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Ofcom and Schools Minister quizzed on Online Safety Act and ensuring children’s safe use of screens in education

  • Screen time: impacts on education and wellbeing
  • Tuesday 12 March, 10:00, Committee Room 15, Palace of Westminster    

Watch live on  

Ofcom officials and Schools Minister Damian Hinds will be questioned by MPs on the Online Safety Act and the government’s policies on the role of technology in children’s education.

This will be the final evidence session of the Committee’s inquiry into screen time and its impacts on children’s education and wellbeing.

The 2023 Online Safety Act puts the onus on tech companies to take responsibility for moderating ‘harmful yet legal’ content on their platforms in order to protect children. The Act made Ofcom the regulator for online safety. Ofcom will be overseeing requirements placed on providers including age-checking measures, duties to be transparent about risks their websites pose to children, and ways for parents and users to report harmful material. The Act also contains measures which will make it easier to convict those who share intimate images without consent, and new laws will further criminalise the non-consensual sharing of intimate deepfakes.

Ofcom has said it will take a phased approach to rolling out its new powers and responsibilities from the Act, prioritising enforcement of rules against the most harmful content as soon as possible, but it doesn’t expect to fully implement the Act until 2026.

The cross-party Committee will question two directors from the regulator on how it will effectively ensure children’s safety, whether it will need further powers to tackle new challenges posed by AI, and the engagement it has had with tech companies.

In the second panel, Schools Minister Damian Hinds will appear beside two Department for Education officials to answer questions on the Government’s new guidance that mobile phones should be banned in schools, and how online safety is taught in the curriculum.

Previous witnesses have warned about low levels of digital literacy among children, and their naivety about risks of exploitation and encountering misinformation online. However, the Government has said it “does not have specific evidence” about the effectiveness of education about digital safety. MPs will ask Mr Hinds whether a new qualification to teach this subject should be made available to teachers.

There will also be questions about the growing role of technology in children’s education both at home and in school, whether emphasis should be placed on ‘screen free’ time in schools, and about disparities in children’s access to technology – referred to as ‘digital poverty’.

Witnesses from 10:00    

  • Mark Bunting, Director of Online Safety Strategy Delivery, Ofcom
  • Yih-Choung Teh, Group Director for Strategy and Research, Ofcom

From 11:00   

  • Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Minister of State for Schools, Department for Education
  • Charlotte Briscall, Chief Digital Officer, Department for Education
  • Kate Dixon, Director of Pupil Wellbeing and Safety, Department for Education  

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