Children’s experiences of online harm and what they want to do about it
In April this year the Government set out their plans for a world-first: a system of regulations that they argue will make the UK ‘the safest place in the world to be online’. The Online Harms White Paper, produced in collaboration between the Home Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), maps out the UK’s plan to hold web giants to account for a broad range of online harms. The ‘harms’ targeted by the white paper are vast in scope, numbering 23 in total and covering topics as serious and diverse as modern slavery, terrorism, child sexting and abuse. The aim of these measures is to create a safe online space for all users, including children and young people, where they can feel free to communicate, research and play.
The Children’s Commissioner’s challenge to the Government was to ensure these measures are truly informed by voices and opinions of children. Today’s kids were born into an online world that they did not create; an inescapable reality of 24-hour connection, entertainment and social pressure. It is the responsibility of adults to ensure that children have the greatest possible power to shape this first iteration of digital regulation.
In January, Jeremy Wright (then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) asked the Children’s Commissioner’s Office to join forces with the Department to help them consult with children themselves. We worked with DCMS to set up and facilitate two workshops with groups from primary and secondary schools. We devised the workshops to find out how these children and young people feel about the current state of affairs online, and the Government’s proposals to change the rulebook.
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