THE Balearic University and other institutions in Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Greece, are taking part in an investigation into the use of the Internet. A co-ordinating group has set up an observation centre which aims to promote understanding and responsible use of the electronic network amongst adolescents, parents, teachers and local authorities. How to use the Internet in a safe way is the principal objective of the project, which is entitled Saber Internet for Knowing and Living (SIFKaL). According to sources at the Balearic University, it is financed by the European Union and comprises six other educational institutions: the British University of East Anglia, two German universities, the International University of Andalucia, the Greek information technology company Extreme Dedia Solutions Limited, and the University of Cádiz, which is the body responsible for co-ordinating the programme. Pornography, terrorism, violence, racism, xenophobia, risk of personal data and private information being hacked into, invasion of privacy, unpleasant tricks and swindling, fraud or contamination by computer viruses, are some of the dangers of the Internet, the sources confirmed. Nevertheless, because it is very clear that a responsible use of the Internet can have very positive results, the teams of investigators of the SIFKal project consider that the dangers that exist are not sufficient reason not to use it. Hence, to create good Internet users, without the need to prohibit, filter or control the information that is available on-line is the objective of the project. The investigation teams of SIFKal have studied four groups which have direct influence on children's use of the Internet: teachers, parents, libraries and local authorities.
The best protection cannot be found in sophisticated software nor in the computer itself; it lies in the mind of the user, is the hypothesis being analysed by the SIFKal team. The members of the team believe that the road towards safety is rooted in being taught to be competent in the use of means of communication, whether they are more traditional ones (such as printed matter, radio or television) or more modern ones such as the Internet.
In order to accommodate all contributors to the investigation, an initial measure adopted by the team has been the creation of a special website, the Observatory for the Saber Use of the Internet. The address is htt://owww.ofsi.org. This web page offers relevant material for raising awareness and development of decision-making skills. It assesses situations for people and organisations who fall within the categories of the target groups on the safe use of the Internet. It acts as a platform for the exchange of information; it suggests certain criteria that should be adhered to if users wish to evaluate certain products that are accessible on the network, and gives examples in order that target groups can better see how to navigate the information available. According to the study, 58.2% of Spanish teachers consider that the Internet is a very positive instrument and only 2.2% consider it negative.