Skip to content

As Children’s Commissioner, I have spoken to thousands of children about the impact of the online world on their lives and wellbeing, and how much time they spend online.

It was clear in The Big Ambition that children do not see a difference between their online world and offline world. Children want to engage with all the opportunities that the online world offers them, with the change to socialise, learn and play in online spaces.

But alongside the many positives of being online come some really hard challenges to wrestle with – and it is not the case that all children enjoy time spent online.

In The Big Ambition, children told the office that they have sometimes had bad experiences online, whether that’s through cyber bullying or seeing content that they do not want to see.

Children consistently made reference to wanting better protection in the online world, to be safer when they used it. This is a generation that has grown up in the digital age, for whom being online is just part of everyday life and who don’t know a world without these connections. Therefore they rightly expect to be kept safe online, just as they expect to be kept safe in their real-life communities.

Responses to The Big Ambition included:

“Restrict social media usage and make it safer to use. More and more younger children have easy access and this ruins their childhood and future.” – Girl, 16.

“Don’t let people under a certain age play on computers or other technology because it can be addictive stopping people from doing other activities which they might enjoy.” – Boy, 12.

“Online safety is non-existent and parents are so ill-informed and don’t put restrictions in place (across the class spectrum) so I have friends who have seen porn, fighting and other inappropriate content and they are only 10/11 years old or younger. It feels like there is nothing in place to help.” – Girl, 12

Online platforms and tech companies need to do much more to ensure they are keeping young users safe online from the point of design, with child safety features built into apps and platforms – it cannot be an optional extra. Protections in the Online Safety Act, which my office and I worked hard to make as strong as possible, must be implemented swiftly and robustly, with effective age assurances preventing children from accessing platforms underage and seeing inappropriate content.

That’s why I have set out five overarching outcomes I want for every child in The Big Ambition, namely that they are safe, healthy, happy, learning and engaging in their community. To achieve this within the online world will mean achieving the following ambitions:

You can read all my recommendations for how we can achieve each of these ambitions in The Big Ambition report.

Related News Articles