Yorkshire abuse survivor and NSPCC chief hail passing of the Online Safety Bill as a momentous day for children
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After years of campaigning, tech companies will now have a legal duty to protect children from sexual abuse and harmful material on social media sites, gaming apps and messaging services.
The Government first promised regulation to help protect children online at the NSPCC’s annual conference in 2018, following the launch of the charity’s Wild West Web campaign.
The Online Safety Bill has been shaped in large part by survivors of abuse, bereaved parents and young people themselves who have campaigned tirelessly to ensure the legislation leads to real-world change for children.
One survivor, Frida* from Yorkshire, who has campaigned with the NSPCC, said: “I was groomed online through Facebook by a man in his 30s, I was only 13 and it continued until I was 18.
“It left me with long-term depression and anxiety and at times I felt suicidal. That’s why we need the new Online Safety Bill, to stop this happening to other 13-year-olds.”
The charity has helped strengthen the legislation during its long journey through Parliament, ensuring that it results in regulation that comprehensively protects children online.
They said the legislation will mark a new era for children’s safety at a time when online child abuse offences are at a record high and children continue to be bombarded with harmful suicide and self-harm content on social media.
In August this year, the NSPCC revealed 34,000 online grooming crimes were recorded by UK police in the past six years while the legislation was being discussed, including more than 2,600 in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive said: “We are absolutely delighted to see the Online Safety Bill being passed through Parliament. It is a momentous day for children and will finally result in the ground-breaking protections they should expect online.
“At the NSPCC we hear from children about the completely unacceptable levels of abuse and harm they face online every day. That’s why we have campaigned strongly for change alongside brave survivors, families, young people and parliamentarians to ensure the legislation results in a much safer online world for children.
“Children can benefit greatly from life online. Tech companies can now seize the opportunity to embrace safety by design. The NSPCC is ready to help them listen to and understand the online experiences of their young users to help ensure every child feels safe and empowered online.”
Members of the charity’s Young People’s Board for Change campaigned strongly for the legislation, meeting Ministers and MPs who worked on the Bill on a number of occasions.
In a statement the NSPCC’s Young People’s Board for Change, said: “It is a huge relief now that companies will be legally obliged to keep young people safe online. It empowers us to have the freedom we deserve to use these platforms, whilst still being protected. The online world should always be a safe place for everyone.”
The NSPCC’s commitment to protect children online does not end with the passing of the Bill and they will continue to advocate to ensure it results in truly safe online spaces for children.