Editorial

Lords say we need to build an Internet ‘fit for our kids’

New study by Communications Committee sets out wide-ranging set of priorities for making life easier for future generations, including warning the UK must adhere to GDPR ‘no matter what our future relationship with the EU’

Posted 23 March 2017 by

“Co-ordinated and sustained action” is needed from Ministers across the whole of Whitehall to better defend the rights of children when it comes to the Internet.

Another key step has to be the appointment of a special new ‘Children’s Digital Champion’ to ensure such “robust advocacy”.

The demands come from the upper House of Parliament this week as the House of Lords Communications Committee launches an in-depth report, Growing up with the Internet, which it says crystallises expert thinking on how to better enable British children to navigate the complex world of today’s Web.

To do so, the peers say, UK parents and carers need clearly communicated information about the digital world, with both government and industry looking to invest in “regular public campaigns to promote information and tools” to help them.

HMG should also commission research based on in depth consultation with children, which should include the impact of screen time on social and cognitive development.

Meanwhile, the study adds, because of the rapid nature of technological change, public policy may on occasion have to anticipate the conclusion of long-term research.

Its other main recommendations are:

  • Minimum standards should be established for child-friendly design, content control filtering, privacy, data collection, terms and conditions of use, and report and response mechanisms for all businesses operating on the ‘Net, public bodies and the voluntary sector
  • Digital literacy should sit alongside reading, writing and arithmetic as the fourth pillar of a child’s education. Therefore, online responsibilities, social norms and risks should be part of mandatory, Ofsted-inspected Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education – in all schools, whatever their status
  • Irrespective of its membership of the EU, the UK should maintain legislation which incorporates the standards set by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in respect of children, including the right to be forgotten, as a minimum.

“It is in the whole of society’s interest that children grow up to be empowered, digitally confident citizens,” said the Committee’s chair, Lord Best.

“This is a shared responsibility for everyone.

“It is essential that we improve opportunities for children to use the Internet productively, improve digital literacy, change the norms of data collection and to design technology in ways that support children by default.”