The internet can provide us with a vast world of knowledge, education and entertainment but, like most things, it comes with its risks. Children can often be exposed online to harmful content, such as sexually explicit or violent images. While it is the responsibility of the parents to protect their children online, it can be a complex task, which is why the government are putting measures in place to support parents in the protection of their children.
In recent months Catholic organisations such as the Catholic Education Service and CSAN have been supporting the government’s focus on online safety. There has been a conscious effort made to improve the online safeguarding of children and young people through putting in place measures such as a block on pornography through public Wi-Fi as well as the appointment of Claire Perry MP as the Online Safety Advisor. Whilst the Catholic Church greatly welcomes these changes we feel that there is more to be done to protect the wellbeing of our children and young people.
Exposing children to harmful or explicit content can potentially damage their ability to build relationships and can create mental health issues, as well as having an impact upon the child’s emotional state and wellbeing. Recent research by the Children’s Commissioner has shown that a significant number of children and young people are exposed to unwanted sexual content online despite the efforts taken to increase internet safety.
In light of this, many Catholic organisations and agencies are showing their support for the Online Safety Bill sponsored by Baroness Howe of Idlicote. The bill proposes an ‘Opt-in’ system which will require internet providers to provide a service which automatically excludes adult content, but will provide access to such content to adults who want it and can provide notification and proof of age.
We sincerely hope that the government will offer its support to this bill and the actions it proposes.