Online Harms — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:03 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) 3:03 pm, 7th October 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward.

I thank Holly Lynch for bringing this extremely important issue to Westminster Hall for debate. She spoke very eloquently and comprehensively on these issues, highlighting the lack of consequences under current legislation and the absolutely devastating impact of online abuse.

In the time that I have, I will speak briefly about a couple of different issues. The first is mental health. In this generation, one in five individuals online are children, so there will be an absolute tidal wave of mental health issues linked to online abuse. Indeed, that is already happening: I see it with my own children and their peers, and I see it across my constituency and, indeed, the UK. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on mentoring, which provides the secretariat for the Diana Award, I recently spoke to the ambassadors on its youth board and heard that online bullying is one of the most fundamental issues that children have to cope with every single day of their lives. When I was young, bullying used to happen at school, but a child could come home from school and there was a gap, and they could receive support from elsewhere. Nowadays, it is constant. Now children are linking with their peers all the time—the majority of that is online, as well as occasionally in person, now that they are back at school.

The mental health impact must be addressed, and the legislation is crucial to that. It is a starting point, but we also need to support the youth ambassadors in schools who want to do anti-bullying work, be mentors to peers and ensure that they progress that good work to build resilience in their generation against this abuse. We look to the Minister to ensure that the legislation is robust and provides support in schools. I echo the words and sentiments of Andrew Percy, who spoke about the importance of tackling antisemitism, particularly online. The Community Security Trust is recording the data and found 185 online instances in 2015 and 697 cases in 2019. That is a massive increase of 277%. That is another issue that really has to be tackled.

Finally, will the Minister look closely not only at the individuals who are online anonymously, but at those who impersonate others? I had that myself at the last election. As soon as I gave up the “MP” in my handle, someone online took that handle and started to tweet as though they were me. I am raising this not from my own perspective particularly—although it could have been extremely damaging—but because, as everyone here knows, constituents contact us online to tell them about their personal issues as a first port of call. Will the Minister consider meeting me to discuss that important issue further?