The Duke of Sussex hit out at social media companies as he appeared as a special guest at a webinar titled “Making Child Online Safety a Reality” hosted by the 5Rights Foundation. There, he spoke about his desire for him to shield his two young children from the current digital space, suggesting it is not a safe world for youngsters.
He said: “My kids are too young to have experienced the online world yet and I hope that they never have to experience it as it exists now – No kid should have to.”
Prince Harry also said he was speaking at the event as a concerned dad of two rather than an expert.
He said: “I’m not an expert on law or technology, but I am a father.
“And I’m lucky enough to be a father with a platform.”
Speaking from his home in the star-studded Santa Barbara neighborhood of Montecito, Prince Harry praised the “groundbreaking” work 5Rights is doing to shield children from harmful online content.
This organization is working towards reimagining the digital space as a safe world for children and young people.
The event aimed to “launch a set of ‘off the shelf’ policies”, named the Global Child Online Safety Toolkit “that governments and organizations around the world can adopt to make child online safety a reality.”
Hitting out at the current online world, Prince Harry also said: “The internet business model is doing exactly what it’s meant to do – let us in and keep us scrolling, get us angry, anxious, or make us numb to the world around us .”
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In line with the 5Rights’ beliefs, the Duke of Sussex also stressed how more dangerous the online world can be for children than adults, as young people are more impressionable.
The organization believes children and youngsters are more at risk when it comes to navigating the internet because of their developmental vulnerabilities and the fact they are “early adopters” of emerging technologies.
Prince Harry also voiced his concerns about children being treated by online giants as “digital experiments”.
He said: “My two little ones are still of the age of innocence.
“Sometimes I feel I can keep them away from the online harms that they could face in the future forever but I am learning to know better.
“As parents, my wife and I are concerned about the next generation growing up in a world where they are treated as digital experiments.”
He also said: “The online world is changing and it’s on every single one of us to make sure that the change ahead prioritizes our children’s right to a safe and happy future.”
The Duke said he wants all children to be able to ask for a better online space.
He added: “We want all children to feel empowered to speak up and demand change.
“We’re at a critical moment where it will take all of us for children to thrive in the digital world.”
Moreover, Harry joined calls for new digital laws aimed specifically to protect children.
Similar legislation has already been introduced across the EU, Canada, California and the UK – where the Government is pushing through the online safety bill.
This new set of rules would see tech firms being required to protect users from harmful content.
In an impassioned call, the Duke of Sussex said: “We need new laws. We need public pressure. We need strong leadership.”
Prince Harry wasn’t the only high-profile speaker during this webinar, as he was joined by representatives from the United Nations, EU and African Union.
Young people aged between 13 and 21 from across the world were also in attendance to call for a safer online space and share their experiences with the internet.
This isn’t the first time Harry speaks about social media organizations and the need to reform them.
In June 2020, he penned an op-ed for Fast Company in which he said the digital landscape was “unwell” and certain online platform have “contributed to, stoked, and created the conditions for a crisis of hate, a crisis of health, and a crisis of truth.”