The brief 2-page summary report and a full transcript of our recent Digital Policy Alliance discussion meeting on Child Internet Safety chaired by Diana Johnson MP (Shadow Minister for Home Affairs) are now available for members and observers. We timed publication to coincide with Childnet International's Safer Internet Day (www.childnet.com/resources/safer-internet-day).
The reports conclude that an effective and sustainable response to the dangers children are exposed to on the Internet and over social networks (e.g. pornography, suicide forums, cyber-bullying, blackmail and terrorist grooming) requires a holistic and comprehensive approach to online child safety in the UK. These include:
- raising parental and child awareness of current dangers,
- better education about emerging threats,
- effective and proportionate use of blocking and filtering routines.
Safety measures which involve blocking and filtering inappropriate material are clearly valuable – but do have limitations such as:
- unintended blocking of legitimate and useful content,
- the ability of increasingly computer literate children to circumvent blocking mechanisms,
- a false sense of security if used in isolation,
- filtering systems alone are unlikely to prevent online bullying, self-harm or suicide.
Key decisions for parents and experts alike include:
- what constitutes appropriate/inappropriate content for children of different ages
- how to make age verification systems robust and affordable;
- whether to try to change the law so that cyber predators who use abusive imagery for blackmail and extortion can be prosecuted. Such actions are currently impossible using existing legal frameworks.