LETTER: Rules needed to keep kids safe online

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The internet can be a wonderful resource for young people to learn, socialise and get support.

But leaving social media sites free to make up their own rules when it comes to child safety is unacceptable. We need legally enforceable universal safety standards that are built in from the start.

We’ve seen time and time again social media sites allowing violent, abusive or illegal content to appear unchecked on their sites, and in the very worst cases children have died after being targeted by predators or seeing self-harm films posted online. Last year a girl was murdered after being groomed by two men on social media.

Enough is enough. As the NSPCC holds its annual flagship ‘How Safe Are Our Children’ conference, the charity has set out the three steps the Government must force social media companies to take.

We want social networks to be required to give all under-18s ‘safe accounts’ the highest privacy settings as default and better controls over who they connect with, so that all followers must be approved by the young person.

They must also track patterns of grooming or abusive language by users, take swift action against those individuals and send a grooming or bully notification to children when they are being targeted in this way.

And every social media company must hire dedicated child safety moderators to help protect their young users, and disclose the number of reports those moderators receive to the regulator.

It makes no sense that in the real world we protect children from going to night clubs or seeing over-18 films, but in the online world –where they spend so much of their time - we have no equivalent safeguards to protect them from harmful strangers or violent content.

Sandra McNair,

NSPCC Midlands regional head of service.