are registering is not checked. Anyone can create a
user profile pretending to be someone else. Moreover anyone, regardless of their
real or pretended age, can join as many school communities as they want.
Most social networking providers
include guidance within their sites for safe use.
What can we do to keep young
people safe on social networking sites?
As with all online technologies,
banning young people from their use is not the answer. They need to be empowered
to behave safely and discriminately when online, and be encouraged to respect
age restrictions, keep their personal information private and be responsible
publishers. Responsible adults should educate themselves about the dangers and
best practices for safe usage of social networking sites, rather than trying to
stop them from being used. All of these things will be done naturally in the
offline world – so why not in the online world too? Young people need to be
encouraged to talk about their online experiences with trusted adults such as
parents and teachers. As with all other Internet safety issues, the single
biggest positive impact on young people’s online behaviour results from an
active engagement by parents and teachers in their online life. This has a
positive effect on adults too since they learn about the positive features of
social networking sites.
Social Networking and
eDemocracy comprises the use of
electronic communication technologies such as the Internet in enhancing
democratic processes within a democratic republic or representative democracy.
Although still in its infancy, this is a political development which can be
enhanced by the use of social networks which allow users to have their own voice
and comment “in public” on relevant issues. One theory is that the use of social
networks in eDemocracy could enable broader influence in policy outcomes as more
individuals involved could yield smarter policies and increasing transparency
For example, in the UK a
government review used social networking sites to engage with young people and
seek their views. This was challenged by some, but it is important to go to the
places where young people are in order to reach them.
One concern about eDemocracy is
the impact of the digital divide on those who are not able to access the media.
However with the current rise in those able to access the Internet, this alone
should not be seen as a consideration for not recognising the benefits of social
networking sites in eDemocracy.
In offline communication, power
is often seen as hierarchical whereas online this becomes diffused and
constantly shifts. Similarly, online, boundaries become permeable, roles are
flexible, changeable and do not rely on non verbal characteristics or hierarchy.
These reasons alone illustrate the benefits of using Social Networking sites to
Some ideas for classroom work
· Ask students to consider the sort of information that they think
it is acceptable to publish to an online profile. Once they have come up with a
list, ask them to create a profile on paper. Would they be happy for this
profile to be sent home to all parents at the school? In most cases, students
would not want this to happen but they should be reminded that anyone can look
at their profile on a social networking site unless it is set to private. Making
this link between the real world and the virtual world is important as it helps
youngsters realise the implications of posting online.
· Look at two or three social networking sites in class and get
students to highlight any risky behaviour they can see. Discuss what it is that
is putting the users at risk. Now ask your students to review their own online
activities in the light of the points they have just picked up.
Have your students work in groups to create their own checklists
of points to watch when they are publishing material online on a social
networking site. Compare lists and combine them to make a single class checklist
that students can print out and take home to post on the wall next to their
Have your students bring in digital photos that they would like to
upload to a social networking site. Working in small groups, analyse each photo
to see what private information is being disclosed. Give a “safety rating” to
each photo on a scale of 1-5, attributing 5 to any photo that perfectly
safeguards the user’s privacy.
· See section on web 2.0 (Fact sheet 23) for other suggestions about
how to use these social networking technologies within the classroom.
Fact Sheet 23
Web 2.0, a phrase coined by
O'Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a perceived second-generation of Web-based
services—such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and
folksonomies - that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.
Web 2.0 websites allow users to
do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive
facilities of "Web 1.0" to provide "Network as platform" computing, which allows
users to run software-applications entirely through a browser. Users can own the
data on a Web 2.0 site and exercise control over that data. These sites may have
an "Architecture of participation" that encourages users to add value to the
application as they use it. This offers huge advantages on traditional websites,
which limit visitors to viewing and whose content only the site's owner can
modify. Web 2.0 sites often feature a rich, user-friendly interface based on
Ajax, Flex or similar rich media. The sites may also have social-networking
aspects (see Fact Sheet 22).
