Childnet respond to the Online Harms White Paper

Posted on 09 July 2019

Earlier this year the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office published the Online Harms White Paper, outlining government proposals to make the internet a safer place.

Through the Childnet response to this paper we utilized our expertise in this sector and used this as an opportunity to amplify the experiences of children and young people to respond in the best way possible. We consulted our Digital Leaders, receiving over 70 responses from young people, who are peer mentors on online safety issues in their local school communities..

The Childnet Response

Overall Childnet support the aims of the online harms white paper.

At Childnet we see the need for and want a safer online environment for children and young people. We want industry to meet its own commitments and enforce its own rules, and champion transparency and accountability to help ensure this is taking place. We hope that if these aims are met this will lead to user trust and confidence in the tools and services available to them.

We see the measures set out in the Online Harms White Paper as a significant step. The introduction of the duty of care seems to be a sensible and proportionate approach in this area, and we are supportive of the intention behind it, and will work to support its practical application.

However, we also see this step needs to be matched by an equally significant step, to ensure users have the knowledge and skills to use these services safely, to be clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable on these services, to know what to do to report and seek support, and have clear understanding and expectations of these processes. We want to make sure that education is not an afterthought in this area, or in the area of online safety as a whole.

Read Childnet’s full response here

Young people’s thoughts on these issues

We asked 78 of our Childnet Digital Leaders questions which were relevant to the proposed online harms white paper. These ranged from questions about the issues facing young people online to what they thought industry could do more of.

Here are some of the things they said:

 “I think the biggest issue on the internet at the moment is people are over-sharing and therefore giving others too much information which they can abuse. We are always told the same things: 'never share your password online' 'never talk to someone you don't know' and 'keep your privacy settings high', which are all incredibly important, however we are never taught any of the new problems.”

“I believe that social media is a big issue as it leaves a large window for cyber bullying, peer pressure, online predators and addiction. Young people face issues through social media and are constantly challenged to have the best things, the most followers etc and it can greatly upset a minor.”

“(I want to know) What the outcomes of telling teachers or trusted adults about your problems are.”


“Something that should be covered in school more often is teaching about what to do when you are being cyber bullied and how to deal with it.”

Read the full response from the Childnet Digital Leaders

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