Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, Sandra Overend, has secured an All Party Motion debate in Stormont on Internet Safety on Tuesday 5thFebruary, which is also Safer Internet Day. This follows a meeting on 23rdOctober 2012 with Junior Ministers Bell and McCann to discuss the same issue.
Speaking about the All Party Motion, Mrs Overend said, “I am very pleased to have been able to secure, and now lead this debate in Stormont on an increasingly important issue. Children are becoming more and more technology literate, and now more than ever, have access to a wide range of devices which have internet access. Indeed, 91% of all 5-15 year olds used the internet in 2012. This breaks down by age as: three in four 5-7 year olds (74%), nearly all 8-11 year olds (95%) and all 12-15 year olds (100%) have used the internet.’
“With the internet being readily available on smaller and more personal devices, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, children now have unprecedented personal access to interactive media, and protections should be put in place to ensure their safety when using these devises.”
Sandra, who is also the Ulster Unionist Party Spokesperson for Children and Young People, continued, “During the debate, I will bring forward my concerns that not enough is being done to promote safe use of the internet, including an increased need to educate parents and children on contact with others on the internet; conduct on the internet; and the content they view on the internet. Worryingly, 29% of UK children ages 9-16 said that they had contact online with someone they have not met face to face.’
“Although children are more technologically literate than ever before, they are still vulnerable. 11% of 9-16 year olds have encountered sexual images on the internet in the past 12 months. With this in mind there needs to be a more joined up approach taken to Internet Safety from Government Departments; charities and organisations such as NSPCC, UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP); Education Boards, Schools, parents and children. There also remains a need for the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, and I will ask that it be set up as soon as possible.’
“A lot has been done to date to protect children when they are online, but as technology moves forward at an ever growing rate, protection too must move at the same pace. To allow technological advances get ahead of technological protection will be to expose children to content, actions and opportunities which may cause them harm, and we must not allow that to happen.”
Motion: ‘That this Assembly recognises the dangers for children which can be associated with the internet; commits to building on the work which is already on-going in this area, both at Westminster and Stormont; and calls on the First and deputy First Minister to take the lead on the publication of a cross departmental Internet Safety Strategy to help children enjoy the internet safely.’