CHILDLINE ADVICE: Grasp the chance to ensure our children are safe online
Counsellors here at Childline speak to children every day who have experienced abuse of all kinds, but in recent years we have seen an increase in the number of contacts based around abuse that originated online.
It’s a problem that’s been recorded by police forces across the UK too - in the last four years, police reports of child sexual abuse offences with an online element rose by 78% nationally, and by more than 57% in the North East and Cumbria.
Children should be able to explore the online world safely, and right now the Government is considering an online safety bill to ensure social media is better regulated in the UK. Sadly, we believe the proposed bill falls significantly short of the protections it is meant to deliver to ensure our children can be safe online.
We know groomers target children on social networks then move across platforms to encrypted sites, and unless tech firms assess these risks while designing their sites and share information about offenders or potential threats to children’s safety, they are putting children in harm’s way.
The Bill doesn’t cover that, nor does it treat facilitation of child abuse with the same severity as the illegal material it causes. It doesn’t fix the current gaps in child safety duty, ensure children can’t access apps that are unsuitable for them, and it doesn’t hold senior managers accountable for their companies’ failure to tackle children’s safety.
So what can we do?
We’re continuing to advise the Government on the Bill, but we’re also relaunching our Wild West Web campaign to push for social media regulation and step up to this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
And you can help.
We’re calling on anyone who wants the Government to ensure the online world is as safe as possible for children to write to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and call on him to make the Online Safety Bill as robust and protective as it can be.
Sometimes, we have a genuine opportunity to make a real difference to the world, and when one of those chances come along, shouldn’t we take it?