The CEOs of the UK’s biggest internet service providers have come together to put the interests of children first as they recommit to funding Internet Matters for a further three years. 

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media announced their new investment as Internet Matters, an organisation founded in May 2014 by the four ISPs to encourage parents to help keep their children safe online, published their Impact Report demonstrating the success of the not-for-profit organisation’s first three years.

[Read more: BT Parental Controls - the free and easy way to stay safe online]

However with the digital landscape rapidly evolving in the past three years, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are now calling on other companies in the internet value chain to join them in working together to help tackle cyberbullying and other online harm with direct investment and partnership with Internet Matters.

It is estimated that three quarters of children aged 10-12 have a social media account, with the average child holding 4 social media accounts, posting 26 times a day and spending 2.8 hours daily on social media.

Making a difference: Cyberbullying

The explosion in social media has been linked to a rise in online activity damaging to children. Research published by Internet Matters from May 2017 found that 1 in 5 parents say their children have received cruel comments online, with a quarter (24%) of children expected to experience some form of cyberbullying, and 62 per cent of parents saying they are concerned about cyberbullying.

Over the past three years, Internet Matters have had over 4.5m visits to its advice website, with almost half in the past year alone. Visitors mostly look for help and advice managing their children’s social media problems, followed by cyberbullying. After visiting the site, 78 per cent of parents say they will now talk to their child about their online activity and safety.                                                       

More to be done

The founding members of Internet Matters put aside competitive differences to work together, and have jointly invested more than £6m of direct cash (rising to £10m over the next three years) in addition to many tens of millions of marketing support, operational resources and implemented initiatives to support Internet Matters.

The four ISPs have all developed parental controls and filtering as well as informing customers about Internet Matters through a range of marketing and communications, but today are calling for more to be done by social media platforms and global tech giants.

Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive Officer, BT plc, said: ““We are incredibly proud of the impact that Internet Matters has made in just three years since its creation.  BT is keen to see this work continue and is confident that Internet Matters can do even more as it continues to build industry support beyond the founding ISP members.  Working together we can ensure that the UK children remains one of the safest places in the world for children to be online”

Carolyn Bunting, Chief Executive Officer, Internet Matters, said "The success of Internet Matters over the last three years has proved there’s a real demand from parents who want to know more about how to keep their children safe online.

"The ongoing commitment from the UK's biggest internet service providers is vital in building an industry collective with a common purpose, working together to improve children’s internet safety, and empower all parents and carers to help their children benefit from digital technology smartly and safely.”

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State, Department of Culture Media and Sport said: “Over the past three years Internet Matters has reached millions of people and played an important role in helping parents keep their children safe online. It's fantastic to see some of the UK’s biggest technology companies recommit to taking responsibility for the online safety of their customers.  We look forward to working closely with them as we take forward the proposals in our Internet Safety Strategy, which is due to be published shortly."

For a comprehensive and easy-to-use resource of the most up-to-date information for keeping your child safe online, check out Internet Matters.