NSPCC And O2 To Help Parents Protect Children Online

Workshops to help parents deal with online issues as confidently as offline ones, amid fears children are suffering from ‘digital delay’

Children’s charity the NSPCC is teaming up with O2 to help educate parents who find it easier to discuss ‘real world’ issues than online safety topics such as cyber bullying amid fears children might suffer from a ‘digital delay’.

As part of the arrangement, O2 tech experts will hold workshops in offices and schools from January 2016 so parents are better equipped to handle such discussions, while the operator will also ‘zero-rate’ calls to ChildLine, so children can call the service for free.

“Sadly we know that children up and down the country are struggling because of difficult experiences online,” said NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless. “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.

’21st century problem’

Children, kids, education © bikeriderlondon, Shutterstock 2014“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.”

A YouGov survey of parents and children found 39 percent of parents felt their children wouldn’t understand online issues such as cyber bullying and ‘stranger danger’ before the age of ten, while 26 percent said they believed the topic would cause upset.

However many said it was OK to talk about offline ‘stranger danger’ and bulling from the age of seven. Additionally, 31 percent said they would pass the issue on to another adult or sibling if their child raised an online issue, while 16 percent admitted they were more confident about dispensing real world advice.

Furthermore, nine percent said they would never have to proactively talk about cyber bulliyng and 11 percent thought parents should never talk about viewing age-inappropriate content online.

With 91 percent of eight year olds using the Internet once a week, the NSPCC is concerned some children are not getting the support they need to cope with online issues, especially since 60 percent of children surveyed claimed they had altered their online behaviour following parental advice.

Keep children safe

“Together we want to help parents recognise that for their children there is often no distinction between the online and offline world,” added Wanless. “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.”

The partnership had been welcomed by the government which says it is committed to ensuring children can learn and explore the Internet safely.

“Growing up has never been easy but today the virtual world presents a whole new set of risks which are all too unfamiliar to parents,” said Baroness Joanna Shields, minister for Internet safety and security. “The challenge of keeping children safe online requires the full support and cooperation of parents, industry, charities and the government. We welcome the NSPCC and O2 partnership which brings together experts on the technology our children use with those who understand the way they use it.”

To this end, a number of ISPs already provide parental controls that limit access to certain types of content on a home network. However the use of so-called ‘porn block’s has been controversial, with some arguing it is tantamount to censorship.

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