Why we’re supporting Safer Internet Day 2024
Today is Safer Internet Day, an important day in the calendar for highlighting online safety.
Ofcom has been a long-term supporter of Safer Internet Day, a global initiative that looks at how we can achieve a safer and better internet for all, and especially for children and young people. This year it’s more important than ever to show our support, since Ofcom is now working to help everyone live a safer life online.
Led in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, this year’s theme is Inspiring change? Making a difference, Managing Influence and Navigating Change Online. The day focuses on change online, and covers:
- young people’s perspective on new and emerging technology;
- using the internet to make change for the better;
- the changes young people want to see online; and
- the things that can influence and change the way young people think, feel and act online and offline.
Gill Whitehead is Ofcom’s group director for online safety. Underlining our support for Safer Internet Day, she said: “As the UK’s online safety regulator, we’re working to ensure that every day will be a safer internet day for children and young people. Our job is to hold tech firms to account to meet their new legal responsibilities to better protect children online.
"Today we're proud to throw our support behind Safer Internet Day, standing with hundreds of organisations, schools, youth groups, parents and carers to help our children navigate the online world more safely.”
Ofcom’s role in online safety
The Online Safety Act was formally approved in November 2023 and we wasted no time in starting our new role – hitting the ground running by announcing our first proposals for action tech firms can take.
We’re consulting on these proposals, which look at how online services will be tasked with protecting their users from illegal content such as child sexual abuse material, grooming and fraud.
This is the first of four major consultations we’ll be publishing as part of our online safety work. These will help to shape the tools we’ll have to make sure online services follow the rules.
Crucially, our powers focus on forcing tech firms to take action – improving the systems and processes they have in place to protect people using their services. We won’t require online services to remove particular content or accounts.
Children’s safety is a priority
Keeping children safe online is our first priority as the UK’s online safety regulator. It’s a central part of the wider online safety regime, with a range of work already happening to help make the internet a safer space for children.
At Ofcom we work hard to understand how children spend their time online. In the past 12 months we’ve heard from over 12,000 children and over 7,000 parents – they’ve told us about their online use and attitudes and their experiences of harm online.
We also support professionals working with children and young people – by the end of March we will have trained 1,250 teachers, youth workers, children’s mental health professionals and social care providers in supporting media literacy for the children they work with.
And our media literacy work saw us win a UNESCO Global Media Literacy Award in 2023. The award-winning work involved commissioning 13 organisations to run initiatives to improve media literacy knowledge and skills, part of which was aimed at children aged 10 to 14.
We work with global counterparts to help achieve this – for example as part of the Global Online Safety Regulators Network, which brings together regulators from around the world to ensure a consistent approach across our work. We are also part of the International Working Group on Age Verification, which aims to make sure video-sharing platforms (VSPs) have in place robust access controls to protect children from accessing harmful video content on their services.
We’ve also proposed new age-check guidance that would help to protect children from accessing online pornography.
And hearing directly from children and young people about how they feel about being online is crucial to our work. We regularly carry out research looking at different aspects of children’s experiences online, which help to inform our work in online safety.
Our most recent research looks at how easy it is for people, including children, to stumble across harmful content online. Data from the report, carried out by the National Contagion Research Institute reveals that nearly a quarter of web searches served results that include content relating to suicide and self-harm.
This spring, we will be publishing our draft codes of practice for the steps online services could take to protect children online. As we continue to develop our work on this, the views and experiences of children will be crucial to ensuring we set measures that make a meaningful impact and reflect the true way young people live their lives online.