UK’s biggest internet companies launch kids online safety push

The UK’s four biggest internet service providers (ISPs) – Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and BT – have combined forces to launch an initiative designed to promote awareness of children’s safety on the internet, dubbed Internet Matters.

Internet Matters
BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky combine forces to launch Internet Matters children’s online safety brand.

The ISPs hope the launch of the online portal, which provides tips and resources on internet safety, will help the Internet Matters brand become a “household name” and encourage parents to talk to their children about keeping safe online.

The companies involved have also committed to the ongoing marketing of Internet Matters in communications with existing customers using emails, displaying the logo on bills and having information about the initiative on their websites.

Internet Matters says the four ISPs reach 90 per cent of UK online households, highlighting the potential reach of the brand. A spokesperson suggested to Marketing Week no additional above the line media spend will be committed to the initiative at this stage.

The brand was created in collaboration with London-based brand consultants Venturethree, in response to what the companies say is “a broader government agenda to make internet usage for children safer and more secure”.

ISPs have long been criticised by political parties and children’s campaigners for not doing enough to protect children’s safety online, which has led to the Government urging providers to introduce mandatory filters requiring users to opt-out to view adult content by the end of 2014. But such filtering has been criticised by some industry observers for being heavy handed, with reports noting that the software has blocked access to sex education and domestic abuse charity websites, as well as porn and illegal content.

Internet Matters is not the first cross-industry initiative developed to promote children’s safety online.

In 2011 Mother’s Union chief executive Reg Bailey delivered an independent review of the ”commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood” to the Government. The report’s recommendations led to the launch of the Parent Port website – created by the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom, BBC Trust and the Press Complaints Commission – where consumers can post complaints about inappropriate content, ads and products. 

Bailey told Marketing Week the launch of Internet Matters is a “good step in the right direction” in working to protect the safety of children online, adding that he expects more communications in this area from ISPs in the coming months.

“In branding terms it does not do any ISP any good if they fail to take adequate care of children online. I think we need to recognise this [launch] is part of a wider approach by ISPs in this area and I have been pleased with the steps they are taking [in the area of content filtering, for example,],” he said.

Separate from Parent Port, Disney launched a £3m international marketing campaign in partnership with internet safety groups across the EMEA region offering parents and children tips on staying safe online. 

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