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Safer Internet Day – The Online Safety Bill and children

Posted on 10 February 2022

Safer Internet Day took place this month to celebrate young people's role in creating a safer internet.

While the positive and educational opportunities presented by the internet for children are vast, children are simultaneously more exposed than ever to the risk of online harm, with practically constant - and often unmonitored - access to the internet at any hour. This is something that all parents worry about, and the recent progression of the draft Online Safety Bill through Parliament will hopefully assist in allaying some of the concerns parents may have about these risks.  

Below, we discuss some of the ways the proposed bill will help to protect children. 

How will it help? 

  • The broad definition of content that is harmful to children as that which has a material risk of having a 'significant adverse physical or psychological impact on a child of ordinary sensibilities' results in a wide range of harmful online content falling within its remit. 
  • OFCOM's duty to promote media literacy, i.e. understanding how material comes to be published online, evaluating the reliability of online content, and learning how to protect personal data, and to commission educational initiatives to do the same, will help equip children to make informed and safer decisions online. 
  • Properly enacted, the envisaged duty on regulated search services to carry out a children's risk assessment will go towards minimising the risk of children accessing harmful content via search results. 
  • OFCOM's powers to give a use of technology warning notice to service providers in relation to child sexual exploitation and abuse content will hold platforms accountable for exploitative and illegal content relating to children. 
  • UK pornographic websites may be legally required to verify the age of the users accessing their content, and those failing to act could face fines of up to 10% of their qualifying global turnover, protecting children from accessing explicit material online. 

Above all, the enhanced scrutiny of online service providers, and the progression of the Online Safety Bill, demonstrate a concerted effort to ensure that children can reap the benefits of the online world while holding service providers  to account.

For further resources on Safer Internet Day: Parents and Carers - UK Safer Internet Centre

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