We’ve been working with Nominet and ParentZone to investigate the online safety landscape so charities and funders can proactively drive best practice and influence government policy.
There are shortcomings with the current support landscape, which is often one-off lessons preaching restriction, rather than sustained efforts to build resilience. Resources for adults can be fragmented, poorly signposted, heavily duplicated and out of date.
We believe helping parents recognise how their existing parental skills can be applied to digital contexts would help alleviate parental anxiety and ensure children enjoy better all-round support.
We need an evidence based, systems change approach to help parents, teachers and carers create a community of support around children. Building broad principles of resilience must be at the heart, not chasing the details of individual platforms that will rapidly date and drop out of favour.
Interventions must be co-designed with children, parents and professionals, and should include relevant age appropriate online spaces in which children can learn, analyse their online decisions, build resilience, and form their own mode of operation without leaving an online footprint. Put simply, an online playground.
Finally, we need to ensure the online world children enter is as safe as possible. This means responsible corporate citizenship and more thoughtful regulation at government level, driven and challenged by charities campaigning on behalf of those they work with. This is why we’ve argued in our response to the Government’s Online Harms consultation for a much greater role for civil society, through the creation of a What Works Network for measuring and evaluating the impact of online safety initiatives.
We believe charities and funders are well placed to be a leading voice in these efforts. At present, most online safety funding is from tech companies. It is undoubtedly a good thing that tech companies recognise their responsibilities, but they cannot be expected to do everything or to ignore commercial pressures. Foundations and philanthropists need to step up to create a more diverse funding landscape.
The online world is only going to grow more prevalent in children’s lives, so we all need to work together to build safer online environments, foster supportive communities, and equip children with the resilience to thrive as discerning and constructive online citizens.