We talk to Vicki Shotbolt - CEO of The Parent Zone - about what another Conservative government means for parents, and how they'll tackle technology...
Vodafone has been working with The Parent Zone – an organisation dedicated to providing useful information to parents – for a number of years now. That partnership gave birth to the #MyTechFamily hub earlier this year – a bank of resources that parents and children could share in order to learn more about the digital world.
As CEO of The Parent Zone, Vicki Shotbolt is a very busy woman, but she generously took some time to chat to us about the current state of digital parenting and education.
The first thing that we – and many parents – wanted to know was: How will the recent election result affect parents?
“The Conservatives have shown a big interest in digital parenting for a long time.”
“The Conservatives have shown a big interest in digital parenting for a long time,” explains Vicki. “Only last year they introduced the new computing curriculum, and made it part of the OFSTED inspection. And they’re accelerating the introduction of technology into learning, so I think we’re going to see more tablets in the classroom, and many more examples of schools integrating the use technology across all subject areas.
“They’ve also been vocal about working against inappropriate content on the internet and there aren’t any signs of their interest in this area disappearing. In fact, they’ve now created the post of Minister for Internet Safety – that’s a real sign that they are committed to continuing the work.”
It sounds like another Tory government is good news for parents, in the digital sector at least. But Vicki warns that there is one major issue that still has yet to be approached by the government:
“The big thing that needs to be addressed,” says Vicki, “and it’s something we’ve been calling on the government to look at for a while, is new safeguarding legislation. Simply put, that’s legislation that underpins the basic principles around what we should expect a professional to keep children safe.
“That law currently says that certain professionals – teachers, health professionals, even local sports clubs – who are aware of a child they believe to be at risk of significant harm, have a responsibility to report it to the authorities. Online services are not covered by that legislation, and we think those that know they have younger users and have identified a child they believe to be at risk, ought to be required to report that.
“We’ve spoken to lots of services that actually want this legislation to come in. At the moment, even if they try to report a child they believe to be at risk, they can’t because they aren’t on that list of professionals. It’s a loophole that exists only because when the legislation first came in, these sorts of online services didn’t exist, so we’re hopeful that it’ll change.”
“The responsibility for your child’s safety remains with you the parent, and not the online service.”
“It’s important for parents to understand that it’s not like dropping your child off at a playgroup or at school,” Vicki adds, “where the professionals in those settings have a legal duty to think about your children. You have to understand that the responsibility for your child’s safety and well-being remains with you the parent, and not the online service.”
As we know, technology is a rapidly changing area. There has always been, and will always be new things for parents to adapt to, and the next few years will be no different:
“I think there will be some significant changes,” says Vicki, when we ask about the challenges that could face parents over the next few years, “but that’s going to come more from new technology than from the government.
“For example, Twitter has just launched a live streaming service called Periscope, and it’s been a real challenge for parents and teachers to adapt to. We’ve already spoken to a number of teachers about the difficulties of live streaming like that, because we don’t want pupils live streaming from lessons for example. It’s not hard to think of lots of situations where it would not be ideal to have children live streaming.
“Periscope is just a single example – who knows what people will invent in the next five years? There will be plenty more challenges, I am sure.”
Clearly, this is a huge subject area, and it isn’t just one for The Parent Zone and parents to deal with. Companies have a responsibility too, and Vodafone is still committed to leading the way – alongside The Parent Zone – to help parents adapt to their changing responsibilities. But what can Vodafone do to further to help that transition?
“I think they need to continue to show that leadership,” says Vicki in closing. “Vodafone have always been the number one network for providing support to parents, and it’s important in the technology space for companies to work with schools, NGOs and the government.
“Technology companies are the only people who really understand where technology is going, and by working with an organisation like us, they can help parents to stay ahead of the game.”
#MyTechFamily: Find out more about the My Tech Family hub is helping to transform the way families talk about tech – click here!