Like the physical world, the online world has risks. “Information is crucial for understanding how to stay safe online,” says Vodafone’s Helen Lamprell (pictured above). “Parents want to know about these risks and how to protect their children from them.
“That’s why Digital Parenting is important. For parents, particularly those a bit less tech-savvy than their children, the site gives them knowledge. More schools are accessing it and more organisations are using it.”
Helen believes that, as with offline parenting, communication is key when it comes to protecting young people in the online world. “You worry about what your child will find online,” she says. “Human behaviour doesn’t change because of technology, but technology can amplify the pressures on children. You don’t want to burst their bubble, but if you leave it too long you’re not equipping them to deal with any problems they come across. You have to start helping children build resilience when they’re young. “Knowing when to have that conversation is key. It’s harder with older children, so I would encourage people to think about it early on.”
Children listen to each other
Helen believes that it’s not just a question of parents telling children what to do, but that young people should be encouraged to talk among themselves about staying safe online.
“Children listen to each other,” she says. “Peer-to-peer communication is important for teaching children how to stay safe online, so our relationship with the Scouts is crucial.”
Vodafone also worked with anti-bullying charity The Diana Award to produce the Be Strong Online programme for schools. In February 2016, it launched a series of Be Strong emojis. They allow children and young people to show support to friends who are being bullied by adding simple, positive graphics to texts and social media messages.
“Showing my age here, I thought, ‘Is that going to work?’” admits Helen. “But they’ve reached more than 150 million people on social media and the Be Strong film has had nearly a million views on YouTube. “Children find it much easier to use an emoji – it’s a simple way to allow them to start a conversation.”
Technology can be a force for good
Helen is a trustee of the Vodafone Foundation and the organisation is obviously hugely important to her. The Foundation works throughout the world, including the UK, using mobile technology to help improve the lives of vulnerable people.
The Foundation’s JustTextGiving service lets people make charitable donations using their smartphone. “It’s raised more than £38 million for charities so far,” says Helen, proudly. “That’s the challenge: how do we deploy our core products and services in a way that makes a real social impact?”
Despite the challenges families face, Helen is optimistic about the future. Whether it’s her own daughters being inspired by watching videos of British astronaut Tim Peake on YouTube, or enjoying a simple country stroll, technology has the potential to unlock knowledge and widen positive experiences for the next generation.
“We went out for a family walk at the weekend and heard a beautiful bird singing,” says Helen. “Neither I nor my husband knew its name but my daughter recorded the sound and then asked Siri on her phone what the bird was.
“Children use technology enthusiastically – it’s an integral part of their lives. It allows them to access fantastic information and – as long as we teach them how to stay safe online – that is a really great thing.”
To find out more about the Vodafone Foundation, go to vodafone.com/foundation