Sarah Champion MP supports NSPCC recommendations to regulate social media companies.

Today the NSPCC are making recommendations to Government on the steps it should take to better protect children online.

As the internet has come to dominate our lives, the risks to children have increasingly become more apparent. The NSPCC proposals set out the crucial steps Government must take to get on top of the spread of child sexual abuse imagery and grooming online.

The NSPCC is calling for social media companies to be subject to a legal duty of care, so that their apps are safe for children to use. This means Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – all of whom make their service available to children 13 and over – would be forced to abide by the new rules.

From an increasingly early age, children want to access games, websites and social media apps, so that they can play and talk with their friends and share personal photos. New apps are constantly being developed and targeted at children, and it can be challenging for parents to track their child’s activity across multiple devices and applications.

I believe social media companies must be made to introduce more robust checks on the age of their users so that children under the age of 13 are not able to access inappropriate content. A duty of care would also make companies responsible for removing self-harm imagery, and on identifying and removing child abuse imagery and sexually explicit content.

The NSPCC also recommends that companies that offer children access to app stores, like Google and Apple, would need to obey the regulator’s information disclosure powers. I believe this needs to go even further, to prevent children from downloading apps intended for adults.

Reports in the Sunday Times this weekend described the grooming and subsequent rapes of children who gained easy access to adult dating apps for adults, simply by clicking a button to claim they were 18. The Government should extend age verification, which it is introducing for pornographic sites, to adult dating sites without delay.

The NSPCC are calling for an independent regulator, with sufficient resources to identify and tackle potential harms to children. Companies that flaunt the rules should be held to account, with strong financial penalties if necessary. These are sensible proposals which I fully support.

The internet has brought us closer together. It has transformed the way we live, work and communicate. Now is the time to make sure it works for us, and that the multi-billion-pound social media industry is compelled to keep our children safe.

Jim Pomeroy