Voluntary Principles and Online Safety

Child abuse, neglect, and exploitation are serious problems that require everyone to play a role in bringing an end to the mistreatment of children. A recent announcement from U.S. Attorney General William Barr also demonstrates the how technology companies can work to protect children.

The U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom unveiled 11 voluntary principles intended to protect children. Developed in consultation with some of the well-recognized names in the technology arena, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter, the principles provide proactive guidance for combatting online exploitation and abuse behaviors. The principles are intended to establish a baseline for companies to deter the use of the internet to exploit children.

Our federal government, as well as the other participating countries, recognize the importance of encouraging corporate entities to bear a social responsibility for protecting children. The announcement came as U.S. Senators were working on legislation that would further protect children by not extending third-party liability immunity to child exploitation laws, which means companies could be in trouble if exploitative materials are posted or shared through their technology.

Last year, companies reported nearly 70 million images and videos related to online child exploitation. While companies are stepping up to report inappropriate and illegal activities, we can also take steps at home to guide children about appropriate online behaviors. Talking with children and being engaged with their online activities are helpful ways to educate them about safe and appropriate use of the internet. The following are a few ideas for you to help protect your child:

  • Help kids understand that personal information about themselves, family, and friends should stay private. Explain the type of information that should not be shared as well as why these details should remain private.
  • Talk to children about avoiding sexual situations and conversations online, and encourage them to block or ignore unknown users attempting to contact them.
  • Let kids know it’s important to trust their gut and encourage them to let you know if they feel uncomfortable or threatened by something or someone online.
  • Use privacy settings to limit access to profiles on social networking sites.
  • Get to know the sites being visited, games being played, and friends they’re interacting with.

As families work to protect children from online predators while at home, it’s encouraging to know that more companies are stepping up to help identify illegal activities. The recognition that tech companies are positioned to curb the proliferation of child abuse and pornography has evolved over time. And though we still have work ahead of us, initiatives, such as the child online protection principles, help advance the interests of protecting our children. To learn more about steps you can take to protect your child in our digital age, visit our website for our caregiver publication series sample pack that provides a variety of resources and tools for raising children.

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