O2 and NSPCC Helpline Advisors making internet a safer place

I have the knowledge and the skills to keep children safe online. I want to help others do the same, says helpline advisor Kelly Johnson

We asked Kelly Johnson, one of our O2 and NSPCC Helpline Advisors, to talk to us about how her team are playing a part in making the internet a better place for children.

I've been working at O2 for 6 years now. In August 2015 I joined the O2 and NSPCC partnership as a Helpline advisor.

I currently work 5 days a week on the helpline and can honestly say I feel I'm making a real difference when I come to work each day.

With each call that my colleagues and I take, we are playing our part in making the internet a safer place for children to learn, explore, and have fun.

One call that I remember was an Aunt who rang due to her 11 year-old nephew having inappropriate conversations with someone online. She was worried and suspicious, as she didn't know who he had been speaking to.

He'd also been spending lots of time on the tablet – even taking it to the toilet with him, not playing out as much and wanting to be online a lot more than usual.

I was able to help provide information to put in place some privacy settings and advise on how to block inappropriate websites. I also got the caller some help from the NSPCC - they gave her some advice on how to approach the conversation with her nephew and how to explain the importance of safe boundaries when using the internet.

I followed up with a call back to check if the settings and advice had helped. The Aunt was extremely pleased - explaining that her nephew was back to his usual self and now being very open and honest about what he was doing online.

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Another call that sticks in my mind was from a teenage girl. She told me she had been in a relationship which had ended but was now being blackmailed with pictures she had sent when they were together.

Unfortunately, this is something that's very common nowadays. Children and young people do not realise the vulnerable position they're in when they send these images.

This young girl was worried her parents would find out and it had affected her to the point she began self-harming.

Although I knew this was not something we could change with a few settings I could still offer her help and support. I kept her on the line and gained her agreement to speak with the NSPCC.

I kept her on the line and gained her agreement to speak with the NSPCC. I explained that the threats made against her were actually a crime and that we would be able to help her report this, and get her the emotional support she needed to move on from the situation.

It's calls like this that give me focus. I realised that this could have been prevented if the child had been taught from a younger age how to be Share Aware.

I have 2 nephews who I adore. I have the knowledge and the skills to keep them safe online. I want to help others who don't have the same skills and knowledge do the same for the children in their lives.

Top 5 online safety tips for parents

Of all of the calls I've received, my top 5 tips to parents would be:

  1. Talk about internet safety from an early age, little and often, as a family.
  2. Use Share-Aware as a guide if you are worried about how to start the conversation.
  3. Get involved with what your children are doing online, take an interest. Just because they're quiet it doesn't mean they're safe.
  4. Positively encourage honesty - most children will not come to you with a concern if they think they'll get into trouble.
  5. Use Net-Aware to research games and apps your child shows an interest in – go through the privacy settings with them so that you know they are safe before using the app. A great example of this would be YouTube for kids – it allows you to set the child's age as part of the set up so that only appropriate content is shown.