A House of Lords committee will today launch an inquiry into the impact of the internet on children
The Communications Committee is set to investigate how kids’ use of the web is governed and regulated, and examine the role mums and dads should play.
The Committee’s chairman, Lord Best, said the inquiry would look at the benefits of internet usage as well as the potential dangers:
“The use of the internet by children is now so established, so common, that we need to understand the risks. Are we keeping young people safe in a digital age? How much of an impact is the internet having on the development of children?”
He said the Committee did not want to dismiss the internet as ‘overwhelmingly detrimental’, but to closely examine the opportunities it brings, from learning to social interaction.
The amount of time spent online by children aged 8-15 has doubled since 2005, according to an Ofcom report published last year.
The proportion of kids who have access to the internet at home has risen dramatically, and now almost all teenagers can go online at home through either a fixed broadband connection or a mobile network.
The ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes’ report also found that a move to smaller screens makes it harder for parents to supervise their kids’ activities.
As devices and trends change, many parents find it difficult to keep up, presenting challenges for keeping children safe.
The NSPCC has published a guide for mums and dads on some of the most popular online services used by young people, including picture sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
According to the Snapchat terms of service, no one under 13 is allowed to create an account, but parents cited by the NSPCC said children under that age could do so easily.
The charity advises parents to speak openly with their kids about the internet, involving them in conversations about what is appropriate, and to set boundaries.
The House of Lords inquiry gets underway today, and will hear from experts including Childnet International’s William Gardener and John Carr from the Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety.