Impact report 2022 – 2023

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.

Carolyn Bunting, IM CEO

Carolyn Bunting MBE

Internet Matters CEO

Foreword from the CEO

T his impact report is being published at a time of great anticipation, with the Online Safety Bill on the cusp of passing into law and becoming the long-awaited Online Safety Act. Over five years in the making, this legislation will represent a step change in the UK’s tech landscape, making online platforms more responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their users – especially children. Greater regulation is important and necessary. We have already seen improvements to services following the introduction of the Children’s Code in September 2021, and we look forward to many more. Internet Matters stands ready to help companies fulfil their new responsibilities by providing expert advice and input.

Read more

But I am clear in my view that regulation is only part of the answer. There also needs to be a continued focus on educating and empowering children themselves, and the adults that support them. In an era of ChatGPT, deepfake technology and cryptocurrencies, media literacy can no longer be seen as a luxury. It provides skills and knowledge which are fundamental to children becoming happy, successful and responsible citizens of the future.

Parents must be at the heart of efforts to educate children in this space. When something goes wrong online, the overwhelming majority of children turn first to their parents. Amongst all the work Internet Matters has done to support parents over the past year, I am particularly proud of the research we have undertaken that demonstrates how engaged, confident and supportive parents are the most significant factor in keeping children safe, well and happy online. And with the support of our partners, we continue to campaign to raise awareness and provide families with the much-needed help and advice.

Schools also have an important role to play, with online safety forming part of the core curriculum. Online life crosses the boundary between school and home, meaning that collaboration between parents and teachers is key. Teachers play a particularly important role in supporting vulnerable children who may not have parents with the capabilities to provide support themselves. This is why Internet Matters continues to expand our offer to schools. It has been a pleasure to see Digital Matters, our platform for teachers of 9–11-year-olds, go from strength to strength.

I am proud of everything Internet Matters has done over the past year to equip parents and teachers with vital advice and support. But this work does not happen in a vacuum, and we cannot ignore the incredibly challenging context of the past year: a cost-of-living crisis putting so many families under  incredible strain, along with continued funding constraints faced by schools. Furthermore, accountability for media literacy at the national level remains divided between several government departments and agencies. Internet Matters will continue to champion the voices and interests of families to all those who can make a difference to their online lives.

As the online safety regime begins to bed in, it is my hope that media literacy can now receive the time, attention and commitment it deserves. Internet Matters stands ready to support these efforts and do our bit to make the UK the safest – and most fulfilling – place in the world for children and families to be online.

A year in review

April 2022 – March 2023

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.

Image from the Impact Report that shows percentage of use across the world.

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.

of UK parents who visit our website go on to take positive action to keep their child safe online

of parents had a conversation with their child about online safety

of parents reviewed their child’s online safety settings

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

of parents would recommend Internet Matters as a trusted resource

of parents say they learned something new that will help them keep their child safe

Our research

Digital Parenting

Key insights:

  • In households where parents feel they have a good balance of using digital devices, they feel more knowledgeable and confident about online safety issues and are also more confident that their child knows how to stay safe online
  • The number of controls put in place by parents to manage their child’s online activity is not a strong indicator of digital wellbeing outcomes; it’s more important that children feel that their parents are engaged with what they do online and talk to them about their experiences
  • Parents see many challenges in keeping up with technology and their children’s online lives and are looking for a range of support, including more information from schools, the apps and platforms their children use and from the government itself.

See full report.

Mother supporting her child in a digital world through looking at a smartphone together, smiling.

Digital Wellbeing Index Report Year 2

Key insights:

  • The positive effects of being online have reduced for children since last year and just 3 of the 16 wellbeing metrics measured show a year-on-year
    improvement, with significant reductions in the positive impact on developmental and social wellbeing, which may be driven by less reliance on technology in those areas of children’s lives in a post pandemic world.
  • The negative impact of digital technology on children’s emotional wellbeing has lessened compared with last year, but only for boys. In particular, this seems to be experienced more by older boys, who reported experiencing fewer negative effects than last year.
  • 9-10-year-old girls appear to be experiencing more negative impacts of digital technology on their social and physical wellbeing than the same age-group last year. This may reflect the fact that girls are getting their first device and actively socialising online from a younger age than they used to be.
  • Children in families facing challenging financial circumstances, and those who have disabilities, mental health issues or SEND, experience more negative effects from digital technology across all measured dimensions of their wellbeing than those in families without these challenges. Children in these families also reported a higher incidence of online experiences that are considered harmful, and that these experiences, when they
    occurred, had a worse effect on them than children in other families.

See full report.

Text reads 'Children's Wellbeing in a Digital World, Year Two, Index Report 2023.' The Internet Matters and Revealing Reality logos sit underneath. On the right is an image of 5 children on smartphones.