Web 2.0 recognises the change
from a static to a truly interactive platform. Instead of simply downloading and
consuming, users are now able to upload and create. Media is truly converged and
no longer separate.
The move to Web 2.0 tools can
and will have a profound effect on schools and learning:
These tools will promote creativity, collaboration and
Most Web 2.0 tools are free programs which could replace the
traditional application suites that schools usually pay for.
There are several distinctions
between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 as illustrated in the table below.
Four of the most commonly used
Web 2.0 technologies are blogs (Fact Sheet 21), podcasts, social networks (Fact
Sheet 22) and wikis, though a number of other technologies exist.
Podcasting is a way to
share multimedia files over the Internet for playback on mobile devices or
computers. The term podcast can mean either the broadcast itself or the method
of delivery. Anyone with access to the Internet, a microphone and simple
computer can create an audio podcast and make it available online. It is
possible to subscribe to podcasts so that they will update automatically on your
computer or mobile device. In that way, you will constantly receive new
broadcasts as they are updated and produced. It is possible to find server space
to store the file (usually mp3) e.g. ourmedia <http://www.ourmedia.org>
and to create a podcast-enabled rss feed e.g. feedburner <http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/home>
for free on the Internet.
Wikis are web pages that
allow readers to interact and collaborate with others as such pages can be
edited or added to by anyone. A wiki is a superb Web 2.0 tool for collaborative
written work in schools. Perhaps the most well-known example of a wiki is
Wikipedia, a collaborative encyclopaedia which now includes more up to date
entries than the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Social Bookmarking allows
users to share their user-generated Internet favourites or bookmarks.
Traditionally users would have a list of favourite websites as part of their own
Internet browser. Now, social bookmarking allows these lists to be shared easily
so that anyone can use them. The content can be classified using tags to make
them easier to search and use.
http://del.icio.us (owned by Yahoo) is a good example of social bookmarking
and shows users how many other people have saved a particular site.
Photo Sharing is a
popular tool which allows users to share photographs with family and friends.
The most widely used site is called Flickr
www.flickr.com which allows users to post photos and then invite others to
view them either individually or as a slide show. Notes and tags can be added to
each photo and others can leave comments too.
Video Sharing is a
similar tool for sharing videos, with some sites specialised in specific types
of video. One of the most popular is youtube
www.youtube.com A site dedicated to teachers for educational use is
www.teachertube.com Video sharing sites are usually searchable, and allow
users to post, comment on, tag and watch videos. A number of communities exist
for producing and sharing videos around a common interest. More recently, sites
have appeared which allow users to edit their video clips online and add sound,
subtitles and so on. Examples of these include: Jumpcut <http://www.jumpcut.com>
and VideoEgg <http://www.videoegg.com>.
Photo Editing and
enhancing software is now available online and allows users to improve their
photos. Examples of this increasingly popular application are:
Photo Story (Microsoft)
Ethical considerations and
Web 2.0 tools enable anyone to upload or edit material on the Internet and
this may not always be correct or factually accurate. This underlines the
importance of providing young learners with broad opportunities to develop
the media skills necessary to evaluate sites and content for validity and
Educators should not take the simplistic line that any fake content is
necessarily bad – it may be an extension of play-acting online and may also
have educational value (e.g. fake profiles of famous figures from history on
social networking sites).
Web 2.0 tools offer boundless opportunity for users to publish information
about themselves and others. They must nevertheless remain vigilant to the
risks of self-disclosure and loss of privacy. The rule of thumb is not to
publish anything you don’t want the whole world to know about! (See Social
Networking Fact Sheet 22).
It takes time and effort to integrate technology in the learning process, so
before embarking on this process make sure that the use of Web 2.0 tools
will have meaningful consequences for your learners.
