Safe web space for children

Child and screenNovember 2009

The UK Children Go Online project has had a substantial impact on the design of safeguards to protect children from harmful material on the internet.

With virtually all young people now using the internet, it has become ever more important to find effective ways of protecting them from harmful online content and contact. Professor Sonia Livingstone's research 'UK Children Go Online' has identified significant gaps in understanding between parents and children.

The research shows that there is a series of challenges for parents in managing their children's internet use, such as the greater web expertise of young people, confusion over filtering, and the difficulty of implementing clear rules. Many children have received little guidance on how to use the internet effectively and safely, and 63 per cent of 12-19 year-old home users hide their internet activities from their parents.

Impact

  • Based on Professor Livingstone's work, Childnet International, the leading charity in this area, developed educational material with the support of Microsoft. The first 'Know IT All For Schools' CD-Rom was distributed to all secondary schools in the UK in 2005. The campaign was backed by a volunteer programme in which volunteers from Microsoft and the police presented the material to pupils in over 200 schools.
  • The findings have been used by public bodies in the UK such as education authorities and law enforcement agencies, ranging from Humberside Police Force to headteachers in Kent. For example, Leicester City Council will include the study on a DVD containing anti-bullying guidance to teachers related to cyberbullying.
  • Virtual Global Taskforce, an alliance of police forces from around the world working to prevent online child abuse, also used her work in its public safety materials.
  • The research informed Ofcom's evaluation of mobile operators' compliance with their code of practice.
  • Professor Livingstone also reviewed Vodafone's guide for parents to using its technology
  • The findings have been used by the Home Secretary's Task Force for Child Protection on the Internet to review self-regulation procedures, and were included in its guidelines for the providers of social networking for children in 2008.
  • Professor Livingstone continues to influence government policy through her membership of the executive board of the UK's Council for Child Internet Safety, where she chairs the Expert Research Panel.
  • She is also advising the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency’s internet safety team on the design of software.
  • In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is now beginning work on a children's web safety project and has consulted Professor Livingstone on the topic.

Further information