Impact report 2021 – 2022

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.

Mum and dad sitting on a sofa with devices while their child lays upside down with their own device. Text reads "Together for a better internet impact report 2021/22

Margot James

Internet Matters Chairperson

Message from our Chair

“As life returns to a new post pandemic normality, there can be no doubt that children’s use of connected technology continues to expand and grow. Whilst this will bring endless positive opportunities, it will also sadly bring with it an ever-increasing range of online risks which children and families will have to learn to navigate.

“Internet Matters has leaned into these new challenges, providing an ever-growing array of new resources and materials that are designed to help address the emerging trends that we are seeing. Over the year, we have worked with all our partners to maximise the impact that we can have, and we are of course thankful to them for their ongoing support for such an important issue.”

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“But as our evidence continues to suggest, it is children, and in particular those that are the most vulnerable, who continue to get the worst experiences online, and so we urge the government to live up to the promise of making the UK the safest place to be online.

“In the period covered by this report, the Information Commissioner’s Children’s Code came into effect, Media Literacy Strategies from DCMS and Ofcom were published, and the long awaited and much needed Online Safety Bill is making its way through Parliament. Internet Matters is committed to giving voice to families as industry and policymakers navigate these complex yet essential developments.

“However, the responsibility to keep children safe and well online does not lie with just one person or organisation. It is a shared responsibility, and Internet Matters is a shining example of what can be achieved through collaboration.

“As I end my term as Chair of Internet Matters, I know that they will continue to be the voice for families, making sure that they have the most up-to-date advice and support they need at their fingertips to ensure their  children are not just safe online, but they can flourish in the digital world.”

Impact report highlights

A year in review

April 2021 – March 2022

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.

A map of the world showing how many users accessed Internet Matters resources to demonstrate our impact. 9.5 million users were reached globally, including 3 million users in the UK, 1.9 million in North America and 5.4 million users across Europe.

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 and what they do differently as a result.

In the UK, 92% of parents who visited our website went on to take positive action to support their child:

or parents talked to their children about being safe online

of parents set some rules or boundaries about what children could do online

of parents set up parental controls on devices their children use

of parents spent more time learning about online safety

of parents spent more time with their children learning about what they do online

of parents reviewed their children’s privacy settings on devices, apps and platforms

Our research

From Survive to Thrive

Between January 2020 and March 2021, we asked parents about their children’s use of technology, their concerns and attitudes to their children’s online lives and their perception of the impact on their wellbeing. This study encouraged parents to reflect on the positive and negative aspects of this increased reliance on the connected home, which in turn allowed us to assess how we can best support them and advocate on their behalf.

See report.

survive to thrive

Demystifying Teens' Online Interactions

This report was commissioned by Roblox to develop a greater understanding of how teens thrive online, and how they can be better supported. We engaged with teen gamers, content creators and other general internet users to understand their experiences in relation to belonging and self-expression, as well as the role played by parents and carers in their online lives.

See report.

Roblox Demystifying Teens Online Interactions report

Children's Wellbeing in a Digital World Index

In this report, we presented our Index which measures the impact of digital technology on the wellbeing of children in the UK. This survey was intended to identify what the most positive outcomes are for children online, where the inequalities are and how this picture is changing over time.

Learn about our Digital Wellbeing Research programme.

Changing Conversations

In this report, we explored how professionals respond to vulnerable children’s use of connected technology. Our analysis highlighted that professionals  frequently struggle to support vulnerable children in their connected lives, as they often focus solely on the risks associated with technologies instead of the benefits.

See report.

Our Voice Matters

In March 2022, we conducted research with young people aged 14-18 to gather their feedback on the draft Online Safety Bill. In a highly contested space, this work allowed us to give voice to those whom the Bill was designed to protect: young people themselves.

See report.

Young people discuss what they want from the Online Safety Bill

Our campaigns

For our work to have the most impact, we must ensure it gets into the hands of the parents and professionals that support children and young people. Raising awareness for our resources is a key part of our activity, and we often do this in collaboration with our partners.

'All things techy and internetty'

Our founding partner Sky help us to drive awareness of our resources by providing us with pro-bono TV advertising. This year we have used the space to run ‘all things techy and internetty’ – a new TV advert recognising it can be hard for parents to know if they’re making the right choices for their child’s online safety and wellbeing. The ad signposts Internet Matters as a place where parents can stay up-to-date and informed to make decisions about what’s best for their children.

Play Together/Play Smart

As part of their commitment to encourage better, safer and more responsible gaming for their players and parents, we worked with Electronic Arts to encourage parents to get familiar with the simple steps they can take to ensure their children are playing video games safely.

It came as our latest research told us that only 42% of parents speak to their children about safe and responsible gaming and only 37% have set up parental controls.

It included a series of joint campaigns entitled Play Together/Play Smart, supported by football legend Ian Wright and comedian Katherine Ryan, with dedicated pages full of advice and guidance for parents on how to create a safe gaming experience for their families.

A drawn image of a tablet showing different app icons. Text reads 'About everything techy and internetty' with a screen caption reading 'Free tailored advice for every family'.

Connecting Safely Online

Following the launch of our Connecting Safely Online hub with Meta in 2020, we continued to raise awareness of our tailored resources to further aid those supporting young people with SEND. We ran a campaign highlighting the key features of the hub, which focused on reaching SEN schools and SEND professionals, such as SENCOs, teacher support staff and Designated Safeguarding Leads in a secondary school setting.

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
Jess Asato, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Barnado’s
John Carr OBE, Secretary, UK’s Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS)
Jonathan Baggaley, CEO, PSHE Association
Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO, Kidscape
Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, Psychologist and Internet Matters Ambassador
Lizzie Reeves, Children’s Commissioner’s Office
Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor, Director of the Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University
Martha Evans, Director, Anti-Bullying Alliance
Sam Marks, Manager CSA Education and Prevention, NCA-CEOP
Dr Simon P. Hammond, Lecturer in Education, University of East Anglia
Victoria Nash, Deputy Director, Associate Professor & Senior Policy Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute
Will Gardner OBE, CEO, Childnet International and Director at UKSIC

Looking forward

We must continue to support the range of adults that surround vulnerable children and look forward to supporting both Ofcom and DCMS with their media literacy strategies, both of which rightly focus on these under-served groups.

We will continue to give our time to leading the UKCIS Vulnerable Users Working Group on a voluntary basis, and are looking forward to delivering a DCMS Media Literacy Taskforce funded project. We are excited to be working with Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop and deliver a Digital Champions programme that will support young people leaving the care system in Greater Manchester.

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We are also looking forward to releasing our second publication of our Digital Wellbeing Index. The Index has set a benchmark for how connected technology impacts on the wellbeing of young people, demonstrating the complex relationship children and young people have with devices. We are excited to see what insight the second year of data will bring us, and we hope to be able to use these insights to provide families with more tailored advice based on their individual circumstances.

One major project that was developed throughout the year that this report covers is Digital Matters. With support from our partners ESET UK, we have developed a free interactive learning platform that teachers and parents can use to help children in the later years of primary learn about online safety and wellbeing.

Following extensive research with teachers, we developed lesson resources that provide a safe online space where children can experience scenarios  featuring different online risks and choose how their characters could respond for a positive outcome.

We are delighted that many of the resources have received the PSHE Association’s Quality Mark and that we have had more than 1,500 teachers already registered with the platform.

Carolyn Bunting, IM CEO

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