Two pupils from St John’s School in Durham, UK child safety experts and ECPAT UK, travelled to Berlin this past weekend to join with ECPAT partners in Belgium, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands at the first Peer Experts Make-IT-Safe Conference.

They met with forty other participants from across Europe to share information and approaches to raising awareness about online safety to children, teachers and parents.
The Make-IT-Safe project aims at enhancing the knowledge of young people on the safe and responsible use of the internet and new online technologies in order to protect themselves against the potential risks of sexual exploitation and abuse online.

Online child abuse and sexual exploitation of children has been identified as one of four primary threats to children by British offenders, according to the latest threat assessment report published by the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP). ECPAT UK’s interactions with young people have provided further insight into their vulnerability to cyberbullying, sexting and exposure to inappropriate content on the internet.

As a preventative and protection measure, ECPAT partners developed the Make-IT-Safe project to train young people in each participating country to become ‘peer experts’ in online safety to be a focal point to offer supportive listening, guidance and information to other young people.

Speaking at the event in Berlin, one of the young participants said: “It was so great to meet other young people from different countries and see what they have been doing. One of them had created a film, which we thought was very good. The conference gave us lots of ideas to think about what we can do to promote internet safety among young people.”

The UK-based young people will visit Microsoft offices today to talk to professionals about what they feel needs to be implemented to help keep children safe when using the internet.

Debbie Beadle, ECPAT UK Youth Development Officer, said: “With greater internet literacy across the world, the risks to children online have also proliferated at a speed many authorities struggle to grasp. That is why peer-to-peer projects such as Make-IT-Safe are so important to enable young people to share ownership of their safety online. We look forward to cascading the learning to as many young people as possible across the UK and Europe.”