Stories

It’s Safer Internet Day! Here’s how we’re helping children stay safe online

February 6, 2018

Mother watching child use a tablet at home

By Helen Lamprell | General Counsel & External Affairs Director, Vodafone UK

As a parent, I’m always on the lookout for ways to help my children stay safe online. What’s great about Safer Internet Day is there’s a national conversation going on about how each one of us can help to make the Internet a safer space for young people. As part of Safer Internet Day 2018, more than a thousand UK organisations – including schools, charities, police services and businesses – are joining forces with parents, carers, social workers and policymakers to encourage everyone to talk about using tech responsibly.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in over a hundred countries every February. In the UK, the event is coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre, a partnership the European Commission appointed in 2011 to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people. At a time when more and more children are interacting with their peers on social media, it’s especially important that we talk about using tech responsibly. In the UK, one in five children aged between 10 and 12 has experienced bullying or trolling on social media, according to a CBBC Newsround survey.

At Vodafone, we’re keen to play our part to help parents talk to their children about using tech responsibly. Here’s what we’re doing to mark Safer Internet Day 2018. For news and updates on what we do throughout the year to help children and young people stay safe online, follow us on Twitter @VodafoneUKComms.

Getting our Tech Experts ready to talk online safety

Vodafone Tech Expert meeting a customer in-store

Vodafone’s Tech Experts are in-store specialists certified by market-leading technology manufacturers, and trained to fix 90% of all software issues on-the-spot in less than an hour – no matter what network you’re on. Tech Experts also offer full phone on-boarding, which means they can set up your entire digital life for you before you walk out of the door, including data transfer and email and app setup. If you’d like to know how to make the most of your device, Tech Experts can provide personalised one-on-one tutorials.

It doesn’t stop there. Our Experts are now trained and ready to help parents and children talk about online safety during First Phone Tutorials. These are sessions where our Experts help set up a child’s first smartphone in a way that both parent and child understand and feel comfortable with. During these sessions, our Experts will encourage parents and kids to talk about topics like managing a social media account and safe online searching, and will introduce children to a useful checklist of tools to have in their back pocket when using their device to navigate the internet.

Many child development professionals say it’s good to encourage young people to talk about what they’re doing online. As psychologist Dr John Coleman notes, it’s important to have an open dialogue with your kids about internet safety. By starting these conversations early, parents can help their children to feel that they can speak out about any difficulties they may be experiencing online.

If you’re a parent and would like to arrange a First Phone Tutorial for you and your child, you can sign up at a store near you. Usually, a 35-minute in-store session with a Tech Expert costs £15, and once the session is over, it’s £8 for an additional 25 minutes. To celebrate Safer Internet Day, parents can book a free First Phone Tutorial for you and your child that takes place either today, or by 13 February 2018.[i] To qualify for a free First Phone Tutorial, you’ll need to sign up in-store today, 6th February, and show the Tech Expert this blog on your smartphone screen.

Introducing our free Digital Life Skills Workshop

Poster for Vodafone's Digital Life Skills Workshop featuring children and young people using tablets and laptops

To mark Safer Internet Day, Vodafone is also launching a volunteering initiative for employees. Participating staff will receive training that will prepare them to lead free, interactive Digital Life Skills Workshops for parents and children in selected schools across the UK. Developed by Vodafone with the help of Parent Zone, the family online safety experts, this hour-long workshop is intended for parents and children aged between eight and 13.

The workshop will focus on teaching three Digital Life Skills: confident digital communications; capable use of online tools; and critical thinking. These are skills that support a child’s digital resilience, which is the ability to recognise when you’re at risk online and knowing what to do about it. By taking a skills-based approach, the workshop aims to provide young people with lifelong strengths that they can draw on, even as the technology around them changes.

In addition to teaching digital resilience, the workshop will cover topical issues such as phishing and fake news. Workshop leaders will also provide parents with fun activities to try with their children, so that everyone in the family can practise their digital life skills at home.

You’ll find more information about the Digital Life Skills Workshop here. And if you’d like to know how you can help your kids develop digital resilience, check out Digital Parenting Magazine, an annual publication created by Parent Zone and funded by the Vodafone Foundation (UK registered charity number 1089625). You’ll find a wealth of articles about digital resilience on the site, including helpful starting points like “What is Digital Resilience” by Vicki Shotbolt, Parent Zone CEO.

How you can take part in Safer Internet Day 2018

Safer Internet Day banner

Spending time online has its benefits and its dangers – it can help young people to feel good, but it can also cause anxiety. According to research commissioned by the UK Safer Internet Centre, well over half (68%) of young people surveyed said that chatting to their friends online cheers them up. On the other hand, two in five 8-17 year-olds say that they have felt worried or anxious on the internet in the last week, with one in ten (11%) reporting that they have often felt this.

There’s a lot that parents, carers and educators can do to help make the internet a safer space for young people. For parents and carers, the UK Safer Internet Centre has created an education pack that includes conversation starters, a family pledge card and more. For educators, there are education packs and complementary short films available. The films are tailored for various age groups, from children aged 3-7 years old to pre-teens and teens aged 14-18.

You can also join the #SID2018 social media campaign. Consider making a pledge to do something positive online, and tweet about it using the hashtag #ItStartsWithUs. Vodafone UK’s social media team has a Safer Internet Day video available on our Facebook page, and will be posting to support #SID2018 on both our corporate and our customer-facing Twitter accounts. Join us and help spread the word! Together, we can help children and young people stay safe online not just on Safer Internet Day, but all year round.

Notes to Editors

[i] The First Phone Tutorial lasts 35 minutes in total and booking is subject to availability. Tutorial must be booked and attended by 13 February 2018. Children cannot attend the tutorial without a parent/guardian present for the entire duration. Ask a Tech Expert in store for further details.