Full internet safety petition text

We, the undersigned, call on the Prime Minister to take the action that is needed to make the internet a safer place for children.

Children are being left vulnerable on the internet, exposed to disturbing and unsafe content without proper systems in place to protect them.

Millions use social networks that do not monitor content. Public WiFi zones and web-enabled mobile phones allow internet access without parental guidance. The number of people prosecuted or cautioned in relation to making, or possessing, indecent images of children remains persistently high (in 2007, this was 1,402 individuals).

This state of affairs is unacceptable and must change. We urge Gordon Brown, to take action in six key areas, to make the internet a safer place for children to play and learn.

1. Stop the use of software for private sharing of child abuse images

The UK has acted to stop the distribution of indecent images of children by taking down images hosted on websites in the UK. But further action must be taken to stop these images being passed privately through the use of file sharing software and other means – what is known as ‘peer to peer’ file sharing. The NSPCC is therefore calling on the Westminster government and industry to research and devise an action plan on how to combat the use of ‘peer to peer’ software for the distribution of child sex abuse images. And to consider how to combat the emergence of other types of closed groups or communities which have the same purpose.

2. Ensure social networking sites protect children by proactively reviewing and removing offensive/illegal content

The NSPCC believes social networking sites can, and should, do more to protect children. We are therefore calling on them to regularly review content and make it easy for users to report inappropriate content so it can be swiftly removed. Sites should pro-actively ensure they provide clear sources of help for children to report bullying or abuse. And should proactively encourage younger users to protect themselves by setting privacy settings to private by default.

3. Block children’s mobile phone access to adult content

The NSPCC is calling on WiFi providers in public places to make sure that access to adult sites is restricted unless users have clearly shown that they are adults. Mobile phone companies that manufacture handsets with WiFi capability built in, also need to develop similar safety features that are set to ‘safe’ by default to protect young customers.

4. Pre-install child safety software on all computer and mobile web devices

The Westminster government should begin a review on the take up and use of child safety software on all computers and internet enabled devices (e.g. mobile phones). If the voluntary uptake of such safety software has not improved the Government should consider making it a legal requirement that such software is pre-set and pre-installed.

5. Provide therapeutic services for children who have been abused and had pictures and films of the abuse appear on the internet

The UK and devolved governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales should fund the development of more therapeutic services for children who have been sexually abused and had pictures and films of the abuse appear on the internet. The Government should ensure appropriate resources are developed to address the specific therapeutic needs of these children who have to live with the knowledge that these images will remain in circulation. The children’s workforce should be trained to identify these children and know how and where to refer them in order to ensure they receive appropriate support.

6. Provide specialist training for professionals who deal with online offenders

Professionals (social workers, probation officers etc), who work with online offenders, need to be appropriately trained to manage the risks they pose. They should understand how these offences occur, so as to be able to engage with offenders in a way that will maximise the chances of them not re-offending in the future.