Tech companies urged to ‘step up’ and protect children

Education Secretary Damian Hinds will urge online companies to “step up” and do more to protect young users from harmful content.

Children must not be treated as adults once they reach 13, the age of digital consent relating to storing data, Mr Hinds will tell the NSPCC conference on Wednesday.

The Education Secretary will argue that tech companies have a moral duty of care to children and should prioritise their protection at the How Safe Are Our Children? conference in central London.

Remarking that children are facing pressure “on a completely different scale from even one generation ago”, he will say: “We need better online protections – including making it more difficult for children to access online harm and improved parental controls – for any service or platform that children are accessing, not just those which are targeted at children.

“I have seen some online companies arguing that children should be treated as adults online once they pass the age of 13.

“To them I say this: children are children – this is as true in the online world as the real one.

“You have a responsibility to your young users and it is time for you to step up to make sure they are protected from online harms and upsetting content until they reach adulthood.”

His speech comes as the Department for Education publishes new guidance for schools about online safety.

This will support the new relationships education curriculum, due to be rolled out to primary and secondary school children from 2020, and subjects including citizenship and computing.

Officials hope it will help provide children with the skills to use the internet safely and awareness of its potential harms.