MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 05-Jan-17 12:00:08

Guest post: "We need to do more to equip our children for life online"

In Thursday's Growing Up Digital report, Anne Longfield calls for a digital citizenship curriculum to ensure young people have the resilience, skills and power to navigate the opportunities - and pitfalls - of the internet

Anne Longfield

Children's Commissioner for England

Posted on: Thu 05-Jan-17 12:00:08


Lead photo

"We must ensure we are better preparing young people to negotiate the opportunities – and pitfalls – of the internet."

In the Growing Up Digital report published today, a 12-year-old girl moves seamlessly from talking about free beauty products to discussing ‘dick pics’. I was shocked when I first read this - I hadn’t realised that ‘dick pic’ had become normalised language for 12-year-olds.

All of us with children have had a lot of growing up to do with the internet. But we haven’t had to do it as fast or as intensively as our children have. With even three- to four-year-olds now spending over eight hours a week online, and 12- to 15-year-olds more than 20 hours a week, we must ensure we are better preparing young people to navigate the opportunities – and pitfalls – of the internet.

We have to move beyond lessons about safety to a much broader emphasis on agency and resilience online. We need a digital citizenship curriculum for 4- to 14-year-olds, led as far as possible by older children. Children, particularly teenagers, do not listen to adults about the internet – we panic, we look confused, we take away their phones – but they do want advice from older peers.

Children, particularly teenagers, do not listen to adults about the internet – we panic, we look confused, we take away their phones – but they do want advice from older peers.

This curriculum would teach children about their rights and responsibilities online. They would learn how to critique the content they view: for instance, how to assess representations of body image and how other people portray their lives online, how to spot fake news, and how to disengage and control their internet use. They would learn about bullying and respect, about how they present themselves and what they might unwittingly be revealing.

Social media companies have a responsibility to help children, too. We showed a group of teenagers what they had really signed up to with their social media accounts, and they were shocked at the loss of control over their personal data to which they had unwittingly agreed. The standard terms and conditions for social media sites used by children are not just incomprehensible, but unnecessarily long, and are therefore largely ignored by kids. “They write it like this so you can’t understand it”, as one 13-year-old commented ruefully after being shown what the Ts and Cs really meant. The law firm Schillings has drawn up a simplified, two-page version which is understandable to teenagers, found in my report.

We also learned that teenagers face big problems in getting content removed, whether posted by themselves or by somebody else about them. That is why I am calling for the creation of a children’s digital ombudsman to mediate between social media companies and children, to help them enforce their rights.

It’s all about restoring the balance of power between these global companies and our children: giving children information, knowledge and critical skills, backed up by their own digital champion. I am confident Mumsnet parents will agree. We surveyed 900 of you and found the overwhelming majority worried about time spent online, over-sharing personal information and sleep deprivation, as well as the familiar worries about inappropriate material and stranger contact.

I hope you will find time to read my report and join me in fighting for a fairer online deal for our kids.

By Anne Longfield

Twitter: @ChildrensComm

lovelearning Thu 05-Jan-17 13:24:18

We need to do more to equip everyone for life online

lovelearning Thu 05-Jan-17 14:54:56

Hello Anne

I am unable to read your report

The file appears to be corrupted

lovelearning Thu 05-Jan-17 16:17:00

The file appears to be corrupted

Must we install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC in order to read the report?

HeadDreamer Thu 05-Jan-17 17:57:39

I have problems with the wording you use in this post. Like many articles talking about children, their parents and the internet, it uses very condescending language about the parents. Like we are idiots.

I have never heard about dick pics. But it doesn't mean I am confused or I panic. It's the same as I heard shopkins first from my 5 year old. Would you use the same language when talking about parents and the toy shop?

On the issue of social media and the t&c we agree on. How many adults actually read the t&c in any software they installed? Or any sites we signed up to? Or how about the ones send by our banks?

Our children needs more education on online safety. But that's no different from many other aspect of life they need to learn. Be it budgeting, health and exercise, etc.

TudorHouse Thu 05-Jan-17 21:15:17

I agree with headdreamer. Many many parents are quite digital savvy these days. Many odor us already discuss the things you mention, moving from print media to online. In fact , if anything I would assume that kids these days are MORE aware if how things can be twisted, go vupiral, be photoshopped -^and able to do that themselves!^ - than many adults are.

blackcherries Thu 05-Jan-17 22:19:18

Only a small mention of media literacy ("spotting fake news") but it needs to go way beyond that. I think it goes hand-in-hand with all the other risks of social media (and the world in general!) - the ability to always critically evaluate statements, ask for sources, assess information to make up your own mind, is absolutely essential in navigating life online.


BardyMum Fri 06-Jan-17 08:11:49

I just read the report and found it useful. There should be a lot more responsibility from service providers to children and I agree with an independent ombudsman role which the companies fund.

My understanding was EU GDPR implementation would be unaffected by Brexit and that we'd need a new UK Data Protection Act in 2018, perhaps bringing legislators opportunities to act in this area.. but this report thinks this is unclear post Brexit.

Anyone know more about that?

I'd have no idea how to spot 'fake news' btw..

Oblomov16 Fri 06-Jan-17 10:07:43

I agree. I may not know everything my 12 year old ds gets up to, but I'm not stupid and I do know what a dick-pic is, so please don't be so condescending.

lovelearning Fri 06-Jan-17 10:24:25

unclear post Brexit


Different legislation is needed anyway

The scope of the GDPR is too limited

Where services are offered directly to a child, you must ensure that your privacy notice is written in a clear, plain way that a child will understand.

Lawmakers need to protect everyone who uses social media

All social media platforms should be subject to legislation that dictates

You must ensure that your privacy notice is written in a clear, plain way that a child would understand

HWootton Fri 06-Jan-17 21:20:04

I've read the analysis of the Mumsnet survey in Annex 1 of the report. Please can you post a link to the actual survey results? Thank you.

ExplodedCloud Sat 07-Jan-17 01:07:55

Lawmakers need to protect everyone who uses social media
There. That's the problem. There is no single law for the internet. Education is all we have. And yet resources are focused on frontal adverbials.

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