The ground-breaking and “essential” piece of legislation was recently passed following years of campaigning by parents, survivors, MPs and charities and is set to transform the online world for children, protecting them from preventable harm and abuse.
After the Bill was passed, national children’s charity NSPCC said it marked “a new era for children’s safety at a time when online child abuse is at a record high, and harmful content on social media is extremely prevalent.”
Online Safety Bill finally becomes Online Safety Act 2023
The Online Safety Act 2023 means tech firms such as social media companies, gaming apps and messaging services finally have a legal duty to make their platforms safe for children by design and protect them from sexual abuse and harmful material.
Originally published in May 2021, the Online Safety Bill has had a long journey through parliament, undergoing much scrutiny and numerous amendments along the way.
The NSPCC has followed the progress of the bill and intervened to strengthen it and ensure that the Online Safety Act 2023 delivers regulation that will comprehensively protect children and young people in the online world.
The Chief Executive of the NSPCC, Sir Peter Wanless, said the charity was “absolutely delighted” to see the legislation passed through Parliament.
“It is a momentous day for children and will finally result in the ground-breaking protections they should expect online.
“At the NSPCC we hear from children about the completely unacceptable levels of abuse and harm they face online every day. That’s why we have campaigned strongly for change alongside brave survivors, families, young people and parliamentarians to ensure the legislation results in a much safer online world for children.
“Children can benefit greatly from life online. Tech companies can now seize the opportunity to embrace safety by design. The NSPCC is ready to help them listen to and understand the online experiences of their young users to help ensure every child feels safe and empowered online.”
Online Safety Bill is ‘essential’ regulation
It comes soon after the NSPCC released data showing that, during the 5 years the Online Safety Bill has been debated in parliament, there has been an 82% rise in online grooming crimes and a 66% rise in child abuse image crimes.
The Bill has been shaped by people who have experienced child abuse online as well as bereaved parents and young people.
The Bereaved Parents for Online Safety group was formed to campaign for the Bill and ensure elements in it were strengthened to deliver real-world change for children. Members of the group, such as Ian Russell and Ruth Moss, lost their children following exposure to harmful content online.
Ruth Moss explained why the Bill is so vital:
“For at least two years, we struggled to keep my daughter Sophie safe online. In spite of removing devices, restricting internet use, implementing parental controls and having conversations about internet safety, these were not enough to prevent her from being exposed to websites that promoted self-harm, suicide and contained dark, graphic, harmful material. Complaining to internal and social media companies was either impossible or futile.
“The impact of Sophie viewing this harmful material was a deterioration in her existing mental health struggles, with devastating consequences. Sophie was 13 years old when she died by suicide. We will never truly recover from her death and it is rightly every parents’ worst nightmare.
“This Online Safety Bill may not solve all the issues that children have online. But it is essential to start regulating online platforms. They have a duty of care to keep their users safe to the best of their ability.”
The NSPCC, whose Young People’s Board for Change was also heavily involved in campaigning for the Bill, with members meeting ministers and MPs on several occasions, said its passing was “an important moment” but that their “commitment to protect children online” does not end with the passing of the legislation.
The charity has pledged “to continue to advocate to make sure it results in truly safe online spaces for children.”
Safeguarding children and young people
First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.
A trainer from FRT says:
“We are so pleased that this essential piece of legislation has finally been passed and that the Online Safety Act 2023 will hopefully lead to children being better protected from avoidable harm online in the future.
“Safeguarding children now means protecting them off and online. It’s so important that we are mindful of the myriad significant harms they could be exposed to online and that there are mechanisms in place to protect them, and to offer them help and support when they need it most.
“It’s vital that anyone who works with children and young people is aware of their responsibility for safeguarding children and that they can recognise the signs that indicate a child may be experiencing abuse, and know the correct action to take in response.”
For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.