This year we have seen a lot of positive change and action from the big players of the internet with regard to the online safety of children. YouTube removed 7 million accounts believed to belong to children and young teens who didn’t meet YouTube’s terms of service that require account holders to be 13 years and older. TikTok hired an independent safeguarding agency commissioning an in-depth report into the effects of the platform’s harmful challenges, hoaxes and scams on children including a panel of 12 youth safety experts and a clinical child psychiatrist. Snapchat is working on stronger parental control through their new in-app “Family Center” to help parents engage with their children about online safety before, during and after their app experience. Some may argue it’s not enough and I certainly agree we aren’t there yet.
Google, the world’s biggest internet search engine holding 92.47 percent of the market share, has recently made a huge proactive step in their commitment to the safety of children and young adults online. Google announced their new policy designed to give under 18s more control over their digital footprint by allowing them to request for their image to be removed from Google search results. This policy extends to parents and guardians of minors who can make requests on their behalf.
It is a relatively simple process to request for non-explicit images of a minor to be removed all you need to do is visit the Google Help Center and click on the Start Removal Request button.
There are some requirements that need to be met for Google to process your request, you will need to provide:
For explicit images Google advises to report directly to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US or to a similar National organisation in your country. In Australia the National Organisation is The Office of the Esafety Commissioner. There is also the ability to report explicit images of adults.
Although Google is really doing their part the help remove images from Google searches, it cannot remove the image from all corners of the internet. It is always advisable to contact the website host where your image/s appear and ask that they remove it as this will mean it isn’t visible on any search engine.
It’s no secret that the children and teens of today face some unique challenges when it comes to navigating the online world. The internet is a public platform and the content uploaded is permanent. However, we need to protect the digital identity of our children and teens against defamation, cyberbullying and image-based abuse giving them back the control. It’s comforting to know that tech giants like Google are prioritising the online safety of children and teens and providing solutions both proactively and retrospectively.