Last Updated on 9th May 2024

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8th May 2024

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You might have encountered discussions in today’s news regarding online safety following the release of a report by Ofcom. This report outlines new measures aimed at technology companies, designed to prevent children and young people from accessing harmful content on social media. However, the group Bereaved Parents for Online Safety have responded by saying that these measures, which would not be enacted until 2025, don’t go far or fast enough to ensure the wellbeing of children and young people online.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the Ofcom report and offer actionable advice for safeguarding children online, starting today. There is power in education. Be prepared to have open and honest conversations and establish with the child or young person in your care who their trusted adults are.

Ofcom is the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. It regulates the TV and radio sectors, fixed line telecoms, mobiles, postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.

What is in Ofcom’s report?

Ofcom has suggested 40 measures for tech giants to implement to increase safety. These include:

  • effective age verification
  • safer algorithms
  • content moderation
  • governance and accountability
  • age-appropriate support and choices for children

The new proposal aims to stop children and young people from viewing distressing content online, such as materials relating to suicide planning, self-harm, eating disorders, and dangerous stunts or challenges.

Ofcom has stated that this means:

  • children will not normally be able to access pornography
  • children will be protected from seeing and being recommended harmful content
  • consent will be required for children to be added to group chats
  • reporting harmful behaviours online will be easier

How are tech companies responding?

At the time of writing, two technology giants to release statements are Meta and Snapchat, who have signposted their parental controls and extra protections for under 18s.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has said that these new guidelines put the ‘meat on the bones’ of online safety, as she encourages technology companies to act now, ahead of any laws being brought into place.

What can you do?

While the headlines can be worrying, there are actions that parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals can take today. We’ve listed some of our top tips and further resources below:

Avoid panic. While it may be upsetting or concerning for you too, it is crucial to remain calm when having these talks. Our guide to discussing online life and list of conversation starters will be useful to prepare you for these conversations.
Planting the seeds of safety from a young age is essential. Use our story book ‘The Friend Ship’ to jump-start safety talks. If you have access to the Safer Schools App, ‘The Friend Ship’ is freely available now.
Be a role model by leading the conversation with kindness and respect. While the children and young people in your care may not have seen anything distressing online, asking open questions around what they see and interact with can remind and reassure them that you are there to support them if they have.
To avoid a situation where the child or young person in your care loses control of what they share online, have a discussion about what is appropriate to share and how to limit who can access their information. For top tips on identifying and avoiding risks, take a look at our Social Media 101 shareable.
Trending online challenges place pressure on children and young people to engage with thrill-seeking and dangerous behaviours, both online and in the playground. Some of these challenges come with serious risks to health and wellbeing. Check out our resource and video on What You Need to Know about Harmful TikTok Challenges for more information.
Together, explore our Online Safety Centre for practical guides on parental controls, privacy, and safety settings. Find step-by-step instructions on blocking, muting and reporting across popular online platforms, whenever you need them.
Ensure that children and young people in your care know who they can talk to if they come across something that upsets or distresses them online. Watch our Who Are Your Trusted Adults video (also available for as primary and Makaton editions) together to spark conversation.

Further Resources

What you need to know about the Online Safety Act

Social Media 101

Discussing online life with your child

Who are your Trusted Adults?

Who are your Trusted Adults? (Primary Edition)

Who are your Trusted Adults? (Makaton Edition)

Having supportive conversations with your child

Conversation Starters

All About TikTok

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