The ISPCC this evening welcomed the Dáil debate on the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017, as introduced by Sinn Féin.

The national child protection charity further welcomed indications that there is cross-party consensus to support this issue and urged all members of the Oireachtas to support this important step to enhance online protection for children and young people in Ireland.

The ISPCC has been to the fore of championing the need for a Digital Safety Commissioner since it was first mooted as an important recommendation of the Law Reform Commission’s 2016 report on Harmful Digital Communications.

ISPCC CEO Grainia Long said: “Children’s online safety is the child protection issue of our time. The appointment of a Digital Safety Commissioner is a key part of the action required to keep children safe online. Such an Office will play a major role across education and awareness, monitoring areas of law reform and putting in place appropriate regulations, monitoring and supports to industry. We welcome the introduction of this legislation by Sinn Féin and we urge all members of the Oireachtas to enhance children’s online safety by supporting it as part of a range of actions that need to be taken.

“A number of inter-dependent measures are required in order to help keep children safe online. In addition to a need for the immediate establishment of an independent Office of Digital Safety Commissioner with statutory powers, we need to see enhanced regulation for providers and media platforms, the Age of Digital Consent retained at 13, reform of the criminal law, a package of education measures and increased powers for Gardai to seize mobile phones and devices from suspects. It is essential that these measures are all taken to enhance online protection for children.

“As part of the need for enhanced regulation, the ISPCC views that any entity charged with online safety will need to view this through the lens of child protection and children’s rights. Any new Office will need to be adequately resourced, with appropriate funding and staffing, in order for it to be able to function adequately.

“This is a cross-Governmental issue, for the Departments of Communications, Justice, Children and Education. It is imperative that the organisations involved in law enforcement, the protection of children, education and those providing services to children via the internet, including social media platforms, play a key role in devising a robust strategy to better protect children online.

“The ISPCC is looking forward to participating in the upcoming Open Policy Debate on Online Content in March, to be hosted by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, with the input of other departments, and to playing a role in devising a comprehensive strategy to keep children safe online.”

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