Most children no longer see a distinction between online and offline life. For most, it is just life. This digital world brings with it many opportunities to learn and connect. It also brings different challenges. We know that children are using the internet and social media more and more, but we need to make sure that they have the power, the information and the resilience they need to thrive. That means social media companies being more responsible and transparent, parents involving themselves in what their children are doing online and the Government looking at what more can be done in schools to teach children the skills they need in the digital world.
Our ongoing work into the impact the internet has on children in England began with our report ‘Growing Up Digital’, published in January 2017. The report warned that many children were being to left to fend for themselves online and made a number of recommendations on how better equip children for the internet and social media. Read the full report.
‘Growing Up Digital’ highlighted a number of areas where children need more information so they can make healthy choices. For example, it is clear that many children were signing up to a range of social media apps without really understanding what they were signing up to. They didn’t understand the complex terms and conditions of platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Working with the leading privacy lawyers Schillings and TES, the Children’s Commissioner has produced a teaching resource that simplifies these T&Cs to give children – and their parents – a clearer understanding of some of the rights they are giving away when they sign up to social media apps.
Many parents are worried about the amount of time their children spend online and how they spend that time. Recently, the Children’s Commissioner put together a Digital 5 A Day guide which offers children a healthier online diet. The guide is based on guidelines issued by the NHS around better mental health, and has been well-received by parents, teachers and children. You can find out more about the Digital 5 A Day here.
The Children’s Commissioner puts the views of children at the heart of all of our work, and we wanted find out how young children interact with the internet and social media. We commissioned a series of focus groups to hear the experiences of children aged between 8 and 12 as they navigate their way around the digital world. Our subsequent report, “Life in Likes” revealed a ‘cliff edge’ moment as children approach secondary school, where digital platforms change from a resource for fun and creative activity to a key part of their social lives. That change brings with it some areas for concern around the use of social media and its impact on the identities and behaviour of Year 7 children in particular. You can read more in the report here.
We have a special responsibility to make sure that children in care are receiving the same opportunities to make the most of the digital world as any other child. We are exploring how their access can be broadened and are working with partners and care leavers to look at creating a safe digital platform for children in the care system.