O2 has formed a “ground-breaking” partnership with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to tackle web safety.
The partnership was born from research which suggested a ‘digital delay’ as parents postpone conversations with their children about staying safe online. They prefer to wait until they are at least nine years old despite over 90 per cent of kids using the internet before they are eight.
However, O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne said the risks of the online world “need to be acknowledged and faced”.
“Although progress has been made in ensuring young people receive practical online safety advice, our research and experience also suggests that more needs to be done to help parents, particularly those who don’t feel as confident supporting their children in the fast-changing digital world,” he explained.
Efforts have been made in the past to promote child safety online. The UK’s four major Internet Service Providers – Sky, Talk Talk, BT and Virgin Media – launched a nationwide campaign last year which centred on a website providing information, advice and support for parents on how to monitor and initiate strict internet safety measures.
Nina Bibby, marketing director at O2 told The Drum that initiatives such as this have been positive, but O2 is looking to offer more practical help to parents and children than previously available. She also expects that as one of the most trusted brands parents will be more receptive to its help.
They will offer free one-on-one expert technical advice to parents via a dedicated new helpline which will be staffed by NSPCC-trained O2 tech-experts who will be able to give parents advice such as how to set privacy settings and parental controls.
From January 2016 interactive workshops will also be delivered in workplaces and schools across the country to upskill parents.
For children, O2 has also created a “zero-rate” ChildLine online to allow young people to access help and support even if they don’t have credit on their mobile phones.
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless said it is regularly contacted by thousands of young people about issues such as online grooming, cyber bullying and after viewing sites which encourage eating disorders, self-harm and suicide.
“We need to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills to protect themselves,” he said. “This is a 21st century problem that will not go away and we need a real focus on teaching young people about staying safe on the internet, which is why we are joining forces with O2.”
However, research released last year from McAfee shed light on the scale of only one issue they sought to tackle; online bullying. It found the number of children being bullied on the internet had doubled in the space of 12 months and now affects more than one in three 11- to 17-year-olds.
Bibby added that to generate awareness O2 will be comtacting its customers through SMS and email as well as explaining the programme to customers in store.
The government welcomed the plans laid out by O2 and the NSPCC, with Baroness Joanna Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security saying it brings together experts on the technology children use with those who understand the way they use it.