Facebook looks to improve child safety online

Facebook looks to installing a panic button
Facebook looks to installing a panic button

Social-networking site Facebook has announced that it's formed a board with five internet safety organisations to help it become safer online.

The board, which comprises Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, WiredSafety, Childnet International and The Family Online Safety Institute, will meet regularly with Facebook to look at the site's safety practices and help it develop new ones.

Its first task will be to oversee a revamp of Facebook's help centre.

New Internet safety standards adopted

Facebook's move comes as awareness of juvenile safety online is growing. It's among 140 groups and firms considering adopting the panic button system pioneered by the Bebo social networking site. The button lets children report offensive or obscene content.

That's one of the standards drawn up by Tanya Brown, the government's adviser on online safety. The code, which is voluntary, is due to be unveiled tomorrow by schools secretary Ed Balls and home secretary Alan Johnson. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to attend the event.

Under the new standards, sites would also have to offer 'safe search' for children, stopping them from accessing unsuitable sites, and parents would have greater control over internet usage by their children. According to Ofcom research, 35 per cent of kids currently go online without any parental supervision.

The new guidelines are initially focused on moderated chat rooms, instant messaging services, and search engines. They will coincide with a new ad campaign advising parents to have computers in areas where they can be monitored.

More details will be released next summer by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCIS).