Phone safety ‘part of modern parenting’

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Colin Brinsden and Finbar O’Mallon
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher is encouraging parents to think twice before handing over that new smart phone to their child as a Christmas present if they are concerned about internet safety.

“The first thing I would say to parents is if you are getting a child a new phone for Christmas, don’t get it out of the box and hand it to them and get them to set it up,” Mr Fletcher told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

He said most smart phones have parental control tools, as do other devices, so parents should find out how to use them and set them appropriately.

“It’s part of modern parenting,” Mr Fletcher said in answer to a question.

“If you give the device straight to the child and they set it up, then you’ve missed that opportunity.”

Mr Fletcher used his lunchtime address to launch a consultation paper for new laws that could force international social media giants to act faster to take down material used to harass others online.

The government also wants social media and internet giants to sign an ethics charter that would see them prioritise user safety and curb socially unacceptable behaviour.

He said new beefed up legal powers for Australia’s eSafety commissioner would put more pressure on the industry to prevent online harm.

“Harmful material must be taken down faster. Attempts to send terrorist attacks viral must be stopped in their tracks,” Mr Fletcher said.

“Industry needs to step up and take more responsibility.”

The new laws would reduce the time that online platforms had to remove harmful content from 48 hours to 24.

They would also extend to other online platforms, like the video game live streaming platform Twitch, to help stop children being cyber bullied.

The eSafety Commissioner would get new powers to have digital giants report to her.

Mr Fletcher wants companies to sign the charter that will lay out what the government expects of them online.

He said the most popular digital products and services haven’t been designed with user safety in mind.

“This needs to change,” he said.

“My strong message to companies in the industry is to read it, refer back to it, and most importantly, integrate it into your daily practises.”

The consultation for the new laws will be open for public comment for 10 weeks.

The eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently told a Senate hearing at least one in seven Australians copped online abuse.

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