ICF 001/2001

20 March 2001


Internet Service Providers, the police, Government, children's
charities and parents all have a part to play in making Internet chat
fun but safe for the estimated 5 million children that are now online
in the UK. This is the conclusion of a detailed report "Chat Wise
Street Wise" published today by the Internet Crime Forum (ICF).

Internet chat - the ability to hold typed 'conversations' with people
of all ages and backgrounds from across the world - can be fun and
informative for children, and with an estimated 100,000 Internet
chatrooms available to users in the UK, chat is becoming increasingly
popular among young users.

And while cases to date are very low in proportion to the rapidly
growing rate of Internet use, there is a risk that Internet chat can
be abused by a criminal minority to make contact with children with a
view to developing a sexual relationship with them in the 'real

The ICF report makes a number of recommendations for Internet Service
Providers, the police, Government and children's charities to ensure
that Internet chat for children is "Chat Wise Street Wise." These
will be taken forward at a Government sponsored summit shortly.

- education programmes should be aimed at parents and other carers
to advise them of the potential risks to children using chat
services and appropriate steps they can take to protect them;

- Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should provide clear advice to
their subscribers about child-friendly chat, and actively promote
chat services specifically targeted at their age range;

- children's chatrooms should be supervised ('moderated'), and a
user-friendly reporting mechanism should be available for users to
report incidents in chat rooms for investigation;

- ISPs, user groups and children's organisations should develop a
kitemarking scheme which would offer a simple way for parents to
identify chat services which are safe for children;

- the IT industry should continue to research better, cheaper and
more user-friendly technical solutions to the potential dangers of
chat, including measures to ensure an appropriate level of
traceability for online abusers;

- police officers should have specialised training and increased
resources to ensure a prompt and effective response to reports of
incidents in chat rooms;

- relevant UK legislation should be kept under review to ensure that
it can meet changing circumstances - on- and off-line - to protect
children from abuse.

The report also recommends a number of safety messages that parents
and carers should pass onto their children:

- don't give out personal details, photographs, or any other
information that could be used to identify you;

- don't take other people at face value - they may not be what they

- never arrange to meet someone you've only ever previously met on
the Internet without first telling your parents, getting their
permission and taking a responsible adult with you;

- always stay in the public areas of chat where there are other
people around;

- don't open an attachment or downloaded file unless you know and
trust the person who has sent it.

- if you find something you don't like, save it, print it, log off
and tell an adult.

The members of the Internet Crime Forum will continue to work in
partnership to build upon the recommendations of this report to find
effective solutions to combating danger to children on the Internet.

- ends -


Lord Bassam, Home Office Minister:

"The Government very much welcomes the ICF report as a key
contribution towards ensuring the safety of our children in Internet
chatrooms. Everyone has a part to play in protecting our children -
the Internet industry, childrens' charities, police and Government.

"And so today, I am announcing plans for a high-level meeting
involving key figures from ISPs, police and child welfare
organisations to develop the proposals outlined in the report. Our
challenge to them is develop innovative and comprehensive ideas so
that we can all ensure that UK cyberspace is the safest place in the
world for our children."

David Kerr, Chair, Internet Watch Foundation:

"Since the Internet Watch Foundation was formed in 1996 to address
the problem of child pornography we have demonstrated that the
problems of abuse of the Internet are best dealt with by governments,
industry and the voluntary sector working in partnership.

"This report is the result of another remarkable joint effort and
offers the best hope of reducing the dangers to children in chat
rooms. Because of the immediate risks to children, it is imperative
that we now work together to implement the recommendations urgently
and thoroughly."

Clare Gilbert, Chairman, Internet Service Providers Association:

"The Internet Industry has a key part to play in this partnership,
and we are committed to developing the recommendations made in the
Report. Child and parent friendly awareness material and chatroom
kitemark systems are just some examples of how industry can make sure
that web-surfing is safe for kids."

John Carr, NCH:

"Children love to chat and should be able to do so safely on- line,
as well as off-line. We all need to take responsibility for educating
our children about the potential dangers of Internet chat, while
working together to provide opportunities for them to have fun and
learn in safe, moderated chatrooms appropriate to their ages."

Keith Ackerman, Association of Chief Police Officers:

"We must take the sort of action that will ensure the Internet is
free from crime and a safe place for our children. This must be a
common responsibility which demands a true partnership approach. In
dealing with this task, we all face particular technical, legal and
social challenges which means that we have to develop strong
international co-operation among Governments, law enforcement
agencies, the Internet industry and other non-governmental


1. The Internet Crime Forum brings together representatives from
government, law enforcement agencies and the Internet industry.
It's aim is "to develop and maintain a working relationship
between the Internet Service Providers Industry and law
enforcement agencies in the UK, such that criminal investigations
are carried out lawfully, quickly and efficiently while protecting
the confidentiality of legitimate communications and with minimum
impact on the business of the industry". The main forum meets
quarterly, and also allocates specific issues for consideration by
multi-agency sub-groups between those meetings.

2. The Internet Relay Chat sub-group was formed in June 1999 and
includes representatives from the following stakeholders:
industry, law enforcement, child welfare, government, civil
liberties and regulatory bodies, chaired by the Internet Watch

3. The group was set up in response to a recommendation in the
DTI/Home Office review of the work of the IWF that government,
industry, the police and other interested bodies should be brought
together to discuss an approach to dealing with illegal material
on chat, as follows:

"We recommend that, just as occurred in 1996 in relation to Web
sites and Usenet newsgroups under the Agreement, the same bodies
should come together to agree on whether the IWF should deal with
illegal material on Chat, and how this can be achieved."

4. Full copies of the report "Chat Wise Street Wise - Children and
Internet Chat Services" are posted on the ICF website at