Podcasts: Students can
make their own podcasts to share their views and opinions about a given topic
more widely. If you don’t have a video camera available, you may want to make an
audio podcast using a search engine (e.g.
www.google.com) to find a suitable dedicated software programme. You can
then upload your podcast to Internet through your class or school website, or
use a site such as
www.youtube.com to reach millions of Internet users. Some schools are now
podcasting lessons to enable those students who were absent to catch up on the
lessons they have missed.
Wikis: Check out the
wikis that are best adapted to your own educational setting (see further
information), then set a collaborative piece of work for your students. You will
be able to actively monitor the work of individual students and keep a record of
all the changes that are made. Wikis provide perfect opportunities for students
to work across schools and countries in true collaborative projects.
Social bookmarking: Set a
specific research project and divide up the tasks to individual learners or
groups. You can use a search engine to find a social bookmarking tool that suits
your needs. Each group can use social bookmarks to compile a detailed set of
relevant links. One advantage is that learners do not have to rely on accessing
the same computer each time they want to continue with a piece of work as their
favourites are available from any computer at any time.
FACT SHEET 24
recent boom in internet use, people now gather information and communicate on
virtually all aspects of their lives via the web. Likewise, the Internet is
increasingly used as a forum to discuss politics. e-Democracy is a term
describing online communication about political issues.
projects are meant to give citizens the opportunity to participate actively in
political discussions and decision-making. Interactive political debate
and greater information sharing on political issues could increase public
awareness, interest and knowledge of the workings of politics.
information is often made available online by publishing official documents and
broadcasting public meetings. However, citizens also gain knowledge through
alternative online sources, like Amnesty International or green movement
organisations. Politicians can use the Internet to increase their visibility,
for example by creating blogs, videos or documents introducing their personal
views on political issues. But e-Democracy projects are also about increasing
the citizens’ visibility by encouraging them to raise their voices and share
their opinions through blogs, chatrooms and homepages. Most importantly,
e-Democracy projects allow citizens and politicians to interact and discuss
current events through e-mail and discussion forums. Finally, citizens might
increasingly get the chance of voting from home or from a polling station of
their choice, or to participate directly in the decision making process through
various kinds of online voting systems.
The extent to
which citizens can and should influence political decisions is a matter of some
debate. On one extreme is the belief in direct democracy, in which e-Democracy
services empower citizens to make decisions directly, lessening the need for
elected representatives. On the other there are those arguing that e-Democracy
does not add any value to the political process, since citizens are not inclined
to participate actively as long as public services are being satisfactorily
delivered. However, the reality of most e-Democracy projects lies between these
extremes. The main idea is to increase citizen participation without radically
reshaping the traditional political landscape in which elected politicians are
ultimately responsible for decision making.
Driving forces for e-Democracy
The major driving force for e-Democracy
projects is the increasing availability of the Internet in general and the
opportunity for communication it offers to all.
Whilst the Internet attracts growing attention,
the interest in participating in traditional arenas of political discussion
decreases. Fewer people than before are active members of political parties and
fewer participate in traditional political meetings. There is therefore a need
to find new ways for citizens to communicate on politics.
Young people are currently less involved than
their elders in political debates and decision-making processes, but are
extensive users of Internet technologies. Consequently, some e-Democracy
projects are specifically intended to increase young people’s involvement in
politics in the hope that using technologies and services familiar to youngsters
could increase their motivation to actively participate.
Examples of e-Democracy tools
Citizens and politicians are often invited to
discuss politics using online discussion forums, typically those run by
Online audio or video broadcasts of public
meetings are growing as the required technology
becomes cheaper and easier to use. Public meetings are often available for
everyone to watch online either live or at any time after the meeting has taken
allow citizens to complain to their Government or Parliament about a public
institution or a law.
