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New House of Lords report on children and the internet offers little help for families

By Gary Crossing and Eleanor Levy

‘Information is not enough to support parents with the difficult task of taking offline parenting online. Every parent should have access to proper digital parenting support.’

A new report on children and the internet by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications says that UK pupils need internet lessons to thrive in the new, digital world.

However, the report’s findings fail to offer any concrete suggestions on supporting parents in helping guide their children through the challenges their children will face.

The report, Growing Up With the Internet, examined the issues and opportunities children face as they grow up surrounded by, and interacting with, internet technologies.

As the internet is an essential and intrinsic part of the world young people inhabit, the report sets out key recommendations for the Government to ensure every child’s online experience is positive.

Its recommendations include:

  • 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 internet, 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 in respect of children, including the right to be forgotten, as a minimum.

When Parent Zone’s CEO Vicki Shotbolt addressed the House of Lords Communication Committee in September 2016, she called for more digital parenting support, as well as legislation that ensures children enjoy the same protection rights online as they do offline.

Vicki, who also represents parents as an executive board member on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), submitted her evidence alongside several children’s charities and experts in the field of internet crime prevention.

Responding to the report, she said: ‘This report does a great job of cataloguing some of the challenges associated with making the internet work for families. It is a great shame that all it offers parents is “more information”.

‘Information is not enough to support parents with the difficult task of taking offline parenting online. The internet has created challenges for parents that previous generations didn't have to face. It has made parenting materially more difficult which means that every parent should have access to proper digital parenting support.’

Further reading:

Growing up with the internet: House of Lords Select Committee on Communications

Ordinary magic for the digital age: understanding children's online resilience

Parent Zone Digital Schools membership: helping children thrive in the digital age

Parent Info: advice and information for parents on the issues caused or amplified by the digital age

Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com