SPEAKING NOTE

Introduction When we think of the internet, we immediately think of the way it is dramatically changing our lives: the world’s knowledge at our fingertips; the speed with which we can share information; the ability to work and create with people from all over the world. Children have made this new environment a natural home, learning its skills quickly, inhabiting it far more quickly than we have, astonishing us with the directions that they are pushing this new technology. For many children, the internet is not simply a device, or a technology, it’s a part of their world, seamless with the physical world that lies outside of chat-rooms, blogs and websites. In this light, it seems strange to linger on the dangers of this new world, perhaps even a little perverse that we should act so protectively of children and young people about the risks of communicating and living online. Some might argue that we are over-reacting, letting our own unfamiliarity with the possibilities of such a radical change in our lives make us see demons in the shadows. As parents and carers, as those who help children become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens, at times, the question arises: are we over-reacting?

But while it is the prerogative of children and young people to explore and enjoy these new possibilities, it is our responsibility to ensure they do so safely. What we are experiencing in not new. Whenever our world is transformed by new technologies, issues of safety are never been far behind. Think of the motor vehicle. In 1894, the first motorcar was introduced into Great Britain; and within 2 years, the first traffic lights and audible warnings were introduced and the first speeding ticket issued. Indeed, the concerns we’re expressing are as natural a response to these amazing developments as the sense of vertigo and wonder at the pace of change. All of us here are aware of online dangers. They range from serious threats to the physical well-being of our children through the acts of predators, to their emotional health through the damaging effects of cyber-bullying, to the financial harm that can come from online fraud. I don’t want to dwell on these dangers – we will hear more about them as the day progresses. And I don’t want to dwell on the fear that’s associated with these dangers, as well as the lack of fear, of caution, that some young people have towards the internet and their parents and carers have about the potential vulnerability of their children. Instead, I want to speak briefly about what we are doing, what we will continue to do, in striking the right balance in how children and young people approach this new technology and how they can revel in the way it can enrich their lives without leaving themselves exposed to these dangers. In setting the tone of the conference, I want to focus on the practical steps we can all take to maintain the internet as a powerful tool in our children’s development.

Scottish Child Internet Safety Strategy In February last year, the Scottish Government set out its strategy for child internet safety. We did so against a background of wider UK action following the Byron Review and the establishment of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. Our approach has been to influence and support actively the work that goes on at UK level while identifying the actions that we can take in Scotland to make a difference. Our strategy set out 3 key strands of activity, and in all 3, we have achieved much over the past year. The first strand has been giving everybody the skills, knowledge and understanding to help children and young people stay safe online. • So we have introduced the first dedicated, Scottish online resource for education professionals, which facilitates the sharing of best practice around learning focused on child internet safety and responsible use and provides materials that can be used in the classroom. • We have delivered a national campaign to raise awareness of child internet safety amongst parents and other adults. • And we have published new National Child Protection Guidance which, for the first time, includes a dedicated section on internet safety and responsible use that discusses the potential risks to children and young people.

The second strand of our strategy has been inspiring safe and responsible behaviour.

As part of this, we ran a national competition to design learning resources on child internet safety, focusing on materials developed by children and young people themselves.

And we have supported the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency in delivering a series of events to improve understanding of child internet safety issues amongst police officers and other partner agencies.

The last strand has been creating a safer online environment. As well as working with our UK partners in taking this forward, we have been working with the games industry in Scotland to identify how best we can work collectively to promote the need for safe and responsible gaming by young people. This is what we have been doing over the past year. Today, I am pleased to publish our second year action plan, setting out how we intend to build on these and other achievements.

Our approach has not changed, but our actions will. To give everybody the skills, knowledge and understanding to help children and young people stay safe online, we will work with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to update existing accredited learning materials on internet safety and responsible use. This will provide a comprehensive, bestpractice foundation for supporting education professionals. And working with the new inspection body, Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland, we will ensure that child internet safety is embedded in the future scrutiny arrangements of our children’s services, so that we have in place a clear means of driving continuing improvements across Scotland. To inspire safe and responsible behaviour, we will undertake a detailed consultation with young people in order to understand better how we can raise awareness on using the internet safely and responsibly and what further support is needed from us. And we will complete a series of regional events to improve understanding of child internet safety and responsible use issues amongst parents and other adults. Finally, to create a safer online environment, we will work with our partners on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, especially to support the management of online content through the effective use of parental controls. And we will work with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to develop a central resource centre across the UK on online safety issues through a one-stop shop.

Conclusion Many of the actions I have set out are not ones taken by the Scottish Government alone. The approach is certainly not one that sits with any one organisation. Just as the internet has been a powerful tool for sharing and collaboration, so too has the need to ensure internet safety brought together a wide range of partners, at Scottish, at local, at UK and increasingly at international level. This cooperation has been fundamental to what we have achieved over the last year and what we will do in the coming year. This conference today demonstrates that shared commitment to finding practical, effective ways to enabling children and young people to pursue the possibilities of the internet with freedom, with vigour, and with caution. I am pleased to be speaking here, and wish you a very successful day. Thank you.

1,250 words 12 minutes