Hotline & Network Updates
Child Safety in Bulgaria
The Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) was established in 2005 and is coordinated by the non-governmental Applied Research and Communications Fund (ARC Fund). With a strong focus on Child Safety, the Bulgarian hotline 'SafenetBG' became part of the INHOPE network in the year 2006 and since has processed over 620.000 reports of harmful and illegal material. In 2015 the hotline was awarded by the Ministry of Interior for outstanding contribution to the work of law enforcement in the country.
Apart from operating as a hotline the safer internet centre also runs a helpline and an awareness centre, which were developed and coordinated under the management of Georgi Apostolov. The awareness centre not only raises awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation material (CSAM) but also develops new educational methods and materials for use in schools. Additionally, the organisation provides digital training for teachers and conducts open lessons for children of all ages. These preventative approaches help to prepare young people to safely navigate around the digital environment. The helpline, which is staffed with consultants and psychologists offering their advice via email or in a live-chat assists the awareness centre in developing training and educational materials.
The Cyberscouts Programme, organised by the safer internet centre is specifically concerned with teaching children to develop digital literacy and act as advisers to their peers and pass on important things they have learnt. The practical implications of this programme, can be seen in the enthusiasm with which children and young people share newly acquired skills and knowledge with others, says Georgi Apostolov.
Notable changes in Child Protection
After over 16 years of hard work and dedication, the safer internet centre coordinator Georgi Apostolov is retiring. To highlight his incredible contributions to the network we asked him to share his experiences in the Child Protection space. Georgi explained that one of the most significant changes he has witnessed was the evolution of the understanding of child protection. Over the years, the collective approach to online safety evolved from fearmongering to a strategy focused on support and education for the youth. This shift has created an opportunity for young people to feel digitally empowered and to navigate comfortably through online spaces. Georgi regards this change as one of the highlights of his career.
Being part of a network
These developments were only possible through the cooperation and coordination of actions between the INHOPE and Insafe networks, Georgi says. By sharing knowledge and building community expertise we were able to develop the required flexibility to keep up with the incredibly fast-paced changes in the digital environment. Regrettably, there is still a lack of financial support from the Bulgarian state, which puts a big strain on the SIC team to find crucial co-funding and distracts them from their essential work. As a global network tackling CSAM, we must continue to grow and expand in numbers, not reduce. Supporting each other, developing collective approaches and sharing strategies are crucial in the united effort for children's safety.
Find out more about the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre here.
Photo by INHOPE
By sharing knowledge and bulding community expertise we were able to develop the required flexibility to keep up with the incredibly fast paced changes in the digitial environment.'