UK makes online safety lessons for kids compulsory

Tue Dec 8, 2009 1:40pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to make online safety lessons for children over 5 compulsory under a new scheme which aims to echo road safety campaigns of the past.

The lessons are part of a "Click Clever Click Safe" strategy which will produce guidelines for government, industry and charities on how to protect children using the web.

"The internet provides our children with a world of entertainment, opportunity and knowledge -- a world literally at their fingertips," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"But we must ensure that the virtual world is as safe for them as this one. We hope that "zip it, block it, flag it' will become as familiar to this generation as "stop, look, listen' did to the last."

The government says that 99 percent of British children aged 8 to 17 now have access to the internet.

However research has shown that 18 percent of young people had come across "harmful or inappropriate" content online, and 33 percent of children said their parents were unaware of their web activities.

The new plans, drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) which is made up of over 140 organizations, including Google, Microsoft, and Bebo, would make online safety lessons compulsory for those over 5 from September 2011.

Brown said the aim was to make advice as well-known as the "green cross code" which was designed in the 1970s to give children information about road safety

Professor Tanya Bryon, whose report last year formed the basis for the plans, said failing to tell children about online risks made them more vulnerable.

"This is the first time in the world any country has a national strategy for child internet safety," she told Sky News.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>A child in first grade uses a new laptop as part of the Canaima project at a Bolivarian school in Caracas September 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jorge Silva</p>