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In The Big Ask, children told me they want affordable, fun and sustaining activities in their local areas and that they wanted to be able to play, go outside, and see their friends. Around half (52%) of children aged 9 to 17 are happy with the choice of things to do in their local area.

Children also spoke about the impact the online world had on their wellbeing and how much time they were spending online. They want to be able to have the same protections in a virtual world and navigate social media in a way that did not make them feel vulnerable for their safety or conscious of their own image.

I don’t feel I was informed of my online safety from a young age and that it was considered a priority. Technology and social media are constantly developing, so why aren’t our laws and protections for children on these platforms updating with it?

Girl, 14,
The Big Ask.

My work so far…

Dame Rachel de Souza speaking in a car park with teachers

Strip Searching

In response to the shocking testimony of Child Q in March 2022, I used my powers to obtain and publish Metropolitan Police data on strip searching of children, which revealed that in far too many cases appropriate adults were not present and rules were not followed.

I was so concerned about the lack of safeguards in place that I expanded my focus to the strip-searching practices of every police force in England and Wales. My findings show deeply concerning safeguarding issues.

I continue to engage with the Metropolitan Police and police forces all over England and Wales to ensure children are safe when they interact with the police. 

Dame Rachel de Souza with young people

Online Safety

I was asked by the Government to explore how the online world can be made safer, both through the Online Safety Bill and before it becomes law. I delivered a set of recommendations to strengthen the Online Safety Bill based on the views put forward by young children in focus groups and workshops. Four of which were accepted by the Government in their rewrite of the Bill in March 2022.

My office has worked with children and young people to publish a guide for parents – “The things I wish my parents had known” – which covered issues including pornography consumption, intimate image sharing and sexualised bullying.

I have also gathered testimony from 2,005 children aged 8-17 and their parents about their experiences of the online world. This survey showed that children are being exposed to various forms of harmful content online and that platforms are failing to take appropriate action.

Dame Rachel de Souza with young people in a conference room


I have grown increasingly concerned about the normalisation of sexual violence in online pornography, and the role that this plays in shaping children’s understanding of sex and relationships.

In January, I published “A lot of it is actually just abuse” which set out findings from a survey of over a thousand 16-21-year-olds and focus groups with teenagers.

The survey established that the average age of first exposure to pornography is now just 13 years old, with substantial proportions of young people surveyed having seen it at a much younger age. Qualitative research carried out with teenagers found that pornography exposure is related to the age at which teenagers are given their own phone.

Dame Rachel de Souza talking to group of school children

Youth Justice

In March 2023, I published an Annex to my independent Family Review which sets out to understand family life from the perspective of the 490 children living in criminal justice settings, placed under custodial sentence or remand, in England and Wales.

Specifically, the report seeks to understand how children in the secure estate are supported to maintain meaningful relationships with their families and wider social networks, through physical, phone and video contact with the outside community.

Victims Bill

I spoke at the Justice Select Committee’s scrutiny session on the Victims’ Bill about the importance of putting children at the heart of the legislation and shaping protections around child victims’ specific needs following domestic, sexual or serious violence. 

I have been vocal about the importance of having a strong Victims’ Bill which fully reflects child victims’ voices and recognise that children’s needs are distinct from adults. I published.

I am pleased that the Bill will include children born as the result of rape within the definition of a victim, as well as children who have witnessed domestic abuse.

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