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Developing a bold new offer for parents

By Vicki Shotbolt, Parent Zone CEO

This week at Parent Zone we’re celebrating a watershed moment. We will be sending out the final edition of the current version of Digital Parenting Magazine and in the process saying a very fond farewell to a partnership that broke new ground in internet safety. 

In 2009, information for parents about keeping children safe online was very thin on the ground. There weren’t any large-scale initiatives and none that gave parents the expert information they needed. So when a forward-thinking executive at Vodafone asked us what they should be doing we told them to let us create a magazine. We knew that what was needed was a format that was engaging, high-quality and suitable for professionals - including teachers, police officers and social workers - to hand out to parents. With high production values and even higher standards for contributors, we developed what became the second-highest circulation magazine in the UK. 

Confidence in the first edition was limited. As we nudged our partners to be bold they reminded us that their previous attempts had resulted in limited success. A very conservative 10,000 copies were printed with an expectation that they would last for a year. Within 24 hours we had taken requests for every copy. 10,000 became 50,000 and that in turn became 1million. By 2017 we were producing 2.5 million copies per edition. With support from the Vodafone Foundation, we were able to reach families across the country, with copies of Digital Parenting going home in children’s book bags, being given out at parent talks and becoming a staple resource for professionals wanting to hand parents vital information. 

The ingredients of its success were reasonably simple. Delivering information from experts in a format that parents could access at their leisure (and who doesn’t enjoy flicking through a magazine?) delivered via the professionals that parents trust. It could be shared, passed to friends and left around for children to see. It wasn’t overwhelming; it could be read on the bus. In an age of websites and dreary leaflets, it was unique. 

But times change and what was needed then is not what is needed now. The launch of Parent Info - our partnership with NCA CEOP - delivering information on all of the issues caused or amplified by the internet has been a game-changer. We are now able to present information directly on school websites and by working with NCA CEOP we can offer the most reliable, up to date information possible. 

We are delighted to be partnering with Google to develop a family offer that responds to the needs of children, teachers and parents. A recognition of the fact that information needs to be available for the whole family so that everyone can work together to develop shared confidence and understanding. 

We remain keenly aware that mobile phones are a uniquely problematic device for parents and we will continue to encourage all mobile operators to do more to help families manage them.  Our partnership with Vodafone in the UK has come to a close but we will continue to do all we can to ensure that every part of the digital infrastructure is thinking about families and the impact their services have on them.