From 24 October 2016, Mumsnet, a website for parents, hosted an online discussion forum on behalf of the Committee inviting users to contribute their views about children’s use of the internet. The forum can be viewed here:
On 8 November 2016 Members of the Committee visited Richard Atkins Primary School in Brixton to observe a special assembly presented by Google. Lord Best, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, the Earl of Caithness and the Bishop of Chelmsford were in attendance. This was part of the ‘Internet Legends Tour’, an initiative which Google had developed in partnership with Parent Zone to promote online safety in schools. The information was targeted at children between 9 and 10, and was centred around four messages encouraging children: not to share personal information or images which might be embarrassing; to protect passwords; to think critically to avoid ‘phishing’ type scams; and, to respect one another online. The assembly was presented by a professional actor and with a well-made set. In a post-assembly meeting, Google told Members of the Committee that the assembly was presented in 40 schools a year. Google was intending to develop resources so that schools could present a modified version of the assembly by themselves. It had already developed lesson plans and presentation slides.
On 29 November 2016 the Committee held an informal meeting with a group of visiting schoolchildren from Trinity School, Redditch, Worcestershire, with the assistance of Parliament’s Education Centre and the Outreach Service. The children were aged between 14 and 16.
Lord Best, the Chairman of the Committee, led the discussion and other Members were invited to ask questions. Lord Best, Baroness Quin, Baroness Kidron and Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury were in attendance. An anonymised note was taken, a brief summary of which is below.
All the children used the internet in some form. One remarked that, while this technology “started so small”, it was now possible to get everything on a phone. This came with a loss of privacy as it was possible to find out so much about a person online. GPS had enabled people to find their phone, but also potentially someone else’s.
When asked about the effect of the internet on friendship, one child said that faceless interaction meant that there could be no filters on what people can or cannot say as they do not have to deal with the consequences.
While some children were aware about apps to track screen time and to send notifications when a limit had been passed, according to the children, the school did not hold discussions about overuse (the school did have e-safety lessons). All the children said that they would welcome alerts about overuse.
The children also agreed that maximum privacy settings on devices should be on by default.
The children said that they were aware that they were being targeted by advertisers.
The children were aware that, if they did not like content of themselves posted on social media, they could report it, but they acknowledged that normally it is for the uploader of the content to take it down. When asked, they all said that they would like the right to have content taken down.
Some children also suggested that prohibition of the internet would not work, but that a flexible approach was needed.
They advocated more education about hacking and privacy, and recommended that this should be for children of all ages.