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ISPCC welcomes vital step forward for children's online safety

The ISPCC has welcomed the publication of draft new legislation which will see an Office of Online Safety Commissioner established – an essential measure towards enhancing children’s safety online.

The children’s charity highlighted how the proposed new legislation would positively impact on children and young people across Ireland, who have told the ISPCC’s services that they felt they should be afforded better protection online. 

The ISPCC has championed the need for the creation and resourcing of an independent Office of Online Safety Commissioner since the concept was first mooted in 2016 in the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety.

ISPCC Chief Executive John Church said: “We know from our work with children and young people that they are increasingly living their lives online. While they feel there are many positive things online for people of their age, they have told us how they can also be exposed to adverse online experiences such as cyber-bullying and online harassment. These instances make us acutely aware of the need for online platforms to be regulated. 

“The public has been presented with many stark examples of where self-regulation is failing. It is our experience that these failures can impact very negatively on children. The ISPCC is acutely aware of the long-term and devastating consequences which harmful online content, for example material promoting eating disorders and self-harm, can have on children and young people. Therefore, we very much welcome the publication of this draft legislation which will demand that online platforms provide a space which is safer for children and young people. 

“We particularly welcome Minister Bruton’s commitment to empowering such an office with robust powers to sanction companies who do not comply with codes for online safety.

“Children deserve to be able to enjoy all of the learning, recreational and social benefits of being online – the onus should be on industry and providers to ensure the Internet is a safer space for all. Children have a right to be protected and this protection extends to being online. As harmful material can be shared through any digital means of communication, it is essential that the remit of this office has the breadth necessary to afford children and young people the greatest possible protection. 

“The appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner is a key part of the action required to help keep children safe online and we welcome that the government has recognised this. It is imperative now that, as recommended, this Office be adequately resourced, with appropriate funding and staffing, in order for it to be able to function effectively. We look forward to the progression of this legislation through the various stages and to its implementation, which will mark a significant development for children’s safety.” 
 

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