Online Safety Bill: what parents and carers can expect

The Government wants the UK to be the safest place to be online, which is why it is introducing a new Online Safety Bill. The Bill includes responsibilities for online service providers to prevent the spread of illegal material and to protect users, particularly children, from legal but harmful content.

There’s a lot of information surrounding the Bill. Here we share three things all parents should know about it.

The new law isn’t in place yet

It will be some time before the new rules come into effect, and even then they won’t cover all the issues children face online. It is therefore just as important as ever for parents, carers and other trusted adults to help children stay safe and happy online. You don’t need to be a tech-whizz to do this – one of the most effective ways to support your child is to have regular conversations with them about their online lives, exploring what they do and how it makes them feel.

Conversation starters
Advice to help parents and carers have regular conversations with their children to help them open up about and manage their digital lives.

Digital Toolkit
Personalised advice for families from the answers to a few simple questions, organised by things to do if they have a little or a lot of time.

Changes you are likely to see

Ofcom will regulate the new law and create Codes of Practice to tell services exactly how they expect them to meet their duties of care. Until then, we know that broadly speaking the law will require companies in scope (including social media, gaming and messaging apps) to share information about how they assess and reduce harms across their service. They will also be expected to have terms and conditions that are clear and accessible to users, including children. They will be required to consistently enforce their terms and conditions, and to provide users with effective ways of reporting issues.

Media literacy plans to complement regulation

The Government is introducing the Online Safety Bill to make tech companies more accountable for the harms on their platforms. In addition, it wants users, including children, to be empowered to be as safe as possible. Educating children, parents and families is key to this and is why the Government has produced its Media Literacy Strategy.

Internet Matters is working with the Government to make its plans in this area as good as they can possibly be. Examples of the support we already offer can be found below.

Data and privacy
Our Privacy and Identity Theft hub gives parents and carers practical tools to help protect their child’s data online.

The online environment
With our Parental Control guides, you can learn more about the settings available to protect your child across various devices, platforms and services.

Assessing content
Try our Find the Fake! Quiz on your own or as a family to learn what fake news is, as well as how to spot it and manage it.

Interaction consequences
Our Online Reputation advice features expert tips to help parents and carers to support their children to understand the impact of what they share online and take control of their online reputation.

Contributing to a positive environment
Using the theme of gender stereotypes, The Online Together Project tool supports children and families to think about how words and actions can impact others, to treat others the way they would want to be treated and to encourage a positive and inclusive culture online.

Thoughts from CEO, Carolyn Bunting MBE

“We welcome the Online Safety Bill and believe it’s a large step forward in making the digital world a better place for children – one in which they can benefit from all the positives the internet brings, while being protected from the harms.

“While many aspects of the Bill will please parents – with strong expectations on platforms to address child sex abuse imagery and grooming, age verification on adult sites and suicide included in the priority list of issues – so much more still needs to be debated.

“We want to see the Bill provide greater clarity on legal but harmful content and features, as it does on preventing them from experiencing sexual abuse or grooming. That includes content promoting extreme weight loss or conversely bulking up – concerns which parents and young people regularly raise with us – along with features which can lead to excessive use of platforms.

“We know this kind of content is damaging to children’s wellbeing, yet the so-called ‘softer’ impacts don’t appear to be being addressed.

“We believe there needs to be greater cohesion with the existing Children’s Code, which has a much clearer focus on children’s best interests and wellbeing. Aligning the two regimes will make it clearer for families to know what to expect, and easier for the industry to comply.

“As a society, we have a responsibility to recognise that the safety and wellbeing of children is a major priority but also that they have much to gain from connected technology.

“We need to be wary of the risk that the regime incentivises companies to restrict children’s access to services which are in their interests to be using. If the Bill results in children being removed from large swathes of the internet which are designed for their use, then it will have failed.”

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