Online participative budgeting tools
invite citizens to take part in planning and decision making, for example on
city council budgets . Budget figures are made available online and all who are
interested may comment on the budget’s priorities. Such comments and feedback
from citizens can then influence the final city council budget plan.
are often developed to make it easier for citizens to search through public
documents. When citizens are better informed, they are better able to understand
how decisions are being made.
Both politicians and citizens are using
blogs for political purposes. Blogs allow individuals to express their own
views on whatever topic they wish to discuss. Other people are often invited to
trends influencing e-Democracy
There can be little doubt that internet use
will continue to grow in the years to come. Given that young people use the
Internet more extensively than elderly people, it is therefore reasonable to
expect an increased interest in e-Democracy projects in the future: today’s
youngsters are tomorrow’s voters and decision-makers.
Until recently, the Internet had mainly been
used by people to search for information provided by others. Lately however,
more and more people actively take part in developing the content of the web,
rather than passively receiving information provided by others. A fine example
is Wikipedia.org, an online encyclopedia where everyone is invited to add and
review articles. Likewise, e-Democracy projects aim to allow citizens a more
active role in creating content and shaping the design of e-Democracy services.
It is most probable that we will encounter more interactive and citizen-led
e-Democracy projects in the near future.
Furthermore, the Internet may shortly be
accessible everywhere, independently of access points like computers. First,
mobile phones will be constantly connected to the Internet. Later, it might be
possible for everyone to be online permanently via connection devices which
could, for example, be part of clothing. Hence, e-Democracy initiatives will
face new challenges and discover new opportunities when citizens are constantly
issues on e-Democracy
Identity theft and impersonation are common
problems on the internet therefore personal views, especially online reports on
another person’s views, cannot always be taken at face value and passed on as
The Internet is also used to distribute
information of varying and at times dubious quality whereby apparent facts and
truths are presented without any supporting arguments. Citizens should be
encouraged to critically assess the origin of the information (is it distributed
by well-known sources like e.g. UN or EU?); the agenda of the publisher (what
are their interests e.g. of green movement organizations or political parties?)
and cross-check information through various reliable sources.
Politicians and decision-makers need to
consider how to incorporate the contributions of e-Democracy projects as opposed
to other influential sources, like their party programme. It is difficult to
judge whether online contributions represent the will of a large number of
citizens or only a few individuals, possibly with extreme political views.
If politicians and other decision-makers invite
citizens to contribute and influence politics by participating in e-Democracy
projects, they should also participate themselves and be willing to listen to
(and be influenced by) contributions being made. Politicians should carefully
consider not promising too much to participators in e-Democracy projects.
Start with an interesting political topic and
check online what kind of information is available concerning the issue. Discuss
the quality of the information available for example the quality of sources, to
what extent are different views represented, and the agenda of the persons or
organizations providing the information.
Check the possibilities for contacting
political representatives online. Send the representatives (or candidates)
questions concerning political issues to see if they respond, and discuss the
quality of their response.
Identify online opportunities for participating
in discussions about political issues you are interested in. Who is offering
such options; political parties, public institutions, non-profit organizations
Investigate ways of influencing the local
political agenda. Identify opportunities to suggest political topics using
Fact Sheet 25
Internet is different from other
media: it is the most decentralised medium of communication. It lacks a unique
point of control due to the fact that it consists of many loosely connected
computers and has many different routes for allowing communication and transfer
of information. In addition, users of online networks are not only viewers but
also producers of information with the emergence of web 2.0.
Nowadays, as anyone is able to
publish just about anything online, there are a lot of questions around the
future of Internet and how to control this flow of information. We often ask
ourselves who can determine what speech and information is offensive, or
dangerous to our children, family and to us. And more importantly, how can we
protect ourselves and our loved ones from it?
Each country defines what is
legal and illegal by its national legislation. Accordingly, the Internet as a
means of communication operates as a regulated field. Any action considered to
be illegal outside the Internet has to be considered illegal on the Internet as
A broad description of illegal
content can be that of any activity, material, piece of information, etc. that
is meant to harm and/or cause prejudice to an individual or entity.
