Businesses ‘should be required to perform child-risk assessments’

Tanya Ward
Tanya Ward

Businesses should be required by law to perform regular “child-risk assessments” to make sure digital technologies are safe for children, the Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) has said.

CRA chief executive Tanya Ward spoke out following the launch of the Government’s new Action Plan for Online Safety for 2018-19.

Ms Ward (pictured) welcomed the action plan’s proposal for “new online criminal offences tackling stalking and revenge porn, as recommended by the Law Reform Commission”.

However, she criticised proposals that private businesses should be expected to develop a “voluntary code of practice”.

Ms Ward said: “It is critically important that the Government requires businesses to implement safety by design, privacy by design and privacy by default for children and young people.

“For example, businesses should be required by law to perform regular child-risk assessments to make sure digital technologies and their productions are safe for children. Going forward the Government could consider imposing this duty.”

She added: “As a country we need to be more ambitious when it comes to making the online world safer for children. Currently a child can access inappropriate and harmful content within three clicks - we know that children can access pornography by accident or deliberately.

“To better protect children, we need Government to put the onus on businesses to adopt effective systems of age-verification. This is the best way to ensure that children are protected from products, services and content which are linked to strict age limits such as pornography.”

Ms Ward also urged the Government to prioritise the development of a Digital Safety Commissioner, as set out in the action plan.

She said: “If we are serious about children’s online safety we have to ensure that this new body is established as a priority.

“Currently no public body has the power to regulate the industry nor instruct a business to take down harmful content about a child. This is a gap that we must close.”