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Viewpoint | 11 Feb 2020

How we all need to help our kids be happy and safe online

On Safer Internet Day, Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and Director of External Affairs, reflects on how Vodafone is helping to deal with risks posed to children, young adults and vulnerable people online.

Vodafone supports the Government’s ambition to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

There are four core principles which guide our view as to how best we can meet the challenges posed by being online:

  • What is not acceptable offline should not be acceptable online.
  • Online life can never be 100% safe.
  • Parents and carers should be supported with information and tools to help young people develop digital resilience.
  • Digital resilience should be taught in more schools.

In January 2004, Vodafone was one of the first mobile operators in the world to publish a self-regulatory Code of Practice for online child protection which now forms the basis for industry codes internationally. We also implemented content control and became the first mobile operator to offer a safer-browsing mobile internet experience.

Alongside our Digital Parenting website, we also produce a hugely popular Digital Parenting magazine, now in its eighth edition. More than seven million copies have been printed, providing parents with information and advice to help children gain confidence and resilience in the digital world.

Recent research commissioned by the Digital Parenting team found that more than half (54%) of parents say they aren’t aware of what their children are doing online, and that they don’t feel prepared to have conversations about this as a family. As a result, we recently launched the Digital Family Pledge tool – a free, personalised activity that helps families to set their digital “house rules” together in a simple, fun way.

And throughout 2020, we’ll be hosting a number of workshops in partnership with Digital Awareness UK in schools and community centres across the UK.

Of course, everyone needs to do their part in creating as safe an environment as possible. Vodafone is a fully active member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), supporting its hotline for reporting websites hosting child abuse images and content.

Distressingly, the IWF processed more than a quarter of a million reports of online child sexual abuse in 2019, up 14% on 2018, so it’s important we all redouble our efforts.

The digital world brings with it huge possibilities and benefits. We see our technology being used for good in so many ways, but we should always be aware of the risks, too.

Our desire at Vodafone is to embrace as many of the good things as possible and share them as widely as possible. We will also stand up to the bad things when we see them, and offer as much help as we can to assist you in navigating your lives online safely and securely.