Safer Internet Day Shines Spotlight On Digital Safety

Monday, 6 February 2017

While the internet provides many positive educational and social benefits to young people, there are a number of risks too. From access to age restricted products such as tobacco and alcohol, through to pornography, gambling and gaming, young people can easily find themselves knowingly or unknowingly engaged in activities which could be inappropriate or even illegal, and have the potential to put them in danger.

To raise awareness of this issue and to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, Safer Internet Day was established in 2004, bringing together thousands of organisations from countries around the world to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we can all play in helping to create a better, safer online community.

Held this year on 7th February, the theme for Safer Internet Day is ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet', which calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all. With that in mind, Under Age Sales is offering advice to retailers on how they ensure they are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of young people online when using their services.

Potential risks

While the web is a great channel for retailers to sell their goods, it also poses challenges around making sure they adhere to laws relating to selling age restricted products. Another obvious risk is children downloading or viewing adult content. The Digital Economy Bill, introduced last year, stated that pornographic websites will be made to verify the user is over 18 to enter, which will go some way to protecting young people from this content.

According to new research from Queen Mary University of London and City University London, between 77 and 83 per cent of adolescents are involved in some kind of gambling1, so there is clearly a need for children to be protected from the risks associated with this activity. Similar to gaming, which appeals as great fun for young people, gambling can cause addiction, users can sometimes be abusive to other gamblers/gamers and there is also a chance users could be exposed to risky behaviour. For example, adults with a sexual interest in children will encourage them to engage in inappropriate behaviour for rewards, to obtain cheats to progress within a game.

Playing your part

Retailers have a responsibility to enforce measures which prevent young people from accessing such products and services, safeguarding them from risk and danger.

Our advice to retailers would be to:

  • Use credit card payment - in the UK, you have to be over the age of 18 to own a credit card
  • Perform online checks - software can be put in place to verify age via the electoral register and credit reference agencies online during the purchasing stage
  • Verify age - there are age verification services available to enable online businesses to verify a customer’s personal details to ensure the person they are communicating with is who they say they are
  • Apply the ‘2 + 2’ online age verification standard - used under gambling legislation. The method means two positive matches are obtained from two independent data sources
  • Check age on delivery - delivery drivers should be fully trained in age verification; ensuring the proof-of-age the customer has supplied is completely valid and that they are above the required age to receive the product
  • Consider the penalties - the penalties for an online retailer that sells an age restricted product to an underage person fall under the same legislation as it would for that product group in-store
  • Protect yourselves - if a retailer gets into a situation whereby they have sold an age restricted product to someone underage and this results in legal repercussions, being able to show that they have applied all due diligence will help protect them in court

However, as this year’s Safer Internet Day campaign encourages, to truly protect young people online it is important that all responsible parties ‘unite for a better internet’. Only by parents, educators, retailers and the Government adopting a truly collaborative approach, will we will be able to make a real difference in ensuring the internet is a safe place for young people and children.