Impact report 2020 – 2021

Together for a better internet

In this year’s impact report, we’ve captured the great work that we’ve carried out over the course of the year to further support a diverse range of families in helping their children benefit safely from the impact of connected technology.

You’ll find insights on how our collaboration with our partners and online safety experts has made a difference in children’s lives online and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year.

Margot James

Internet Matters Chairperson

Message from our Chair

“During the period covered by this report, the UK experienced multiple lockdowns and the impact on families was staggering. Within this context, I am so proud of the work of Internet Matters and all that they have achieved.

The overnight shift to remote working challenged many organisations including our long-standing industry partners, but without a doubt, Internet Matters and the coalition adapted and in its 7th anniversary since launch, has had its most impactful year yet.”

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Families have never been more reliant upon technology to connect to the outside world and find some sense of normality in these uncertain times. Technology has been a lifeline for many to connect with friends and family, continue to work, home school children and be entertained.

Through initiatives such as Stay Safe Stay Home, Internet Matters provided key information and resources to families to ensure that their daily online lives during the pandemic were fulfilling and above all, safe. We have continued our work to support the most vulnerable young people online with new research and resources and supported those who were digitally excluded with safety information as they were gifted devices.

As lockdown restrictions gradually lifted, Internet Matters focussed on supporting parents in navigating their way through the impact that their children’s increased digital connectivity had on their overall wellbeing. We will continue to work with our partners to connect with and support as many parents and their children across the UK as possible.

As we share this report, the long-awaited Online Safety Bill has been published and The Children’s Code from the Information Commissioners Office is now in force. These are welcomed regulatory interventions and we look forward to seeing their impact over the coming years. We hope that together they make the internet a significantly safer place for young people. In the meantime, collaboration is at the heart of Internet Matters’ work and we continue to work with a wide range of experts, academics, the third sector and industry. Protecting children’s safety and wellbeing online is complex and our work is all the better because of their ongoing commitment and invaluable support.

The work of Internet Matters cannot be achieved without the support of our growing number of industry partners and their consistent commitment since we started our work in 2014. Their support, and their willingness to collaborate on a sustained basis, has allowed Internet Matters to make a real impact in the lives of children and young people which you will see throughout this report. That’s why I was delighted to join Internet Matters as the inaugural Chairperson in September 2020.

Finally, Internet Matters prides itself on being a collaborative organisation and as such, it works with a wide range of experts, academics, and third sector organisations. We’d like to extend our thanks to them for their support for our work, it is simply better as a result of their input.

Impact report highlights

A year in review

April 2020 – March 2021

Awareness and Usage

The challenge of helping children to remain happy and healthy online touches almost every family in the country, so expanding our reach to drive awareness is critical. Along with our partners we continue to collectively find innovative ways of reaching and engaging with parents.

Impact and Action

Understanding the impact of Internet Matters is vitally important to ensure we continue to support the needs of parents and professionals. To do this, we work with an independent research agency who manage our Impact Assessment Programme.

Three times a year we talk to 2,000 parents of children aged 4-16 to ask them about what they think and feel about the resources available at internetmatters.org and what they do differently as a result.

of parents are more likely to spend more time learning about online safety

of parents are pleased there is an organisation that champions children’s online safety like Internet Matters

of parents are more likely to make use of privacy settings on social media

of parents are more likely to talk to their children about staying safe online

of parents feel better prepared to handle issues that might come up in the future

of parents are more likely to make use of parental controls

Almost 9 in 10 parents would recommend Internet Matters

Themes we focussed on to support families

The report showcases two areas of continued focus for us in 2020/21; reflecting on the impact of lockdown on children and young people’s digital lives and supporting vulnerable children and young people. Below you’ll find a summary of the research and resources that we created to address these themes.

Lessons from lockdown

Without a doubt 2020 and 2021 have been incredibly challenging for families as they’ve grappled with the impact of lockdown restrictions on their day-to-day lives.

As the world came to a standstill, we felt a sizeable shift in their reliance upon and use of technology, with it becoming a lifeline to continue to connect to the outside world. Throughout the last year we have been focussed on understanding the needs of parents and supporting them through these uncertain times.

Stay Safe Stay Home hub

In response to the first UK lockdown in March 2020, Internet Matters took action and launched a new hub, #StaySafeStayHome, consolidating our most relevant content to make life easier for parents adjusting to life at home. We worked closely with brand ambassador and child psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos on new content that focused specifically on challenges parents were facing as a result of lockdown.

How lockdown impacted children’s lives

At regular intervals between January 2020 and March 2021, we asked parents about their children’s use of technology, their concerns and attitude to their children’s online lives and perceptions of the impact on their wellbeing. This study gives a unique view into how the family relationship with technology has changed from the pre-pandemic world through various periods of lockdown and adjustment to a new way of living virtually.

