Research shows that despite 91% of eight-year-olds using the internet at least once a week, parents don’t initiate conversations about how to avoid the potential risks until the age of nine, according to a YouGov survey of parents with children aged eight to 13.
When it comes to facing issues such as bullying, road safety or ‘stranger danger’ offline, however, parents are far more proactive, broaching the subject with children as young as six.
Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2, believes parents need to recognise that the challenges of the offline world don’t disappear when transitioning online.
He said: “We sit in the middle of an industry that is right at the heart of the digital revolution. As a society we are just waking up to the possibilities that can have for all of us in how we live our lives but especially for young people as they build their digital skills and literacy.”
Conversations with customers have revealed that parents often feel under-equipped to educate their children about online safety as they lack digital confidence and competency themselves.
Through the partnership, the two organisations will launch a free helpline run by NSPCC-trained O2 advisors and a dedicated website, as well as holding parent workshops in schools and workplaces across the UK, but initially in four locations, from January next year.
O2 will also ‘zero-rate’ the charity’s ChildLine service online, meaning young people will be able to access it for free, even if they don’t have credit on their mobile.
Going forward, specially-trained O2 staff will also be available to offer child safety advice from its 470 stores nationwide.
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, told Marketing Week: “With O2 having a presence on so many high streets the NSPCC message about how to keep children safe can join natural conversations at a relevant moment when parents are thinking about it.”
The partnership, which has been agreed for a three-year period initially, follows a collaboration between the two organisations last year on Guru Bytes, a series of workshops for parents on promoting child safety online.
“After partnering with the NSPCC last year we realised there was an opportunity to do something much bigger,” O2 marketing director Nina Bibby told Marketing Week.
“When promoting and supporting children to develop digital skills we realise that it is equally important to ensure they are safe when they do so. It’s about opening up the possibilities of technology to everyone, including young people, but for them to get the most from the internet they need to be safe online.”
The move is supported by minister for internet safety and security Joanna Shields who admits “kids are way ahead of us” so it can be very difficult for parents to keep up.
“Kids are constantly using [smartphones] to discover new things which is absolutely brilliant and liberating and enlightening and exciting in terms of education and opportunities, but at the same time they have to tread carefully and parents need to know what it takes to help them do that,” she said.