BeSmartOnline! (BSO) is the National Safer Internet Centre (SIC) for Malta. Today, BSO is synonymous with the safer use of technology amongst children, educators, parents and guardians. Perhaps today the project is of much more relevance due to the Maltese Government’s efforts in enhancing the technology sector and ensuring online access to the Maltese society at whole. It is imperative to note that Maltese households with dependent children have one of the highest rates of Internet access in Europe. This is commendable and necessitates that parents, policy makers, educators and other stakeholders can ensure that children benefit from Internet use without being harmed by the related risks. To this end, all project partners work together to raise awareness on the safe use of the Internet.
Awareness raising actions comprise creative campaigns targeting children, youths, parents, educators and the general public with the aim of informing them of the dangers of illegal and harmful content on the Internet. Additionally, one of the main actions of BeSmartOnline! is to commission empirical research in the field of Internet safety in Malta and to participate in European networks to collect and analyse such data. The EU Kids Online Study is one to mention.
Furthermore, the project established, operates and promotes reporting facilities for Internet abuse and support for respective victims. This is done through the operation of a hotline – ChildWebAlert (www.childwebalert.gov.mt) through which reports from Internet users on illegal content is reported, and also through a national helpline that receives online questions and telephone calls from children and parents related to problems encountered during their use of online technologies. The hotline forms part of Inhope (www.inhope.org) – the international association of internet hotlines. The Maltese SIC also actively participates in the Insafe European Safer Internet Network (www.saferinternet.eu).
Building on the successes of previous editions, the current edition of BeSmartOnline! strives to deliver the message of online safety through innovative and interactive initiatives. BSO 5 aims to do so through: mass media campaigns; roadshows; annual live-ins for young people; activities marking Safer Internet Day; and also a revamp of the current website to ensure the availability and access to resources for the general public. Following the expansion of the YouTube Partnership Programme to Malta, the project shall also organise a number of workshops for children to make the best use of such a programme whilst also be aware of any risks involved when creating online content. Other seminars and workshops to be organised through the BeSmartOnline! project revolve around the major themes of mental wellbeing and vulnerable groups.
The project is co-funded by the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and is coordinated by Tech.mt and implemented by partners from the Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS), the Office of the Commissioner for Children (CfC), the Directorate for Learning and Assessments Programmes (DLAP) and the Malta Police Force Cybercrime Unit. The consortium is also supported by the expertise and experience of a number of strategic partners who contribute through a purposely set up Advisory Board.