Illegal content covers child
abuse images and websites, illegal activity in chat rooms such as grooming,
online hate and xenophobic messages and websites, etc. These and other forms of
illegal behaviour are covered by the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime
the first international treaty on crimes committed via the
Internet and other computer networks, and the
Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual
is a tool easy to access from everywhere and by anyone. Therefore, content that
is deemed harmful or unsuitable can easily reach children and young people. Once
a website has been reported to host illegal content and the required legal
processes have been undertaken by national law enforcement, it can then be
removed from the Internet.
content of any nature found on the Internet can be reported to your
national hotline. A hotline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotline)
is a service where anyone can make a report of any content suspected to be
illegal on the Internet.
INHOPE is the association that
coordinates 33 international Internet Hotlines in 29 countries. INHOPE was
founded in 1999 under the EC Safer Internet Action Plan to support hotlines in
their aim to respond to reports of illegal content for a safer Internet.
To report illegal content, you
have to go to your national hotline website or the hotline in the country where
you think the website is hosted. The hotline will investigate the report(see
http://www.inhope.org/en/about/faq.html) to see if the content is illegal,
and if so, trace its origin.
If the content turns out to be
illegal, the hotline will contact the law enforcement agencies in the country
and also the Internet Service Provider for removal of that content.
Below you will find a list of hotlines
that operate in Europe:
young people can request assistance by calling a helpline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helpline),
a service which offers telephone support and/or counselling via email,
web or SMS.
many countries, Insafe nodes (http://www.saferinternet.org)
cooperate with national helplines to respond to the questions and concerns of
young people linked to their experiences online or the harmful or illegal online
content they encounter. Many helplines that deal with internet-related problems
can also help young people with a broad range of other “real world” issues.
Child Helpline International (http://www.childhelplineinternational.org)
is an important contact point in many European and non-European countries. This
global network of child helplines operates in 150
countries to protects the rights of the child.
helplines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their services are all
free and confidential and they do not trace calls or emails or texts. Children
and teenagers can write in about a lot of different things. The helpline staff
is there to listen and to help them work out their own solutions.
Most social networking sites
have online reporting services to report inappropriate content. Reporting
instances of bullying, for example, to social networking sites can lead to the
removal of the offensive content and even deletion of the accounts of people who
report on Facebook you have to click the "Report this person" or, "Report this
note" link at the bottom of the profile page that contains the offensive
material. There is usually also an email address (e.g.
email@example.com) where you can report complaints of nudity, pornography,
harassment, unwelcome contact or anything else you think infringes your rights
or those of other people.
To report on
MySpace you have to click on
the 'Contact MySpace' link at the bottom of every MySpace page and select the
"Report Abuse” option. Alternatively, there is a 'Report Abuse' link located at
the bottom of each user profile page and other user generated pages. School
staff may email MySpace directly at
Many of the mobile technology
operators have reporting services either by phone or email. For instance, O2 has
its own dedicated nuisance call services (http://www.o2.co.uk/help/nuisancecalls)
that can be contacted by email or telephone in the countries where it operates.
Below you will find some of the
helplines that the Insafe network operates across Europe:
To find other
Helplines in your country, you could do a web search with the country name and
the words “report” and “helpline”. However you should remember, check out the
information carefully because you can’t trust everything you read on internet!
For further information
To report illegal content, you can
contact INHOPE at <https://www.inhope.org/>.
The portal of
Insafe, the European network of internet safety centres, at <http://www.saferinternet.org/>
offers information on national contact points and helplines across Europe.
To report cyberbullying or get
assistance you can contact Childline <http://www.childline.org.uk/>,
free 24 hour helpline for children and young people. Telephone: 0800 1111.
is a website where you can find your nearest helpline when in need for
is a free service where you can get immediate responses to general
questions on EU matters and contact details of relevant organisations.