Campaign shows how online pressure boils over in the first year of secondary school

Internet Matters launches Back To School campaign as new research reveals Year 7 is a pinch-point for online issues – from pressure on children to be on social media to have the latest device.

Internet Matters launches Back To School campaign as new research reveals Year 7 is a pinch-point for online issues – from pressure on children to be on social media to having the latest device
● Parents given advice and toolkit on how to keep children safe online as they transition to big school
● 7 out of 10 parents of Year 7 pupils are worried their child will be pushed into playing harmful online games, join multiple social media apps and share images or videos – with 8 out of 10 concerned about cyberbullying
● And while nearly half of parents agree kids should carry their phones to and from school, only 1 in 10 say they should be allowed in lessons
● Head teacher from hit TV show Educating Yorkshire speaks out to urge parents to work with schools as first year of secondary school provides ‘perfect storm’ for online issues

The first year of secondary school has become a pinch-point for online safety – as 11-year-olds face a “perfect storm” of digital pressures, a new campaign can reveal. Nearly seven out of 10 (68%) parents of Year 7 pupils are concerned their children are under pressure to have multiple social media apps and 71% are worried they will be pushed into sharing images or videos, according to new research from Internet Matters, which has launched a new set of guides to help parents. An overwhelming majority of Year 7 parents (73%) said they were anxious about their child’s ability to manage online relationships, while three quarters (74%) feared they would be pressured into taking part in harmful online challenges and crazes. The study also revealed 72% of children now own a smartphone in their first year of secondary school. Eight out of 10 parents (80%) of Year 7 pupils said they were concerned about cyberbullying and seven out of 10 (68%) worried their kids felt the strain of having the latest device. And as France introduces a blanket ban of phones in schools this week, 59% of UK parents agreed that phones shouldn’t be allowed inside the school, although nearly half (49%) believed children should be allowed to carry them on the way to and from school. Only one in 10 (9%) parents said phones should be permitted in lessons, one in 4 (27%) at break time and one in 3 parents (34%) over lunch time.

The not-for-profit organisation, which helps millions of parents keep their children safe online, has produced a series of videos and online guides featuring leading experts in children’s digital safety as well as teachers including Matthew Burton of hit Channel 4 docu-series Educating Yorkshire.

BAFTA-nominated Mr Burton – the newly appointed head teacher at Thornhill Academy – called on parents and schools to work together. He said: “When kids start secondary school, it’s a perfect storm for online pressures; they have new technology, they are trying to maintain old friendships while also establish new mates. “It’s vital parents and teachers work together to give children the right levels of support so they’re safe online – especially during this tricky transition period from primary to secondary school.” The teacher– who rose to fame in 2013 for helping his pupil Musharaf overcome a stammer – added: “Even though we feel passionate about not allowing smartphones at Thornhill Academy, a great deal of the incidents and issues we deal with originate in some way to the internet. “We’ve had to handle everything from fights in the playground over things that have been said online over the summer holidays, to pupils that have taken inappropriate images which have then been shared. “Parents are often shocked that their children are involved in this sort of activity which is why it’s so important they are aware of the issues and with our help can take action to protect children from those risks, whether that is sexting, cyberbullying or taking part in harmful games online.”

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador, said: “Children who are starting secondary school are going from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond and they are suddenly having to find their way.
“On top of that, they have all these new communication tools and kids are starting to interact online – which can be very different from the face to face interactions they’re used to.
“Unless parents take the time to outline the differences of communicating online and offline and prepare them for how things can be misconstrued online – they run the risk of feeling isolated or even bullied.
“The online world offers such fantastic opportunities for kids and both parents and teachers are vital in ensuring they’re making the most of it and we hope these guides can help parents feel more comfortable about their child’s digital world.”

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: “Our research finds that 72% of children in Year 7 have a smartphone and suddenly they’ll have the world at their fingertips. “Giving a child a smartphone can give parents peace of mind and it offers children fantastic opportunities to learn, communicate and explore but if children aren’t prepared – they can face many digital challenges including managing friendship groups, pressure to have social media or even pressure to play certain games.

“Parents have a major role to play in equipping their children with the right tools to navigate their online world – especially during this pivotal moment when they’re facing a raft of change.”
For the full guides with advice from Mr Burton, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Director of Strategy and Education at Wishford Schools Jenny Burrett, e-safety expert Karl Hopwood and Mark Bentley of London Grid for Learning. Visit:
For more information on how to keep children safe online visit

Notes for Editors
About Internet Matters: Internet Matters ( is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which aims to help parents keep their children safe online. It was founded by the UK’s four major broadband providers; BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media and partners with the BBC,EE, Facebook, Google and Huawei. Internet Matters is an Executive Member of UKCCIS (UK Council for Child Internet Safety) and an industry expert working with The Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying, founded by the Duke of Cambridge. It was awarded a grant from the Department for Education, to deliver the ‘Make a noise’ programme (a reporting and resource platform, developed with tootoot) to help combat bullying.
*Internet Matters research August 2018 of 2022 parents – 663 of whom had children in the transition period, which included Year 6, 7 and 8.

Media Contacts:
If you would like to speak to an Internet Matters spokesperson please contact:
Katie Earlam 0203 770 7612 07790 664 814 [email protected]


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