A free online programme to educate young people on how to stay safe and be kind online has launched thanks to support from Home-Start families.

EE has created PhoneSmart, the first phone Licence, offering a free online programme that provides young people with the tools and confidence to use phone technology safely and responsibly.

The Licence teaches children about key components of phone safety across four modules including online hate, digital wellbeing, staying safe online and digital & media literacy. It was developed thanks to insights shared by a number of Home-Start families who have personally experienced the wonderful but also worrying side of children getting their first phone.

We live in a world where digital safety is so important

Peter Grigg, Chief Executive of Home-Start UK, said:Thank you to the families and local Home-Starts who took the time to inform this work. It was wonderful to be able to help our partners, EE, on such an important project, especially so early on in our partnership.”

Although internet safety is not a core focus of Home-Start’s relational work with families, we live in a world where digital safety is so important, so it was great to source the views of families on how they might be better supported. I’m sure that parents, particularly those with older children getting their first phone, will be pleased to hear that Home-Start helped shaped this initiative to keep children safe.”

Research from Ofcom revealed that 49% of eight to 11 year-olds now own their own smartphone. That number increases to a whopping 91% for 12 to 15 year olds, with 81% having had at least one potentially harmful experience online in the past year. As a result, adults are becoming increasingly wary of the challenges presented by giving a child their own device.

How to stay safe and be kind online

PhoneSmart is free-to-access and takes approximately one hour to complete. It features a range of engaging storylines and interactive quizzes and activities, which highlight the benefits and dangers of tech use, and provides a platform for children to understand how to report instances of online abuse, hate, discrimination and cyberbullying.

Mat Sears, Corporate Affairs Director for BT’s Consumer Division, said: "Our EE PhoneSmart Licence is set up to solve a problem all families face when introducing smart devices to their kids for the first time, namely how to stay safe and be kind online.

"We developed the Licence in collaboration with experts including Internet Matters and Home-Start, who have shared critical insights into the challenges and concerns families have when a child is given their first phone. Thanks to these families who have helped us to ensure the PhoneSmart license will give parents and guardians the knowledge and confidence to prepare their child with the digital skills they need for a brighter future."

Meanwhile, Home-Start’s partnership with EE continues to focus on helping families improve their digital skills to bridge the digital divide that is locking so many out of accessing important services.