Dr. Tanya Byron's report Safer Children in a Digital World, released Thursday, has concluded that a general lack of confidence and awareness among parents is leaving children vulnerable to risks.

Speaking this morning, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave his backing to the report, saying that everything possible should be done to give parents and teachers the right information.

"If our children were leaving the house, or going to a swimming pool or going to play in the street, we would take all the care possible about their safety -- is there proper policing, is there proper safety?" said Brown. "When a child goes on to the computer and on to the Internet or on to a video game we should be thinking in the same way."

The independent report challenges industry to take greater responsibility in supporting families, with recommendations for improved access to parental control software and better regulation of online advertising. "It's really difficult for parents because we didn't grow up in the computer age," the Prime Minister said.

Byron described her recommendations to the Prime Minister as "pretty tough," adding that the issue of digital safety in the UK should be taken "really seriously."

"The Internet and video games are now very much a part of growing up and offer unprecedented opportunities to learn, develop and have fun," Byron said. "However, with new opportunities come potential risks. My recommendations will help children and young people make the most of what all digital and interactive technologies can offer, while enabling them and their parents to navigate all these new media waters safely and with the knowledge that more is being done by government and the Internet and video game industries to help and support them."

In order to improve children's online safety, Byron makes a number of ground breaking recommendations including:

  • The creation of a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety, established by and reporting to the Prime Minister, and including representation from across government, industry, children's charities and other key stakeholders including children, young people and parent panels.
  • Challenging industry to take greater responsibility in supporting families through: establishing transparent and independently monitored codes of practice on areas such as user generated content; improving access to parental control software and safe search features; and better regulation of online advertising.
  • Kick starting a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign on child Internet safety across Government and industry, and which includes an authoritative 'one stop shop' on child Internet safety.
  • Setting in place sustainable education and children's service initiatives to improve the skills of children and their parents around e-safety.

She also recommends reforming the video game classification system with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film, and lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as British film classification and easier for parents to understand.

Brown believes Britain "can lead the world" in online safety. "Other countries have got the same problems and all of us as parents are worried about our children so let's see if we can make a difference in this," he said.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department of State for Culture, Media and Sport will now work together with other key Departments including the Home Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to take forward Byron's recommendations.

View the report here.

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer