Members of the NSPCC’s Young People’s Board for Change (YPBC), whose role is to raise awareness of what matters most to young people and to advise the charity, attended the Conservative and Labour Party conferences for a discussion about the issue and said improved online safety support was desperately needed.
They met with Damian Collins, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, and Alex Davies-Jones, Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, at fringe events held at each party conference about how the Online Safety Bill can bring greater protection for children online. The events were jointly organised by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s.
Protect children from harm
The NSPCC is calling for the Bill to be implemented in full without delay, to protect children from online harm.
The Bill, which had been making its way through parliament but was side-lined by the change in Prime Minister and is yet to return, would introduce new laws that put a duty on online platforms to protect their young users from harm.
More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition launched by the charity, urging the UK Government to keep its promise and pass a robust Online Safety Bill without delay.
Aoife Murphy, 17, YPBC member for Northern Ireland who attended the Labour conference event, said: “The current support that young people are getting online is shockingly limited.
“Every day, young people are getting exposed to inappropriate and disturbing content from all different directions, which is having an effect on them in ways we don’t understand and the companies responsible are simply not doing enough currently to protect young people from online dangers.
“This is particularly frustrating when there are solutions through the Online Safety Bill. At times current support seems non-existent particularly when it is needed most, and it is leaving thousands of young people vulnerable.”
Holding companies accountable
The panel at the Taming the Web event at the Labour conference included MP Alex Davies-Jones, Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSPCC, CEO of Barnardo’s Lynn Perry MBE, and Andrea Simon, Director of End Violence Against Women Coalition.
YPBC member Rachel Talbot, 15, from Angus in Scotland, who also attended the event, said the support that young people currently received to keep them safe online was “extremely lacking”.
“We need to make sure we are holding companies accountable for their role in child protection especially with the continuous rise of social media platforms,” Rachel said.
“It’s important to me to share this message to politicians because ultimately they are the ones capable of holding these companies accountable.
“As young people we can ask companies all we want to improve the safety of their platforms but sometimes they are only going to listen to legal action.”
Support for young people
Alongside MP Damian Collins, the panel at the Conservative conference event was made up of Sir Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and Chief Executive of Glitch, Poppy Wood, UK Director at Reset, and Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry MBE.
Becky Ponsonby, 16, from Leicestershire who attended, said: “The support that young people receive online could definitely be improved.
“Although there is support, I think there isn’t enough recognition and awareness that the support exists.
“As a young person myself, talking to politicians about the Online Safety Bill is so important because the amount of young people suffering online and not being able to access support easily is far too high.”
People can sign the NSPCC petition urging Prime Minister Liz Truss to pass the Online Safety Bill as soon as possible.