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13 October 2017
By Rebecca Avery

Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper published

On the 11th October 2017, the Government published a consultation that will help shape the UK’s strategies around online safety.

The Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper aims to consider how we can ensure that Britain is the safest place in the world to be online. The strategy seeks to ensure that all options are carefully considered, and wishes to work collaboratively with industry and charities and support children, parents and carers. The consultation covers various aspects of online safety including:

  • A new social media code of practice to see a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content;
  • An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms​;
  • An annual internet safety transparency report to show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content and conduct;
  • Support for tech and digital startups to think safety first - ensuring that necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start.
  • adults’ experience of online abuse;
  • young people’s use of online dating websites/ applications.

The role of education

The Strategy also outlines the crucial role that education will play in raising online safety awareness, with a particular focus on children and parents:

  • New compulsory school subjects – Relationship Education at primary and Relationship & Sex Education at secondary to provide online safety education;
  • Social media safety advice – Government will encourage social media companies to offer safety advice and tools to parents and safety messages will be built into online platforms;
  • Safety features highlighted – Government will work to raise awareness around the safety products and features that are available for parents and carers.

It is proposed that the UK Council for Child Internet Safety will become the UK Council for Internet Safety  and will consider the safety of all users, not just children, and help deliver the measures within the Strategy.

Have your say

The Government is inviting responses from organisations and individuals (including schools and other children's workforce professionals) until 7th December 2017. Find out more and respond to the consultation here.

Key findings of the Green Paper

A number of key internet safety findings have been complied:

  • Reporting to social media companies is low amongst those who recognise they have been cyberbullied. Children, particularly those who had no direct experience of reporting issues, had little confidence in social media companies to resolve cyberbullying (Cyberbullying: Research into the industry guidelines and attitudes of 12-15 year olds. Family Kids & Youth. (2017)).
  • The amount of children exposed to hate content online seems to be rising. 64% of children and young people aged 13-17 have seen people posting images or videos that are offensive to a particular targeted group (Power of image: A report into the influence of images and videos in young people’s digital lives, UK Safer Internet Centre (2017)).
  • More than four in ten adults users say they have seen something that has upset or offended them on social media in the past 12 months (Adults’ media use and attitudes, - Ofcom report (2017)).
  • Ofcom estimates that the average weekly time spent online for all adults in 2016 was 22.9 hours, 1.3 hours more than 2013. 5-15 year olds spend 15 hours a week online; exposing themselves to risks. Even 3-4 year olds who go online are spending 8 hours per week doing so (Children and parents: media use and attitudes, Ofcom (2016))
  • In the past year, almost one fifth of 12-15 year olds encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way’ (Children and parents: media use and attitudes, Ofcom (2016)).
  • Half of UK adult internet users say they have concerns about what is on the Internet. These concerns relate mainly to offensive/ illegal content (38%), risks to others/ society (22%) and concerns about security/ fraud (20%). Other concerns include personal privacy (9%) and advertising (7%) (Adults’ media use and attitudes, Ofcom (2017)).