NSPCC wants Wales at front of online safety
Wales can do more to keep children safe online and the next National Assembly must seize an opportunity to lead the way on tackling abuse.
That's the call from NSPCC Cymru/Wales, which has today set out innovative proposals to put the country at the forefront of online safety.
Discussion with social media providers and boosted compulsory education for children are included in a set of recommendations, published by the charity today.
- A comprehensive Online Safety Action Plan
- The creation of an entirely independent Digital Advisory Group, contributing to the plan and liaising with ministers
- Collaboration with social media providers - opening a dialogue around improvements to the safety of Welsh children online
- Online safety lessons for children - incorporating resilience as a key element of personal and social education (PSE)
- Ensuring online safety becomes a key part of the National Safeguarding Board for Wales
- Ensuring adequate guidance for public service professionals on sexting and the law
If taken forward by the next Welsh government, these proposals would see ministers in Wales taking a UK lead in the fight against cyberbullying, sexting and online grooming.
The Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act takes a ground-breaking approach, fundamentally changing the way care and support is delivered to children and young people across Wales. Prioritising online safety would be similarly innovative - ensuring a comprehensive approach to fighting for safer childhoods and making sure we are battling abuse and neglect on all fronts.
A detailed action plan is already in place in Scotland - and in Northern Ireland, a strategic approach in collaboration with the national safeguarding board is underway. NSPCC Cymru is calling for similar advances in Wales, guided by input from an independent, expert digital advisory group.
A direct dialogue should also be opened with social media providers, highlighting issues for Welsh children and collaborating on solutions. A recent review of the national curriculum should also be used as an opportunity to ensure online safety is prioritised and made a key component of compulsory age-appropriate personal and social education.
Some progress is already taking place in Wales. An innovative e-safety zone on the Welsh government's Hwb website, offering links, advice and support for children and young people, parents and carers and teachers has been welcomed by the NSPCC. We have also welcomed the roll-out of improved e-safety self-assessment and training for schools.
While the internet remains an invaluable resource in child development, it is also one of the newest - and fastest growing - threats to keeping children safe.
One in three internet users is a child. That's according to recent research by the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
According to Ofcom, one in five 8 to 11 year olds and seven in ten 12 to 15 year olds now has a social media profile. NSPCC research has found that 92 per cent of children and young people had accessed social networking sites before the age of 13.
Across the UK, online issues accounted for 10,445 counselling sessions at ChildLine last year.
In Wales, 1,544 sessions - at both the Cardiff and Prestatyn bases - focused on online abuse, according to new stats collated by ChildLine to coincide with the publication of today's proposals.
Of these sessions 1,047 were focused primarily on social media issues and online bullying.
Head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Des Mannion, said: "There's no doubt that Wales can do more to protect children online.
"Following the upcoming election ministers and AMs will have a clear opportunity to improve their approach, innovate and lead the way in fighting this form of abuse.
"We want Wales to have a presence on UK-wide forums and strengthened relationships with social media providers that lead to potential solutions.
"We want better education for children in dealing with the often severe pitfalls of the internet and the creation of a digital advisory group to assist and support the decision makers.
"The Social Services and Wellbeing Act brought a welcome focus on tackling abuse and neglect which we hope will deliver real progress - but there's more to do.
"Our country won't have a comprehensive approach until it prioritises the internet and puts a clear and cross-cutting plan in place to make sure our children are safe and free from harm in the digital world.
"On average, one in three internet users in Wales is a child and online abuse is an ever-evolving problem. We can fight it - and I hope every Assembly candidate backs our manifesto to fight for safer childhoods."