Chil­dren to be taught to fend off on­line abuse

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Charles Hy­mas HOME AF­FAIRS ED­I­TOR

CHIL­DREN need to be equipped as early as the age of five to fend off po­ten­tial pae­dophiles on­line by be­ing taught how to refuse their con­sent, the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary has said.

Amid grow­ing con­cern at the fail­ure of so­cial me­dia firms to take ac­tion over on­line harms, Damian Hinds said new com­pul­sory re­la­tion­ship lessons, to be in­tro­duced next year, would help pupils to han­dle the risks from the in­ter­net.

But he also urged the tech giants to use their “great ex­per­tise” to screen out dam­ag­ing con­tent and en­sure “the next gen­er­a­tion isn’t ex­posed to things that are go­ing to be harm­ful”.

The Gov­ern­ment is set to legally force so­cial me­dia firms to re­move il­le­gal con­tent and pro­tect young and vul­ner­a­ble users.

An­nounc­ing the crack­down, Mar­got James, the dig­i­tal min­is­ter, will to­day ac­cuse the firms of be­hav­ing as if they are above the law and cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment for bul­ly­ing and abuse.

Speak­ing at a Safer In­ter­net Day con­fer­ence, she is ex­pected to say: “We will in­tro­duce laws that force so­cial me­dia plat­forms to re­move il­le­gal con­tent and to prioritise the pro­tec­tion of users be­yond their com­mer­cial in­ter­ests.”

Vol­un­tary codes of con­duct had failed, she said. A Gov­ern­ment white pa­per on on­line harm is to be pub­lished next month but the con­tent of a planned com­pul­sory code of con­duct for tech­nol­ogy firms has not been re­vealed.

In an in­ter­view with The Daily Tele­graph, Mr Hinds said: “Con­sent has changed with the shar­ing of data, the shar­ing of pic­tures, per­haps with peo­ple who are pre­tend­ing to be some­thing they are not, and in the worst cases some­one who is try­ing to groom a child.

“Or with sex­ting, where once you have re­leased an in­ti­mate pho­to­graph to what you think is one per­son but who then on­ward dis­trib­utes [it]. Try­ing to with­draw con­sent at that point doesn’t work. You have lost con­trol.

“I want chil­dren to be learn­ing about the con­cept of con­sent from a very young age. That doesn’t mean talk­ing about sex­ual con­sent. It has to be what is ap­pro­pri­ate to that age group.”

The guide­lines for sex and re­la­tion­ship lessons, due to be pub­lished shortly, will re­quire pupils by the end of pri­mary school to know the rules and prin­ci­ples for keep­ing safe on­line.

Mr Hinds said a forth­com­ing White Pa­per would spell out “leg­isla­tive op­tions” to reg­u­late so­cial me­dia firms.

“I want them to be turn­ing their great ex­per­tise in what they do to try to screen out these im­ages and make sure that they are not read­ily ac­ces­si­ble,” he said.

He praised The Tele­graph’s “broad and sus­tained” cam­paign for a statu­tory duty of care to force the tech giants to do more to pro­tect chil­dren from on­line harm.

The Na­tional Crime Agency has de­vel­oped its first teach­ing pack­ages for four to seven-year-olds, warn­ing them not to share pic­tures or re­veal per­sonal de­tail.

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