Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

Kate Winslet uses Bafta speech to call for better protection of children online

Kate Winslet used her Bafta TV Awards speech to call for ‘people in power’ to criminalise harmful content on the internet.

The Oscar winner collected the leading actress accolade for her role in I Am Ruth, which tells the story of a mother whose teenager’s mental health suffers as her life becomes consumed by social media.

‘I Am Ruth was made for parents and their children, for families who feel that they are held hostage by the perils of the online world,’ said Ms Winslet. ‘For parents who wish they could still communicate with their teenagers but no longer can, and young people who have become addicted to social media and its darker sides.

‘This does not need to be your life.’

The call by Ms Winslet to better protect children and teens online comes as the Online Safety Bill is making its way through the House of Lords.

‘To people in power and people who can make change – please criminalise harmful content,’ said Ms Winslet. ‘We don’t want it. We want our children back. We don’t want to lie awake, terrified for our children’s mental health.

‘And to any young person who might be listening who feels they are trapped in an unhealthy world, please ask for help.

‘There is no shame in admitting that you need support. It will be there – just ask for it.’

I Am Ruth is part of Dominic Savage’s I Am drama anthology.

Paying tribute to the director, Winslet added: ‘Your delicate handling of real, painful stories that really do happen to women is not only powerful, but brave and important. We need this, we want to be heard. Thank you for creating this space to tell our stories.’

Ms Winslet starred alongside her own daughter Mia Threapleton, who played the teenage Freya.

‘If I could cut this in half, I would give the other half to my daughter,’ said Ms Winslet. ‘We did this together kiddo.

‘There were days when it was agony for her to dig as deeply as she did into very frightening emotional territory at times, and it took my breath away.’

The Online Safety Bill was first introduced to the House of Commons in March 2022. It has a number of detractors, including charities that argue it doesn’t do enough to prevent the exploitation of children on line, and big tech firms that warn against the potential weakening of encryption that could ‘open the door to indiscriminate surveillance’.

The government says the Bill will protect children by making social media platforms remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing, prevent children from accessing harmful and age-inappropriate content, and enforce age limits and age-checking among other measures.

Speaking to Laura Kuenssberg in December, Ms Winslet said many parents felt ‘utterly powerless’ to help their children.

‘I really do struggle with social media,’ she said. ‘I struggle with the impact it is clearly having on teenage mental health.

‘I do wish that our government would crack down on it. I do wish that there would be certain platforms that were banned before a certain age. I wish that security checks would be much more rigorous.

‘But I do believe that there needs to be a lot more protection and accountability because parents are left flailing going, “Thank you so much, government, look what just happened to my child”.’

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