Intentional Use

Key insights:

  • Teens want to feel in control of their online behaviours and habits, but in reality, this is a challenge. They typically rely on self-discipline to manage their online behaviour, including their screen time – not always to great effect. They are not alone in this struggle; parents told us that they too struggle to feel in control of their online lives.
  • The majority of teens do not use existing tools and features to manage their time online, either because they did not think to seek a solution to the challenges they articulated or because they weren’t aware of the tools. They saw the potential for more tools focused on:
    • Information – having access to more data about their usage.
    • Flexibility – tools which do not impose hard limits but flex according to young people’s needs.
    • Active alerts – e.g. warning times, pop-up messages and silent modes.

As a result of this research, TikTok introduced new tools aimed at promoting positive digital habits – See more information here.

See full report.

Supporting educators on issues of online safety

For most secondary school aged children, a mobile phone comes as standard, which means that schools are increasingly having to deal with issues caused by their pupils’ online activity. Many teachers feel ill-equipped to manage this successfully. With the support of TikTok, we conducted research with a range of teaching and senior leadership staff, and our subsequent report explores the help and support they feel they need.

Key insights:

  • Educators often felt their approach to tackling online safety issues was too reactive, and they lacked the time and knowledge to pre-empt and deal with them effectively.
  • With a constantly changing digital landscape, teachers believe they need more training and resources to help them stay up to date and to provide guidance on how to discuss topics in an age-appropriate way.
  • This lack of good quality resources, along with the unique nature of most cases made it difficult to establish school-wide policies to guide their approach.

See full report.

Smiling teacher with overlay text that reads Supporting educators on issues of online safety: Exploring resource needs. The Internet Matters logo is in the top left corner with 'Supported by' and the TikTok logo in the bottom right.

A Whole New World?

No conversation about the future of technology is complete without mention of the metaverse. Yet the voices of parents and children have been missing from the debate. This report summarises current developments in the metaverse landscape, early evidence of the opportunities and risks posed to children and what families themselves think and feel about it.

Key insights:

  • Many families say they have little to no understanding of the metaverse. 4 in 10 parents (41%) say they don’t know much, or anything, about the metaverse. Over half of children (53%) say the same.
  • Early evidence suggests that the metaverse presents enormous opportunities for children – but also considerable risks. These include exposure to harmful content, greater exploitation and abuse and the misuse of children’s personal data.
  • Parents are more likely than children to identify the risks of the metaverse: only 59% of children identify at least one concern about the metaverse, compared to 81% of parents. This means that parents will play a critically important role in helping children to stay safe.
  • Those who are building and governing the metaverse need to ensure that it is child-friendly from the start. The tech industry needs to involve families in the design process and put their needs first. Ofcom should require companies to specifically consider the metaverse in their risk assessments under forthcoming online safety regulation and consider developing a dedicated Code of Practice for metaverse services.

This report provoked interesting discussion and debate across the sector and is shaping our activity with key partners going forward.

See full report.

Girl wearing VR headset with pink and purple lighting and text that reads 'A Whole New World? Towards a Child-Friendly Metaverse'

Awareness and Action

Digital Matters

This year, with support from ESET, we launched Digital Matters – our online safety platform offering teachers of 9-11-year-olds free, ready-to-use lesson resources designed to help keep children safe online via interactive activities and dynamic storytelling. Utilising an art style that mirrors students’ popular interest in manga, the platform launched with four lessons which achieved the PSHE Association’s Quality Mark. These were under the subjects of Online Bullying, Privacy and Security, Managing Online Information and Online Relationships. Each lesson introduces pupils to the issues they might face and how to find support. Since the launch, three new lessons have been added with more on the way.

See platform.

TikTok Playbook

In response to research findings, together with TikTok, we created an interactive Playbook to help teachers gain a better understanding of the technology their students are using daily. From enhanced privacy and controls options to how the platform has implemented a ‘safety by design’ approach to better protect users under 16, the TikTok Playbook provides short form content that teachers can use to improve their own understanding and use with students and parents – all factors teachers told us were important attributes they’d like to see in a resource.

See TikTok Playbook.

Digital Matters is a free online safety lesson platform for teachers

Press Start for PlayStation Safety

Together with Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), we developed ‘Press Start for PlayStation Safety’ – an interactive quiz to help families learn how to have a safer gaming experience.

The new resource has been created for parents and children to complete together by asking a series of questions related to the safety and privacy features available on the PlayStation Network. It encourages families to work together to understand good gaming behaviours and the parental controls available on the console, helping to create a healthy, safe and joyful experience for children while using their games console.

See interactive quiz.

Financial Scams

With the support of our experts, in December 2022, we created an interactive guide to help parents tackle online scams. It featured advice on the most common online scams, what signs to look out for and what steps to take to prevent and deal with online scams.

See full guide.

PlayStation Online Safety Quiz with Sony

Digital image of mum with smartphone surrounded by icons showing conversation, settings, checks and questioning. Text reads 'Tackling online scams, Tips to spot the signs and get support.' The Internet Matters logo is in the top left corner.

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
Jessica Edwards, Senior Policy Advisor, Barnardo’s
Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, Psychologist and Internet Matters Ambassador
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

Read full Impact report

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