Childnet addresses European health professionals

Posted on 08 June 2007

CEO gives key note speech at EUSUHM Congress 2007

Childnet’s Chief Executive, Stephen Carrick-Davies travelled to Tampere in Finland this week to give a keynote speech to health professionals at the European Union for School and University Health and Medicine (EUSUHM) congress.

This three day event brought together over 300 leading health professionals, academics, researchers and educators from across Europe for 3 days of meetings and workshops to share lessons and review progress on the state of children’s health in schools and universities. For the first time representatives from Russia also attended the congress.

The World Health Organisation defines health not only as the lack of disease and physical defects, but also as a state of full physical, mental, and social well-being. Improving health, in this broad sense of the word, is not only a personal matter but one of concern for society as a whole, and increasingly schools are playing a major role in ensuring that all children can lead healthy lives.

In recognition that the internet can have a detrimental effect on children’s health and social well-being, Childnet was asked to present to the full congress and share from its experience of working in schools to educate children, teachers and parents about internet safety issues.

To a packed congress, Stephen outlined the risks to children’s health and well-being on the internet and called for a greater recognition by governments of the need to include the subject of E-safety in the curriculum and Teachers’ professional training. He shared from Childnet’s experience of educating young people and parents on internet issues and asked delegates to consider how they can use the internet more effectively to help educate children on broader health issues relevant to young people.

Stephen says:

“In schools all over Europe, teachers are integrating the use of computers into their lessons and are seeing the very positive advantages of using ICT, however there is a “parallel universe” developing with many teachers and parents painfully unaware of the way in which children can be harmed through using the internet and mobile technology unsupervised outside of schools” He went on, “Increasingly children are deriving their identity from what they do online and don’t see the divide between online and offline in the way that most adults do. For them what takes place offline soon goes online and visa versa. All of us working with children need therefore to appreciate the health and safety issues for children using the internet and be committed to their well-being.”

Stephen shared from the UK Every Child Matters programme which prioritises children’s health and safety, including freedom from bullying and maltreatment. With children spending a growing proportion of their lives online, he believed that schools need to do more in recognising the important internet health and safety issues. He stressed that whilst there were obvious online health risks to children such as accessing eating disorder websites, coming across inaccurate health information, suicide advice sites and the potential to become addicted to online games, young people were also able to use the internet to find out excellent online health resources, join peer advice groups, and find good confidential counselling services and support.

Stephen shared with the conference what he believed to be a more alarming health and well-being issue, that of cyberbullying. He shared from a recent study by the University of London which found that 22% of young people questioned said they were bullied via mobile phones or the internet. According to Stephen, this was very worrying, as children who are bullied in this way are vulnerable beyond the school-gate, often don’t know who is doing the bullying and how many bystanders are involved. Furthermore with the bullying published on a social networking website or distributed by mobile phones, children are unable to gain closure from the bullying.

Stephen told the Congress that:

“Cyberbullying is on the increase and if schools aren’t pro-active in addressing these issues and the well-being of children online, they risk seeing the offline consequences in the playground, classroom and wider community.”

Stephen stressed that all sectors have a responsibility, but schools needed real support and clear advice on how to both prevent cyberbullying and educate children about the issue. Stephen believed that because many teachers were now becoming the target of the bullying and offensive comments, it brought home the consequences and seriousness of the issue and the necessity of schools to act.

Dr Roger Harrington, Secretary-General of the EUSUHM and a healthcare professional working with young people, said:

“I found Stephen’s keynote speech not only absolutely fascinating but also very enlightening. One is aware of teenagers constantly texting each other on their mobile phones but I had no idea how much our young people are dependent on modern technology to lead their lives. While extolling the virtues of the internet, Stephen’s passionate speech also addressed its inherent dangers and words like “cyber grooming” and “cyber wellness” will quickly become familiar terminology. The examples Stephen shared about how children can get into danger online was extremely thought-provoking, and I think it is vital that Childnet International, its resources and philosophy become as familiar to all parents of children and teenagers as drug abuse or teenage rebellion.”

Stephen gave delegates a copy of Childnet’s ‘Know IT ALL’ resource which Childnet has recently produced for all schools with the support of the Department for Education and Skills in England. This resource covers cyberbullying and wider internet safety issues and is in 7 languages. Stephen shared his vision that more countries could adapt this resource and distribute it to parents and schools so young people can be better educated and encouraged to use the internet safely and responsibly.

For more information about EUSUHM see

Contact Stephen at

[email protected]

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