SmartBus: Getting Smart About Online Safety for Children
For all its incredible benefits, the Internet can be a risky place for young people. Cyberbullying and privacy protection are just two of the issues they face – issues that will only grow as people spend more time in the digital world.
Young netizens need the knowledge to navigate the Internet and social media safely.
To help them on their journey, Huawei and Parole O_Stili have launched the SmartBus project in Italy to offer free training sessions to secondary school students aged between 10 and 14. The sessions are designed to help children develop a strong awareness of Internet security and the opportunities and risks associated with using digital tools.
Functioning as an interactive mobile classroom, the SmartBus is equipped with digital devices and expert trainers who will create an engaging, interactive, and fun learning environment that students can relate to. For the project, Parole O_Stili has developed a special app that helps simulate potentially risky situations such as requests to share data and photos.
Aiming to reach more than 4,500 students, the Italy SmartBus will stop in 15 cities across five regions.
Little awareness, a lot of vulnerability
According to a 2022 survey by Ipsos and Changes Unipol, 30% of Italians do not perceive online risks as a danger, while 17% are unable to effectively assess risks and consequences. Young people are particularly vulnerable to sharing photos on social media networks, and tend to have a low perceived understanding of the risks of doing so.
In 2022, the Postal Police and the Cyber Security Operations Center recorded an increase in the number of people or websites identified for crimes connected to techno-mediated abuse against minors. Of particular concern was the increase in online grooming of children aged between 10 and 13. Although showing a slight decrease, cyberbullying mainly affects 14- to 17-year-olds.
Under the hashtag #CYBERSICURIABORDO, the training offered during the SmartBus program will help students better understand which online resources are age-appropriate and which protective measures to take to protect themselves online - things like using antivirus software, updating devices, choosing strong passwords, and configuring social networks to maximize data privacy.
Students will also learn to navigate the online world with the same caution as they would in real life, and immediately report any inappropriate contact to a teacher or parent.
The SmartBus will stop in each city for three days. While children are a priority, afternoon sessions will welcome all citizens to improve their knowledge on the topics of cybersecurity, privacy, and the use of digital tools. Each session will start with a test on the bus to assess attendees' existing knowledge levels.
The project is supported by Piedmont, Lombardy, Tuscany, Lazio, and Campania regions; the Municipalities of Turin, Settimo Torinese, Novara, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Pisa, Grosseto, Livorno, Frosinone, Viterbo, Caserta, Salerno, and Naples; and the telecommunication association ASSTEL. Alongside Huawei and Parole O_Stili, the technical partners are FASTWEB, Piemonte Innova Foundation, Spazio UaU, G2EVENT, and EventRent.
The SmartBus initiative was launched in Europe in 2019. The program has so far visited more than 300 schools in eight countries, including Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands, reaching more than 65,000 students, parents, and teachers.