Joint-research shows 91 per cent of eight year olds use internet at least once a week, but average parent thinks kids should be at least nine before browsing
O2 has announced a partnership with children’s charity the NSPCC aimed at helping parents protect their children when they are using the internet.
The operator and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children will offer parents free guidance and workshops aimed at helping parents learn more about what they can do to help keep their children safe.
The partnership follows joint research that showed 91 per cent of eight year olds in the UK use the internet at least once a week.
The survey of 2,000 parents of kids aged 8-13 found that the average parent believes eight is too young for internet browsing, with parents reluctant to talk to their children about safe internet usage.
O2 called this a “digital delay”, with the research suggesting parents were happy to discuss “real life” issues such as bullying with their kids from age seven upwards, but reluctant to talk about online issues until their kids reached at least age nine.
As part of the partnership, O2 also promised to make child protection helpline ChildLine free for its customers, allowing hundreds of thousands of young people who use the service each year to get help with no cost.
“While the internet is driving economic growth and positively transforming the way we live and work, the simple truth is that, like the ‘offline’ world, the online world comes with risks attached,” explained O2 CEO Ronan Dunne. “Risks that 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.
“That’s why today we are launching an ambitious partnership with the NSPCC to give parents free expert personalised advice to build their digital competence to help keep their children safe online. It is our hope that this partnership will help parents and their families to make the most of the wonders of the web, safely.”
Explaining the “Digital Delay”, the research found that of the parents who think kids should be at least 10 before talking about the dangers of the internet, 39 per cent felt they would be too young to understand the issue. 26 per cent believed those discussions would scare or upset their children too much.
One in 10 (9 per cent) admitted they don’t see the need for parents to ever proactively talk about cyber bullying, and 11 per cent don’t think parents should ever initiate a conversation about viewing age appropriate content online.
Nearly a third of all parents surveyed admitted they would refer their child to another adult or sibling if they asked them about issues they encountered online. 16 per cent said they were more confident about discussing “real life” issues than online ones.
The partnership will see O2 and the NSPCC set up a dedicated joint helpline aimed at helping parents navigate the digital world safely. It will be staffed by NSPCC-trained O2 employees and open from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday. The number is 08088 005 002.
They will also run joint workshops in schools and offices from January to help parents improve their digital skills. More information can be found at o2.co.uk/nspcc.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Sadly we know that children up and down the country are struggling because of difficult experiences online.
“Thousands of young people contact us 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.
“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. Together we want to help parents recognise that for their children there is often no distinction between the online and offline world.
“Through our new helpline, workshops and online hub we want to encourage parents to learn more about what they can do to help keep their children safe. We hope that this partnership is just the start and that others will follow suit.”