78% of teenagers check their phones at least once per hour. So, it’s only natural for every parent to wonder about the type of content kids are consuming. Also, alarming stats show that teens who spend over 5 hours on their phones are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
There hasn’t been any regulation on what users can post on social media for a long time.
The result – dangerous cartoons and hashtags that bait kids to content on:
- Pornography and revenge porn
- Terrorism and other ideologies
- Hate speech
- Racist abuse
- Eating disorders
- Drug abuse
- Child abuse
- Investment scams
You may remember the shocking death of 14-year-old Molly Russell. She ended her life after reading self-harming content on Instagram. After her death, her parents found lots of graphic content that she had accessed from the social media site.
Molly’s death prompted the UK to move fast to protect its citizens, especially the youngsters. After years of waiting (of which both Lords and MPs had expressed their frustrations over), the government has finally published an Online Safety Bill.
The United Kingdom’s communications regulator, Ofcom, will be the watchdog.
The 145-page legislation will usher in a new era of accountability in the online world. It also aims to bring fairness and safety to people accessing content online. It will be enforceable on social media platforms, websites, and forums.
Aside from content that may be harmful to children, online publishers will be in hot soup for discriminating against political viewpoints. The businesses will also require to publish the steps they’ve taken to mitigate any adverse effects their content may cause.
Any business that breaks the law risks censorship or blockage from internet users. In addition, they will have to pay fines amounting to 10% of their turnover or £18 million.
For now, it’s not clear when the proposal will become law.
However, it has high chances of parliamentarians endorsing it, considering that the majority are in the ruling party.
DCMS says that if tech companies fail to act, the government will charge senior managers with deferred power.
The move has sparked a debate amongst critics.
Some have expressed their concerns, claiming that the government needs to do more. They’re urging it to sanction CEOs of such companies with criminal charges.
Others claim that the bill might lead to censorship of free speech. They also express their concerns over tech companies, fearing to innovate in fear of litigation.
Ofcom notes that AI moderation technologies might over remove content it deems unfit. The body, however, urges concerned parties to bring up complaints on the issue for a deeper assessment.
Hopefully, other governments will follow suit to protect their online users. In the meantime, all we can do is wait. If you want to take the initiative to protect your child from harmful, hateful, inappropriate content, you can use parental control software.
The platforms will take screenshots and block sites that you don’t want your kid to visit. Most will send you analytical reports on things like screen time, and types of conversations.