Newcastle North’s MP Catherine McKinnell joined Year 10 pupils at Gosforth Academy on Friday (12 November) for a discussion on online safety and abuse. The outreach event forms part of a wider inquiry into tackling online abuse undertaken by Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which Catherine chairs.

Catherine joined the Year 10 students for a discussion about Parliament and the work of the Petitions Committee in bringing matters of public concern to the attention of Parliament and Government, before the group discussed safety online and the online abuse.

OFCOM’s Online Nation 2021 report highlights that 59% of children under 11 are using social media, despite many platforms having an age limit of 13 years old, and 95% of children use social media by the age of 15.

Worryingly OFCOM found that over half of 12–15 year-olds state that they had a negative experience online in 2020.

As part of the evidence session pupils discussed their experiences online and what further action they would like to see taken to protect people from online abuse, including possible measures such as limiting comments on posts, identification to access accounts, removing anonymous accounts and automatic removal of harmful content.

Following the session, Catherine commented:

“It is really concerning that so many young people have had a negative experience online. Social media companies and the Government must do more to protect everyone, but especially young people, from online harm and abuse.

“The experience of young people is so important, so I was pleased to be able to bring the Petitions Committee inquiry to Newcastle North to hear from pupils at Gosforth Academy first-hand.

“The view from the pupils was clear that social media companies and the Government must do more. We need to see stronger and swifter action, with posts taken down and users blocked for posting harmful and abusive content. The Government must also strengthen the Online Safety Bill to adequately address legal but harmful content.

“Only by taking stronger and swifter actions will we create safer online spaces and allow people get back control of their online lives”.