Protecting and empowering children online and holding social media companies to account.

With an entire generation of children now growing up digitally, we work to protect and empower them online and hold social media companies to account.

‘The internet is an extraordinary force for good, but it was not designed with children in mind – yet one-third of internet users are under 18. More needs to be done to create a supportive environment for children and young people so that they can thrive online.’ Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.

  • We’re working with Government and industry providers to promote digital citizenship in schools from age four to 14, equipping children to use the internet and social media in a safe and positive way.
  • We’re asking social media giants to be more transparent and responsible
  • We’re proposing a new Digital Ombudsman role to back children online
  • Over the coming year we’ll be investigating the impact of exposure to social media on the mental wellbeing of children.

Holding social media companies to account

We’re conducting research into the relationship between social media use and children’s mental health, aspiration and wellbeing, and we’ll maintain pressure on social media companies to be more transparent about the ways they collect children’s data, and the complaints they receive.

At the request of teachers we will prepare a pack of teaching aids based on social media companies’ bewildering terms and conditions, to guide children in their understanding and decisions about use of their data online. We will also continue to campaign for the introduction of a children’s digital ombudsman.

Digital citizenship and online resilience

The Children’s Commissioner firmly believes that online resilience should be embedded in children’s education, to enable them to engage creatively, positively and fearlessly with digital life, and to level the playing field of power between children and the companies which form such an important part of children’s social interaction.

While we welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a Life Skills curriculum in all schools, we will continue to campaign to include digital resilience in the new Life Skills curriculum. This will ensure that children learn about digital citizenship and online resilience, from how to recognise when they are being manipulated, to identifying fake news, protecting their information, or knowing how to disengage from social media.

Growing Up Digital in Care

In the course of last year’s work on children’s digital lives, Growing up Digital, the Children’s Commissioner was told of problems around the restricted access of children in care to the internet. Growing up Digital in Care will explore whether the access of children in care and adopted children to digital networks is restricted by their care status or safeguarding concerns of the adults caring for them, and what can be done to broaden access safely and fairly.

We’re also working with partners and care leavers to explore creating a safe digital platform for children in the care system.