On 25th July 2019 MPs asked questions of Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner. Questions were asked about social media, telecommunications masts in parishes, FCO support for persecuted Christians, festivals in cathedrals, and funding to the Keighley constituency:
On 16th July 2019 in the House of Commons Emma Hardy MP (Lab) asked an urgent question to the Secretary of State for Education on whether “he will make a statement on what steps he is taking to counter misinformation about the content of relationship education in schools”. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, asked a follow-up question:
Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England, the largest provider of primary education, fully supports this updating of the guidance. As the Minister says, it has not been updated for the past 20 years, and childhood has changed greatly during that time. Does the Minister agree that one of the imperatives for this change must be to protect pupils and keep them safe in the complex online world that they inhabit? My heart goes out to the children caught up in all this.
On 23rd May 2019 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe ask the Government “what plans they have to sponsor research into the benefits of gaming for children’s mental health and wellbeing.” The Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, there has been much conversation already about research into gaming addiction among young people. My right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans raised the issue of a mandatory pause function following calls from healthcare providers. As that was raised again in conversation and discussion around the Online Harms White Paper, will the Minister confirm that the Government are assessing the value of this function? Continue reading “Bishop of Ely asks Government about gaming addiction among young people”
On 30th April 2019 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Online Harms White Paper (CP57). The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate, welcoming the proposals and focusing on the need for regulation and action to tackle gaming addiction:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is a vast subject, and I will limit my comments to just a few areas.
I and others on these Benches welcome this White Paper, in particular the attempt to rethink the way we see this whole area. In the past we brought in individual laws to deal with particular problems. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has been arguing for some while that we need to see this as public space. We need to try to understand how we can regulate it from first principles in a way that guarantees the freedoms we want and the huge benefits that have come through the online world, which has made a huge and incalculable difference to our lives, but also protects the many people who are vulnerable. We have heard some account of just some of the problems some people have faced.
On 25th April 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion from Lord Gilbert of Panteg, “That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee UK advertising in a digital age (1st Report, HL Paper 116).” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, and the committee for the report, which made for fascinating reading. My friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford sends his apologies for not being in his place today; he is elsewhere in the world with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so asked me to address one or two matters. I take complete responsibility for what I say, although he said that I must talk about self-regulation.
We all love digital; at least, most of us do. We love its possibilities. I do not go anywhere without my phone, frankly: I keep looking at it and I get bombarded with adverts through it. It was not planned but, yesterday evening, as it happens, I watched a lecture from a two-day conference for theologians being held in Durham this week, entitled “Missio Dei in a digital age”. Maggi Dawn, a British theologian based at Yale University, tracked the history of the impact of digital on Christian mission. She said this about how we handle digital:
“We need to recognise both the glorious possibilities of digital and its profound brokenness”.
On 8th April 2019 a Government statement on new proposals for online safety was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, welcomed the proposals and asked a follow-up question about international cooperation:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I add my voice to those of my friends, the right reverend Prelates who sit on these Benches, who have welcomed this White Paper as a first step. Many of the platforms that would fall under the proposed regulator are based overseas. I hope that the proposals set out in the White Paper will give sufficient power to any regulator to hold these and future international companies to account.
On 11th January 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Kidron “That this House takes note of the role played by social media and online platforms as news and content publishers.” The Bishop of Gloucester spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, for obtaining this debate. I, too, thank her for her tireless work in this area.
Social media and online platforms now play an enormous role in shaping national dialogue and accepted social standards. In my visits to primary schools and secondary schools in the diocese of Gloucester, I have spent time talking with children about social media, and I affirm all that is good. Yet, as children progress to secondary school, their view of themselves and the world is increasingly being shaped by social media and online platforms. Young people are receiving strong messages about worth being about looking a certain way and about success being measured in online likes. Furthermore, their fears about the world they are growing up in are being fuelled by what they read online. Continue reading “Bishop of Gloucester urges greater requirements for online platforms to identify and remove harmful content”
On 1st December 2016, Baroness Howe of Idicote led a short debate in the Lords to ask the Government “what steps they are taking in order to achieve compliance with the new European Union net-neutrality Connected Continent requirements in such a way that United Kingdom adult content filtering regimes can be maintained in order to help keep children safe online.” The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, took part in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the House should be deeply grateful indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her persistence in bringing before us the difficult issue of online safety, particularly as it affects our children. I must say, the thickness of the plot as she set it out in her opening speech would be a credit to Agatha Christie herself in this particular aspect of it. We will be returning to the broader aspects when the Digital Economy Bill comes before us shortly. I believe that there is also a forthcoming report by the Communications Select Committee on children and the internet.
On 6th December 2013, the Bishop of Derby spoke during the Second Reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill. He drew a parallel with the need for a change of culture in the banking industry, arguing for a change of culture in the entertainment industry away from violence, extremism and exploitation.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for and on her persistence in steering us in what I think we all see is the right direction. Much has been said, so I will just pick up a couple of themes and will then pursue a particular point and ask the Minister about. Noble Lords have referred to the Prime Minister’s speeches on this area. If you read those speeches, part of their rationale is because he wants to put the family at the centre of a stable society. The family is about a web of mutual relationships—it is about mutuality, not about exploitation. That is the issue that we have to get hold of very clearly. We have heard from many noble Lords about how pornography is exploitative in every way. We have heard about its harmful effects on young people especially, about understandings of sex, how boys are led to see that sex is about having power over women, and how girls are led to see that sex is about performing in a certain kind of way. It causes very damaging ideas about body image. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about the objectification of women and violence against women.