Children’s E-Commissioner to take on social media powers

A bill to appoint a children’s E-Safety Commissioner is before Federal Parliament today.

In a move to crack down on online bullying of children, a commissioner would have powers to order individuals and large social media services to remove offensive material posted online.

While research indicates about one in five older children in Australia have been bullied online, children are using social media at increasingly younger ages, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (2013). Even very young children can be exposed to disturbing online experiences through peers or older siblings.

If passed, the new legislation would allow the Federal Government to set up a Children’s E-Safety Commissioner office under the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Bill 2014.

Under the proposed bill fines of $17,000 per day could be levied on technology companies where they do not remove material targeting an Australian child. Individuals may face legal action under existing criminal laws.

Parliamentary secretary to the Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, said the Children’s E-Safety Commissioner would be able to issue a notice ‘requiring a large social media service to take down … cyber bullying material targeted at an Australian child’.

The commissioner would be able to act on complaints received from parents and report individuals to the police for further action. More information is available at www.abc.net.au and www.communications.gov.au.

Tips on staying cybersmart can be found in Early Childhood Australia’s Digital Business Kit.

Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Clare has been part of ECA's Learning Hub Team, managed ECA's Start Early. Respectful relationships for life project and ECA digital initiatives including the federally funded Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government.

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