Thank you very much for writing to me about the work I am doing in my new role as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on the Sexualisation and Commercialisation of Childhood, as well as your own campaign, Child Eyes. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.
As a mother of three children aged between ten and sixteen, I am acutely aware of the risks that our young people face in the online world. The internet and 24/7 connectivity has delivered huge benefits but there is now, in my view, a sense that the pace of technological change has eroded the ability of parents to keep their children safe in the digital environment.
Along with a cross party group of MPs I have been campaigning for a number of changes in the way that families access and use the internet and I will continue to do so in my new job. Specifically, I have two areas of responsibility:
1. To help implement family-friendly filters so that parents find it easier to block access to inappropriate material. Last year the Government launched a consultation into online parental controls and while the Opt-In option – which I and many others supported – was not the preferred choice of those responding to the Consultation, the recommendations made after all the evidence was reviewed, will lead to much stronger filters with a requirement that the age of the person dealing with the household content filter is checked.
2. To work with others to continue the implementation of the recommendations in the Bailey Review”, which the Prime Minister commissioned from Reg Bailey of the Mothers Union’ in 2010 and which covered a wide area of parents concerns around childhood commercialisation and sexualisation. The January 2013 stocktake showed that we have already shown real and positive change in areas like child-friendly advertising, clothing retailing and adult content blocking on public WiFi networks, but there is more to do in the area of magazine display—as I know you will agree – and age rating for music videos. I will be working hard to drive this forward. You can read more about the Bailey Review at: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/Bailey%20Review.pdf.
In addition to this, I think that parents need more information and education to make sure they are aware of the possible risks online and to be equipped with the confidence that they know how to guide and advise their children if problems arise. I will be working with digital industry players, parents, regulators and Ministers over the next few months to see how money and resources could be better spent to deliver this result. Our overall ambition is for Britain to be the most family-friendly place in the world to get online, and by working together we can achieve this.
Member of Parliament for the Devizes Constituency
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence