Ministers “must increase their ambition” if regulation is to tackle online damage
The proposed online safety laws, designed to protect people from harm online, are not enough to deal with the rapid spread of risk across platforms, the NSPCC said.
The warning comes after an Ofsted report on sexual abuse in schools highlighted a growing prevalence of incidents online, including sexual images shared through apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, and concerns regarding easy access to pornography.
Among the recommendations to the government, the schools watchdog said the findings should be taken into account when developing the online safety bill, so that it can “strengthen protective controls for children and young people to protect them from viewing explicit online content and harmful sexual behavior using social media platforms ”.
The current bill focuses on user-generated pornography, which means it can skip commercial adult sites.
Andy Burrows, head of online child safety policy at NSPCC, said the government must expand legislation to prevent children from accessing pornography anywhere on the Internet, if the draft law must bring about a significant change.
“Peer abuse doesn’t just happen in school hallways and classrooms and it is significant that Ofsted has recognized the need for government action against the amount of harm that occurs in line, ”he said.
“The review highlighted how children use different apps to record and share abuse, easily switching from Snapchat to WhatsApp, but the Online Safety Bill does not adequately address how risks spread rapidly across platforms.
“Ministers must increase their ambition if regulation is to tackle preventable online harm and abuse.
“They can start by forcing companies to work together to provide systemic protections and expand the law to prevent children from accessing pornography, whether on social media or on commercial sites.”
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the children’s online safety charity, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), said it’s time to see protection in the places we most expect it to be.
“We are concerned that easy access to pornography from an early age will lead to the societal normalization of violence or sexual behavior,” she said.
“We would like to see greater safeguards in place to ensure that children can be as safe as possible when they are online.
“As the latest Ofcom figures show, we are all more dependent on the Internet for our daily lives.”