Read our From Survive to Thrive report

Vulnerable children

Our focus on supporting vulnerable children and young people, through the rainbow of adults that care for them, is grounded in insights and evidence that demonstrates they are more at risk. Our research consistently shows that vulnerable children and young people need more support in this area from the adults that care for them.

During the last 12 months, we have continued to chair the UK Council for Internet Safety’s Vulnerable Users Working Group which brings together expert volunteers to implement initiatives to reduce the numbers of vulnerable users experiencing online harm.

We have published two key reports that reinforce that it is the most vulnerable children in society that are disproportionately affected by online harms. We have also launched a significant set of new tailored resources for children and young people, delivered at a time when they needed them most.

Reports

Resources

Our campaigns

Listening to the experiences and views of young people about their online lives is critical for anyone that engages with them. Therefore, Internet Matters was delighted to continue its partnership with Youthworks and the University of Kingston on the 2019 Cybersurvey, as nearly 15,000 schoolchildren participated.

In Their Own Words – The Digital Lives of Schoolchildren highlighted a number of important areas which we were able to then address through our campaigns through the year.

The Online Facts of Life

It’s a fact of life that at some point as our children get older, they will be exposed to some level of inappropriate content, contact or conduct online. However, being able to talk openly about subjects that are embarrassing or awkward isn’t always easy. We created a campaign around real families talking about their own experiences in an attempt to normalise the conversations around online safety. Our hope was that parents didn’t feel so overwhelmed and alone.

Tackling misinformation and fake news

In partnership with Google, we collaborated on a project to help parents develop the tools to teach their families how to tackle fake news and misinformation. Upon reviewing the landscape of what is available around fake news, it was clear that there was a need to give parents a more in-depth understanding of the issue to support their children.

In order to inform them of strategies to empower children and young people to recognise and report fake news online, we worked with Professor William Watkins at Brunel University to create a hub offering top tips, resources and expert advice on the issue including a new interactive ‘Find the Fake’ quiz.

Teaching teens respect for themselves and others online

Through its community programme, the Premier League wanted to support children and their families with the issue of online behaviour and its impact on physical and mental health. The primary focus was on building respectful and tolerant relationships online, whilst encouraging young people to more actively manage their time spent online.

We delivered lesson plans, presentations and briefing notes for coaches to be used at 91 Premier League and English Football League Clubs in the community Kicks programme.

Building children’s online money skills

Internet Matters were delighted to welcome Barclays as Corporate Partner this year. We worked together to develop our first set of dedicated resources to help parents empower their children to make the right choices about how they spend their money online and how to avoid online fraud and scams.

The new resources included practical steps and strategies parents can use to help their children learn about online money management, including in-game spending and loot boxes. Together, we hope we can support parents in having the right conversations about money with their children, so they can enjoy all that the online world has to offer safely.

Working collaboratively with experts

We want to thank the members of our Expert Advisory Panel, whose continued contribution to our work has been invaluable. Their time and expertise allow the work of Internet Matters to be grounded in insight and be the best it can possibly be.

Alison Preston, Co-Director and Head of Research, Ofcom
Emma James, Senior Policy Advisor, Barnados
John Care OBE, Secretary, UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS)
Jonathan Baggaley, CEO, PSHE Association
Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO, Kidscape
Margot James, Chair, Internet Matters
Marie Smith, Head of Education, CEOP
Mark Griffiths, Professor/Director of the Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University
Martha Evans, Director, Anti-Bullying Alliance
Dr Simon P. Hammond, Lecturer in Education University of East Anglia
Simon Vibert, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Analyst, Office of the Children’s Commissioner
Victoria Nash, Deputy Director/Associate Professor, Oxford Internet Institute
Will Gardner OBE, CEO, Childnet and Director at UKSIC

Looking forward

When we embarked on our working year back in 2020, nobody could have imagined the pandemic that tested, challenged and pushed organisations and individuals to new limits. But we have fallen back on our resilience and collectively found a new digital norm.

Undoubtedly, this year has been tremendously tough for us all but Internet Matters has remained focused, continuing to bring together leading organisations to create a future where children and young people are prepared to benefit safely from the impact of connected technology.

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Despite the pandemic we have grown significantly and welcomed new employees and new partners into the fold; I couldn’t be prouder of where we are and what we have achieved together.

The last two years have shown us how digital services underpin our lives and in the coming year we aim to develop a much greater understanding of the impact of connected technology on digital wellbeing. This will be a vital evidence base to inform our work around media literacy, which we are pleased to see is a pillar of the forthcoming online safety bill.

We will continue to prioritise our very important work to support the most vulnerable children online. We continue to see that although their risk of harm is disproportionately higher than their non-vulnerable peers, they also get greater benefits from being online, so it’s imperative that we support these children in a way that allows them to thrive in the online world.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone that we work with. Industry, policymakers, educators, parents – all of us have a collective responsibility to ensure children are happy, healthy and above all, safe online. I am delighted that Internet Matters plays an important role in this space and I look forward to making even more progress next year.

Carolyn Bunting, IM CEO

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