We must equip young people to make sensible choices about use of the internet and to have the skills to combat bad influence
Labour peer Baroness Massey of Darwen writes following her House of Lords question on 'Strengthening controls over internet providers in the light of concerns over child bullying and suicide'.
In the House of Lords this week, two pieces of business in the House of Lords Chamber focused on children’s safety and well -being. Firstly, a statement on the proposals for draft regulations and guidance on for relationships education, relationships and sex education and health education. The second was my oral question to ask the Government what action they are taking, in the light of concerns over child bullying and suicide arising from online activity, to strengthen controls over internet providers.
These two examples complement each other. I asked, in my supplementary question to the Minister, if the Government recognised that the protection of children is half the problem, empowering them to be resilient and aware of danger of the internet is also important.
The Minister, Lord Ashton, acknowledged that the Government has a duty to make sure that social media and big tech companies are held to account. There will be on online harms White paper to support this. He also acknowledged the importance of dealing with safety online in schools.
The NSPCC and other charities in the online safety alliance have expressed concerns for many years about control of the internet in order to keep children safe, including age verification. We know that the media consistently reports report self harm, suicide, bullying and other terrible things happening to children. The finger is often pointed at the content of some online presentations. Parents are in despair about this phenomenon, and feel helpless in tackling this, to them, mysterious and harmful influence.
An NSPCC survey has found that six out of ten parents do not think that social networks protect their children from inappropriate content. Nine out of ten of parents support the regulation of social networks to make then legally responsible for protecting children. The NSPCC’s Wild West campaign is calling on Government to introduce a social media regulator.
The problem is difficult to police and the big four companies have grown to enormous sizes. The problem needs to be firmly tackled both in relation to child protection and in equipping young people to be able to make sensible choices about use of the internet and to have the skills to combat bad influence. There is a good case, also, for raising the awareness of parents and carers to the dangers which may be involved.
Baroness Massey of Darwen is a Labour peer