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Marked Safer Internet Day: A message sent about the importance of education needed by everyone – both children and parents

Victims of criminal acts are increasingly older citizens, and in the quest for a better internet, the rights of children should not be forgotten.
ZAGREB, February 6, 2024 - On the occasion of marking Safer Internet Day Udruga Suradnici u učenju HAKOM, and CARNET - the National CERT held a thematic conference on Tuesday titled "Quest for a Better Internet," from which a message was sent about the need for stronger prevention of cyberbullying, protection of children's personal data, creating a safe virtual environment, and ensuring access to quality online content for children and young people. One of the most important days in the internet security calendar brought together numerous relevant stakeholders, as well as teachers and students from educational institutions across Croatia to highlight the daily need to protect children and young people. In his opening speech, Miran Gosta, Executive Director at HAKOM, emphasized that this initiative of marking has existed since 2004, with HAKOM, as a network regulator, joining in 2011, and since then, every year, actively promotes internet safety with numerous partners through various events and campaigns. In its daily work, HAKOM collaborates with schools, associations, and public institutions, providing education to parents and students about safe use and responsible behaviour. Until a few years ago, information security was not a regular topic in schools, it was little talked about, but fortunately, teachers now teach children about responsible behaviour in schools, and lessons on information security are also available in textbooks. The internet has enormous potential, offering opportunities for the education, information, and entertainment of children and young people, and the ways of using the internet are constantly changing. In recent years, social networks have been used the most, and the emergence of generative artificial intelligence presents new opportunities, but also dangers, emphasized Gosta.

Marina Dimić Vugec, Head of Incident Handling Team at Croatian National CERT (CARNET, emphasized that Safer Internet Day is being observed today in 190 countries worldwide. Internet protection and security are challenging topics, especially for the educational and academic sectors, and it is necessary to find correct solutions for the threats that most commonly occur online.

Darko Rakić, the president of the Association "Suradnici u učenju," highlighted that the association has been conducting activities in the field of responsible and thoughtful technology use for 15 years They are working on projects with schools, and there is a large project underway called "Be an Internet Genius," which involves 50 schools. The goal is to educate students on using technology more confidently. The association is nearing completion of the Digital Wellbeing project aimed at empowering both children and adults, with digital resources already prepared to assist them. The largest project is the online challenge "Dabar," which attracts over 40,000 children annually, with the aim of developing competencies in logical thinking.

The development of a National Programme for Children in the Digital Environment for the period 2024 to 2026 is IN PROCESS

Ana Babić Pezo, an advisor to the Ombudsperson for Children, stated that the digital world offers many opportunities, and all stakeholders in the protection system must contribute. The development of a National Programme for Children in the Digital Environment for the period 2024 to 2026 is underway, and we will finally have a document regulating this area. She also emphasized that Croatia finally has a central body, which was not the case before, namely the Central State Office for Demography and Youth, and pointed out the insufficient exchange of data and experiences between institutions. "It is expected of us to regulate national regulations, provide internet access to all children, introduce media literacy, involve children in planning, ensure education for children and parents," she said, inviting those present not to forget children's rights and adults' obligation to teach them responsibilities in the quest for a better internet. "If we want to help children realize their rights, we cannot focus solely on risks. We must equally respect all children's rights in all contexts. The internet can be crucial in dangerous situations, education, and accessing healthcare. The digital world offers many opportunities, and all stakeholders in the protection system must contribute."

Providing support to children and young people for a safer upbringing in the digital world

A roundtable discussion on "Providing support to children and young people for a safer upbringing in the digital world," moderated by Lidija Kralj from the association "Suradnici u učenju," brought together numerous participants who exchanged experiences and information. Among the participants were Andrea Čović Vidović, Acting Head of  Representation of the European Commission, Robert Tomljenović, Vice President of the Electronic Media Council and Deputy Director of the Agency for Electronic Media,Tomislav Ramljak from Safer Internet Centre, Tanja Zaninović from HAKOM, Jakov Kiš from CARNET's CERT, Anamarija Mladinić from the Personal Data Protection Agency, Neven Ricijaš from the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation at the University of Zagreb, and Bernard Gršić from the Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society.

Andrea Čović Vidović, speaking about the Digital Markets Act, stated that it is a comprehensive legislation that does not exist anywhere else in the world, and the EU can be proud of creating an act that addresses platforms themselves. Responsibility also lies with platforms that allow the appearance of content, so the EC has directed attention to those who have the ability to block false and dangerous content to do so. In August, platforms with more than 45 million users became obligated under the act, and soon all others will be as well, regardless of the number of users.

Blocking false and dangerous content

"Large companies that live off consumers and earn from them need to take additional protective measures," emphasized Tomislav Ramljak, mentioning that the Center already has a proven labeller and the ability to remove inappropriate content, and now the Digital Markets Act will put everything in its place. Service providers need to share responsibility for protecting children, preventing abuse, and creating a better internet. Ramljak warned that victims of criminal acts are increasingly older citizens and announced the opening of an educational center in mid-March and an office in Split in May to provide support everywhere.

