The Government's New Internet Safety Strategy And What It Means For My Child

Carolyn Bunting
Internet safety was at the top of the news agenda last month as the government laid out their plans to make Britain the "safest place to be online".

Internet safety was at the top of the news agenda last month as the government laid out their plans to make Britain the "safest place to be online". Following the rapid rate at which the "open and free" digital world has developed, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said certain risks had emerged that would not be tolerated offline, such as cyberbullying and trolling.

The government's Internet Safety Strategy green paper revealed plans to tackle those risks and make the online world safer and more transparent, particularly for young people. Mrs Bradley targeted social media companies with a series of voluntary proposals including signing up to a social media code of practice, which would enable the industry to have a more 'joined up' approach to online safety.

The recommendations also included a social media levy, whereby the web giants would pay a voluntary contribution, which would go towards funding raising awareness and addressing issues of internet safety. It also proposed a transparency report, this means social media organisations would voluntarily produce a report which would reveal the amount and type of content that had been reported versus the amount that had removed as a result of the complaints.

Other key targets were online gaming; the government hopes to continue to monitor the PEGI ratings and help ensure children are using age-appropriate games. Organisations that are collecting data from children and young people have been urged to publish very clearly how they intend to use it, so that children can understand where exactly their information is going and what they intend to do with it, which is a further extension of the Child Commissioner's jargon-busting social media guides, which were also issued last month.

Although reports of the Internet Safety Strategy focused on the aforementioned - there was an essential part of the green paper that didn't garner quite as much media attention.

The Internet Safety Strategy revealed plans to empower parents and carers through education and start conversations 'from the cradle'; a move that will make online safety part of our psyche.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sports' decision to target new parents at National Childbirth Trust Courses, Sure Start Centres, nursery groups, pharmacies, popular parent media outlets and over Facebook, means they are getting to the heart of the issue.

Thinking about your child's digital life and crucially talking about it from birth means that parents will be able to navigate the more difficult cyber-related issues as their children get older and consider their child's digital footprint right from the off.

If everyone learns the basics of internet safety from the start of their child's life; there's less reason for parents to fear technology and they can feel comfortable to allow their children to use tech to explore, communicate and learn.

At the core of the learning is digital literacy. The Internet Safety Strategy aims to help users build their digital literacy and develop children's critical thinking skills about what they see and experience on the internet within schools, community, civil and sports groups.

How do they interpret information they see online? How do they tackle online peer pressure? Do you they realise when they're being targeted by advertising? How do the next generation navigate the online world to use it as a force for good? The aim is for the new digital generation to be armed with the necessary tools to contribute to a positive online environment and learn how to become 'good digital citizens'.

Another key highlight of the report is to make digital literacy part of the RE and RSE curriculum and move it away from IT classes. Internet Matters welcomes this move as placing digital literacy in the lessons where we have traditionally learnt about sex, and relationships allows children to recognise internet safety as a social issue; it's part of life and it's part of growing up.

The Internet Safety Strategy has a varied response to our ever-changing digital world and it has made good headway in tackling risks that emerged of the quick-changing and ever-expanding digital world.

In the meantime, ahead of the proposed ideas coming into play - Internet Matters is here to offer parents tips on how they can help keep their children safe online.

Internet Matters' five steps parents can take to make sure their child is staying safe online:

1. Ask your child what they are doing online. It's important you understand what websites, apps, and social media platforms they are on.

2.Check their privacy settings. Make sure they know how to make their profiles 'private' so they are not sharing personal information to strangers. Facebook have a Privacy Healthcheck feature.

3. Make sure they know when and how to report and block any malicious or inappropriate messages or posts.

4. Check your parental controls on your home broadband and safety filters that block inappropriate content across any devices.

5. Talk to your children about the risks they may be exposed to and how to deal with them, such as cyberbullying and grooming, and ensure they feel able to come and talk to you if they see anything upsetting.

For more information and step-by-step guidance, visit internetmatters.org

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