HL Deb 18 March 2003 vol 646 cc15-6WA
The Earl of Northesk

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Notwithstanding the proposals in the Sexual Offences Bill, what measures they have in place, or are contemplating in partnership with the information technology sector, to ensure the safety of children using the Internet, with particular reference to the work of the Internet Watch Foundation; whether any such measures are operating effectively; and to what extent and in what ways the Government are contributing to any such initiatives. [HL1983]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The Government continue actively to encourage the Internet industry to support the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which represents an effective way for the industry to deal with illegal on-line content. Through the European Commission's e-safe programme, the Government are supporting development of an international network of hotlines for reporting illegal content, of which the IWF is part.

The Government also work closely with the police, child protection agencies, the Internet industry and others, including the IWF, through the Task Force for Child Protection on the Internet, which is chaired by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Mr Hilary Benn).

The then Home Secretary set up the task force in March 2001 to bring together law enforcement, children's charities, the Internet industry and government to work in partnership to tackle child protection on the Internet.

To date the task force has been responsible for a number of successful initiatives, including:

  • a public awareness campaign to alert parents/carers and children to the potential dangers that WA 16 young people may face online and help them surf in safety. This campaign has now been run on two occasions and is aimed at providing information for parents in supervising their children online and for children in highlighting the risks of giving out their personal details online. Analysis of the first campaign has shown that, in targeting parents and young people themselves it significantly improved awareness of key safety messages amongst target groups;
  • developing training for police officers;
  • developing a unique set of models of good practice for service providers relating to chat, instant messaging and web services;
  • the task force is also taking forward, with the Internet Crime Forum, the development of a shared system for reporting and handling child protection issues and law enforcement requests.

The task force will continue to work on assessing the new challenges posed by technological developments, such as 3G mobile phones; and developing basic training materials for child protection staff on children's Internet use.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has established the School Internet Safety Strategy Board to advise the DfES on all Internet safety issues, including the use of latest technology. The board comprises representatives from industry, including the IWF, children's charities, parent groups and other government departments.

The Department for Education and Skills and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) have produced a detailed information pack for teachers and parents about pupils' safe use of the Internet, and Becta has also begun a process to accredit ICT service suppliers to education.