Online safety plan welcome but further action needed

By June Shannon Policy News   |   11th Jul 2018

Further actions must be taken to tackle online advertising and marketing at children.

The Government’s new plan to keep children safe online is an important first step however, further actions must be taken to tackle online advertising and marketing at children, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Action Plan for Online Safety today, (Wednesday, 11 July), Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said, the Government has committed that “today’s plan is only the first step and that further actions must be taken in the years ahead. We would hope that targeted advertising and marketing at children will be a part of a future module of work in this area.”

“We note that the Department of Health will be leading on the implementation of Healthy Ireland insofar as it relates to online safety also. Today’s plan means that if a Department is responsible for regulating an issue offline, it is now responsible for regulating it online. This is of great importance when it comes to junk food advertising online and obesity and we look forward to working with the Department of Health on this,” she added.

This is the first plan of its kind in Ireland and it was drawn up following engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including at the Open Policy Debate held in March, and the recent report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

"We would hope that targeted advertising and marketing at children will be a part of a future module of work in this area,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

The actions contained in the plan cut across six Government Departments – Communications, Climate Action and Environment; Education and Skills; Justice and Equality; Children and Youth Affairs; Health and Business Enterprise and Innovation. The plan is based around five goals; Online Safety for All; Better Supports; Stronger Protections; Influencing Policy and Building Our Understanding.

Key actions in the plan include the establishment of a new National Advisory Council on Online Safety to provide advice to Government on online safety policy issues with stakeholder input and engagement, legislation for new criminal offences with the support of the Oireachtas and a national communications campaign and single identity – Be Safe Online – with key online safety messages targeted at specific groups, including children and young people; parents, guardians and teachers

The plan also proposes the creation of a single online access point on www.gov.ie/besafeonline through which all available Online Safety resources can be accessed.

"Future work on the Action Plan on Internet Safety must address the issue of direct marketing to, and profiling of, children,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

Speaking at the launch the Taoiseach said: “The internet has transformed our lives. It allows us to connect with loved ones in an instant or find information on pretty much anything. However, it’s important to acknowledge that illegal and harmful content can be encountered easily online.
While the State has a role to play in improving online safety it cannot act alone. Individuals, parents, educators, industry and law enforcement all have roles to play in making the internet a safer place. There’s an enormous variation in the types of illegal content and harmful activity online – from serious criminal content to online bullying. The Action Plan being launched today will draw together these various stakeholders to improve online safety for everyone.”

According to Ms Reilly, “The Irish Heart Foundation believes that future work on the Action Plan on Internet Safety must address the issue of direct marketing to, and profiling of, children. This is reflective of the feedback and commentary from many organisations at the Open Policy Debate earlier this year. Regulation of food marketing to children needs strong government leadership and statutory regulation that goes beyond reliance on voluntary food industry action.”

 

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