Robert Tomljenović emphasized the importance of digital literacy and highlighted the need to create a healthy distance from the digital environment and develop healthy scepticism through questioning. He also announced a major project for the development of an experimental media education programme in schools.

Tanja Zaninović presented the newly redesigned brochure by HAKOM titled "Guide for Safe Internet and Thoughtless Surfers - How to Protect Yourself in the World of Internet and Mobile Devices," which will once again be distributed to classrooms and given to children, youth, and their parents throughout Croatia. The brochure contains practical and useful tips on internet dangers and safety, privacy protection, behaviour, and responsible use of social networks. It is part of HAKOM's programme to inform children and parents, which has been conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Education since 2016. She also announced webinars for parents. Zaninović believes that education should start as early as possible, even in preschool, as very young children are internet users, and it is the societal responsibility of all of us to make the digital environment a safe place for all children.

Jakov Kiš spoke about the activities carried out by CARNET's National CERT and the measures they implement to ensure the protection of certain widely used application solutions, including the well-known e-Diary. He also announced the (CTF) competition - Hacknite, intended for high school teams.

Anamarija Mladinić spoke about personal data protection and emphasized how AZOP educates educational institutions on how to handle children's data. She also highlighted that in today's world, adults often are unaware of the dangers, fall for fake contests, and share their data, becoming the primary targets. Therefore, she believes that the greatest educational efforts need to be directed towards parents. They often unnecessarily and excessively share their children's data, and another pressing issue is electronic violence, which children often do not recognize.

Neven Ricijaš presented the preventive program "Tools for the Modern Age," which is a project implemented over 12 weeks in schools. The project has generated significant interest and will be implemented in 110 schools this year. Bernard Gršić emphasized that education is the foundation of prevention. Younger generations use internet tools better but are also more exposed to risks. Adults have learned to live with technology, while young people were born into it. Technology enables us to earn, create social networks, new lifestyles, and digital transformation, but it needs to be in controlled conditions to make our lives easier. Education, education, and education - that's the basic principle he emphasized.

Challenges of Growing Up in the Digital World

Children spoke about the challenges and everything they know at the roundtable discussion on the topic "Challenges of Growing Up in the Digital World," and these were students from elementary and high schools throughout Croatia. From them, first-hand, one could hear which social networks they use and for what purpose, how they behave in conversations, how they leave digital traces, whether they safely shop online, how they have experienced attempts at fraud, and how they have behaved in such situations, how to recognize attempted fraud, fake pages, and profiles. It was advised not to respond to messages from unknown individuals, to have the option of private profiles, not to accept messages from unknown individuals, to pay attention to the grammatical correctness of sentences, and to always be vigilant - these were the tips they shared with their peers. The panellists of this roundtable were Petra Brtan from Elementary School Novska, Gabriel Rakušić, a student from Matija Gubec Elementary School in Piškorevci, Toni Firizin, a student from Elementary School Grohote, Šolta, Marija Samsa, a student from Ivana Goran Kovačić Elementary School in Vrbovsko, Luka Haluška, a student from August Cesarec Elementary School in Ivankovo, Paola Mikša, a student from Zdenka Turković Elementary School in Kutjevo, Tijana Barlović, a student from Prelog High School, Lara Lukić, a student from Konjščina High School, and Ema Pap, a student from the Technical School in Vinkovci. The moderator was Helena Valečić from the association “Suradnici u učenju “, and the conference was led by Danijela Kodžoman from HAKOM.

The second part of the conference was held online and covered a variety of useful topics, which can be found in more detail at the provided link.

For additional information please contact:

Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM)

  • Roberta Frangeša-Mihanovića 9 Street
  • 10110 Zagreb, Croatia
  • Tel. + 385 (0) 1 700 70 07
  • Fax + 385 (0)1 700 70 70

Media inquiries can be submitted online using HAKOM’s official website:

About Hakom

HAKOM - Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries – ensures preconditions for a fair market competition, stable growth and environment for innovations in the electronic communications and postal services market. HAKOM protects users’ interests and the possibility of choice among various communications and postal services at affordable prices, defines sustainable competitive conditions for operators and service providers under fair conditions for return on investment, and provides support to economic growth, public services and the quality of life in the Republic of Croatia by using modern technologies. HAKOM’ strategic goals are: to promote regulation of the electronic communications and postal services market, to support growth of investments and innovations in the electronic communications and postal services market, to provide efficient use of limited resources, to accelerate the growth of broadband products and services, to provide affordable offers of communications and postal services, to provide protection and informing of users, to build an efficient and comprehensive information system, to define and implement efficient processes, and to acquire multi-disciplinary expertise in market regulation.