Family Online Safety Institute Welcomes the Recommendations of the Byron Review

March 27, 2008

Brighton - The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) welcomes the recommendations relating to protecting children online that have been presented as part of the Byron Review.

FOSI, an international charity that is helping to create and drive the discussion around online safety, believes in a multi-faceted approach to protecting children online, including government oversight, self-regulation, technology and education, which is mirrored in the recommendations.

The Review, which will inform the Prime Minister's national strategy for child Internet safety, recognises the huge opportunities the internet presents to children and young people, but also highlights the dangers, including the fact that parents often lack knowledge of the digital world, that are leaving children vulnerable online.

FOSI supports the creation of a UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which will report directly to the Prime Minister and extend the work started by the Home Secretary's Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet, by bringing together representatives from government, industry, children's charities and other key stakeholders including children, young people and parents.

We also back the creation of transparent and independently monitored codes of practice for ISPs and in areas such as user generated content, as well as improved access to parental control software and safe search features.

As an organization, FOSI has been working to shape online safety technology for the last decade, using the technology developed by the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and through its membership of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). As chair of the W3C's Protocol for Web Description Resources Working Group (POWDER), we have been instrumental in the development of the new technology, which is designed to make it easier to identify websites that meet specific criteria, such as those that have high quality educational content and are child safe.

We also endorse the Review's proposal for a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign on child internet safety across government and industry, which will include a 'one stop shop' on child internet safety. This campaign should talk to specific audiences, including parents, teachers and children, across a wide range of ages, socio-economic groups and abilities, and should relate to how we teach our children how to manage 'real world' risks, for example crossing roads, in stages and with rules, supervision and monitoring that changes as they learn and develop their independence.

Stephen Balkam, CEO at the Family Online Safety Institute, said: "This is the most comprehensive review of the internet and children to date, and highlights the fact there is no silver bullet solution.

"A useful analogy that Dr. Byron drew was with the public swimming pool: here there are safety signs and information, including the depth of the water, safety devices and lifeguards, but people - particularly children - will sometimes take risks and jump into water too deep for them - therefore we also teach them how to swim. We have to take a similar multi-pronged approach in the way we teach children about the internet, combining regulation and self-regulation with technology and education.

"The challenge we face is to ensure we find the right balance between fear of harm and the benefits of tapping into everything the Internet has to offer."