HL Deb 12 July 2004 vol 663 cc126-7WA
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

asked Her Majesty's Government: What action the Teenage Pregnancy Unit is taking to ensure that Internet searches by teenagers guide them to bona fide United Kingdom sites for authoritative and responsible advice on sexual activity and sexual health. [HL3469]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland):

It is not possible to guarantee that young people searching the Internet for information on teenage pregnancy or sexual health will not inadvertently access an inappropriate site, in particular if they are using home-based Pcs.

We do, however, provide clear guidance to schools, in order to minimise the risk of young people accessing inappropriate material from a school-based computer. Recent guidance issued by DfES to schools: Superhighway Safety: Safe use of the Internet raises awareness of both the benefits and risks of the Internet and related technologies, providing an understanding of their appropriate and effective use both in and outside the classroom. Through the National Grid for Learning (NGfL), we provide access to high-quality educational resources within a safe area of the Internet. All sites linked to the NGfL conform to published standards and a code of conduct, one of the principles of which is that sites should "provide no direct access to undesirable materials". A copy of the code of conduct can be accessed from www.ngfl.gov.uk.

While schools are relatively protected areas, where pupils are able to access different technologies under human and technological supervision and monitoring, this level of protection will not necessarily be the case where young people access information from home. Guidance therefore makes clear that schools should aim to bridge the gap between home and school, sharing policies and approaches to Internet safety with parents so that the same messages can be extended into the home environment.

The Government have created a youth portal—www.need2know.co.uk—to provide a first-stop shop to responsible and authoritative sources of information for young people on a wide range of issues that they have identified as being important to them, including sexual health. The website that supports the teenage pregnancy strategy's national awareness campaign (RUThinking.co.uk) purposely does not have the word "sex" in its name, to minimise the risk of young people accessing inappropriate sites.

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