It is vital that young people are properly equipped for the challenges they will face in keeping safe and healthy as they grow up. At the last General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to ensure that tech companies are obliged to take measures that further protect children and tackle online abuse.
It is important that age-appropriate sex and relationship education is a compulsory part of the curriculum so young people can learn about respectful relationships both on and offline.
I welcome that the Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduced a requirement for relationships education at primary school level, and relationships and sex education at secondary school level after many years of campaigning by colleagues. The Government has stated that it intends that children will be taught how to keep themselves safe online as part of this new subject. I believe that all children should be empowered to make healthy, informed decisions.
Our laws for protecting children must be designed for a 21st century context where technology is constantly advancing. As you may be aware, the Government has pledged to publish a full white paper later this year as a precursor to bringing forward online safety legislation on online harms. The Government has stated that potential areas for legislation include the code of practice, transparency reporting and online advertising.
The Government must bring in a new code of practice for social media companies and to underpin it in statute. I worked hard on this in the last Parliament and successfully amended the Digital Economy Act to require the government to bring in such a statutory code. I also recognise the importance of an independent regulator with the power to oversee the system, investigate breaches and ultimately sanction non-compliant platforms.
I hope the Government carefully considers and responds to the NSPCC’s calls and follows through on its commitment to bring forward online safety legislation and I will continue to pursue this in Parliament and hold the Government to account.