Further demands for an online child safety advocate as politicians, charities and the public join the fight for children.

Lords lay amendment to Online Safety Bill that would "represent, protect and promote" the interests of children.1


The Online Safety Bill will be discussed by the House of Lords in the coming weeks.

But current plans would leave children, who face record levels of harm and abuse on social media, without proper consumer advocacy protections.

We want further legislation to protect children, and we are not alone, almost 40,000 people signed an open letter to the Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, asking for a voice for young users to be incorporated into the Online Safety Bill through a user advocacy body for children.2

child safety advocate would further strengthen the commitment to prioritise child safety in online regulation, similar to user advocacy in other regulated sectors like energy and transport.

Lords across political parties have laid an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that would create a statutory user advocate to provide an expert voice and representation for children's safety online. 

Among the supporters of this amendment are Labour's Lord Jim Knight, the Liberal Democrat's Baroness Claire Tyler, online child safety campaigner Baroness Beeban Kidron, and Conservative Peer Baroness Helen Newlove.

Baroness Helen Newlove said:

“We know there will be well funded efforts from Big Tech to lobby for a regulatory regime that works in their best interests, not the best interests of children.

“A child safety advocate will therefore be crucial to take on the influencing muscle and resources of some of the largest companies in the world and enable the regulator to understand the online world as children experience it, not how tech lobbyists want to paint it.”

The need for an online child safety advocate

Our research shows that 88% of UK adults overwhelmingly support the addition of a child safety advocate to fight for children at risk of online harm.3

We want a user advocacy body for children created to:

  • Promote and protect the interests of children and young people, making sure their experiences are understood and giving them a strong voice in the regulatory process. 
  • Design an effective 'early warning function' into the regulations by working with children to identify and assess new risks in the rapidly changing online world, providing support and appropriate challenges to Ofcom. 
  • Counterbalance the influence of large companies by presenting detailed data which can help the regulator to make evidence-based decisions.

The benefits of an online child safety advocate

We believe there should be an organisation that stands up for children and their safety.

This would provide the following benefits:

  • It would make up for years of tech firms failing to give children basic protection on their sites.
  • It would make sure children are listened to by the regulation and tech companies and that any emerging dangers are quickly dealt with
  • It would be funded by a tax on tech companies, so wouldn't cost the public anything
  • It would act as a consumer watchdog for children and make sure their voices aren't drowned out by large tech companies by putting children's needs at the forefront of the new regulations.


NSPCC Chief Executive, Sir Peter Wanless, said:


“Years of unregulated social media has been defined by companies overlooking the needs and experiences of children on their sites, resulting in record levels of abuse and harm with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences.

“The Online Safety Bill will bring in much-needed regulation and give children greater protection. But as in every regulated industry there will be pushback from companies, and the regulator would benefit from expert support.

“The amendment to create a statutory child safety advocate is crucial if the legislation is to deliver on the government’s goal to make the UK the safest place for a child to be online. It will give young users a seat at the table with access to children’s voices in real time helping to hardwire child protection into the decision-making of the most influential tech company executives.”

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  1. 1. Member's explanatory statement, Lord Knight of Weymouth's amendment, After Clause 142, Online Safety Bill: "This new Clause would require Ofcom to establish a new advocacy body for child users of regulated internet services to represent, protect and promote their interests."

  2. 2. 39,797 people signed an open letter to Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan calling on her to strengthen the Online Safety Bill.

    It read: “Children need to have a strong voice with a powerful champion to represent them. Statutory user advocacy arrangements, funded by an industry levy, would create a level playing field for children and ensure Ofcom adopts a child centred approach when taking regulatory decisions. It will also provide effective counterbalance to well-resourced and powerful interventions from the tech firms. Funded user advocacy arrangements are a part of many other regulated sectors, from postal services to transport. Children are potentially the most vulnerable of all users and deserve a regulatory settlement that recognises this.”

  3. 3. An NSPCC/YouGov poll of more than 2,500 UK adults last year found: 

    • 88% think that it is necessary for the Online Safety Bill to introduce a requirement for an independent body that can protect the interests of children at risk of online harms, including grooming and child sexual abuse
    • 72% think that children should receive at least the same amount of representation from an independent body as customers in other regulated sectors - including users of postal services, buses and trains
    • Among those with an opinion, more than three quarters (79%) think it is likely tech companies will try to avoid having to comply fully with regulation. 
    • 77% think it is likely social media companies will seek to downplay the impact of their products on children
    • If the Government does not commit to an independent body almost three-fifths of UK adults (58%) feel that children would be less protected from online harms