School online safety recommendations from a decade ago still unmet, warns NSPCC

Former child-safety tsar says the government is playing 'catch-up' on recommendations she made 10 years ago

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The government has failed to properly implement child online safety recommendations for schools made a decade ago, the NSPCC has warned.

The charity said that about half of the series of "urgent recommendations" made by Professor Tanya Byron in 2008, including ensuring that online safety features heavily in school curriculums, have still not been fully met.

The "Safer Children in a Digital World" review was commissioned by then prime minister Gordon Brown to look into how young people use the internet and play video games.

A decade on and the government's Internet Safety Strategy is in the process of developing a code of practice for social networks – something the original report recommended.

But the NSPCC said anti-grooming measures were not included.

Of the 38 recommendations made in the original report, 16 were implemented, 11 were not, seven were partially implemented and a judgement could not be made on the other four as the landscape had changed too much, the charity said.

Ideas that were implemented included parental control software, family friendly internet filters and statutory age classification for video games.

But ensuring that online safety features heavily in school curriculums and encouraging schools to offer family learning courses in ICT and e-safety were two of the recommendations that the charity says were not addressed.

Government 'dragging its feet'

When the initial recommendations were made, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp did not exist – the three are now some of the most popular social media apps.

Professor Byron, NSPCC trustee and clinical psychologist, said: "The government said they want the UK to be the safest place for children to be online.

"Yet only now are they starting to play catch-up on recommendations I made 10 years ago, while other recommendations have been ignored entirely.

"The internet is absolutely ubiquitous in children's lives today, and it is much too late for a voluntary code for social networks.

"The Internet Safety Strategy must absolutely create a legally enforceable safety code to force social networks to keep children safe. The online world moves too fast for government to drag its feet for another decade."

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