Child online security campaign backed by Twitter and web safety group

An online safety campaign offering guidance to parents and carers on protecting children during the coronavirus lockdown has been backed by Twitter and an internet safety group.

The social media firm has provided advertising grants to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to promote a series of videos on its Twitter account in aid of the Stay Safe at Home, Stay Safe Online campaign being run by End Violence Against Children.

The campaign offers parents tips on how to keep their children safe as they spend more time online during lockdown.

The scheme has been endorsed by the UK Government as well as those in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and several tech giants including Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

Last week, a report from the NSPCC warned that lonely children were twice as likely to be groomed online and that the current lockdown was creating a “perfect storm” of isolation and increased screen time, in which offenders could target young people.

As well as the awareness videos, the new campaign also links to government advice on how to discuss online safety with children and ways to keep them safe.

Security minister James Brokenshire said: “I welcome the work of the tech industry on this vital campaign in collaboration with the UK and global partners.

“We know children may be at greater risk during these unprecedented times. It’s by tech companies working together – and working with others – that we can stop our kids being sexually abused and exploited online.”

IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: “There’s a lot of pressure on parents and carers during this lockdown, but if you do one thing today, please watch this short video, check out the resources, and put measures in place to protect your children online, no matter what age they are.

“We’re concerned about the vulnerabilities of children online during this lockdown period. Our police partners have warned that around 300,000 people in the UK alone currently pose a threat to children online.

“Our analysts who are essential workers during this lockdown are seeing first-hand that there is a slowdown in the removal of child sexual abuse material online across the globe.

“As the UK’s reporting hotline for child sexual abuse imagery, we see the evidence of these cruel crimes committed against children well after the crime itself has taken place. We fear that the real impact of this lockdown will be seen in the many weeks and months, and possibly years, to come when new footage of children being sexually abused emerges online.

“That’s why we’re working closely with Twitter to ensure that we reach every parent in the UK with online safety tips and advice. We all know that this is important at any time, but it’s even more so now.”

Twitter has provided the IWF with grants through its Ads For Good scheme, which allows charities to promote good causes.

Katy Minshall, head of government, public policy and philanthropy at Twitter UK, said: “Helping people find reliable information on Twitter is always our focus – that includes helping parents on the service gain access to useful resources, detailing ways they can protect their children online.

“These video assets are a helpful and engaging way for parents to learn some of the steps they can take to help their children stay safe online. We’re glad to play a part in facilitating this work with the IWF.”

Earlier this year, the five governments involved in the new safety campaign formally launched the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, which detailed actions tech companies should take to protect younger users on their platforms.

The pledges range from stopping existing and new child sex abuse material appearing on platforms to taking steps to stop the live streaming of abuse, and identifying and stopping grooming and predatory behaviour.

The pledges have also been backed by a number of tech giants.