Parent Zone and Nominet – addressing child financial harms
At Parent Zone our aim is to help children and families best navigate the online world. It’s about protecting children from various harms, whilst also allowing them to reap the many benefits that digital life offers.
With £930,000 in funding awarded by Nominet to a consortium led by Parent Zone, we intend – through what is a three-year initiative – to better understand and address Child Financial Harms (CFH), an often overlooked type of risk, yet one which children are frequently faced with when online.
As access to digital technology has grown it is entirely natural that children have gained more independence over their online lives – and this extends to their ability to be financial agents in their own right, able to make, spend, and lose money.
But this type of independence can mean that children are exposed to anything from phishing attempts, pseudo-currencies, fraud, to huge pressures (thanks to things like the design of online games) to make purchases.
Recent research indicates that, among 7-11 year-olds, more than a fifth (22%) have paid for things online, and nearly four in ten (38%) of those did so without adult supervision.
Our own research has similarly shown that almost half (49%) of children aged 10-16 believe that online gaming is only fun when players are able to spend money.
And just as the online world (and the potential for harm) continually evolves, our responses to these harms – responses which should bring together experts, and are collaborative, innovative, and scalable – need to follow suit.
The CFH programme
To help achieve a more complete understanding – and to form responses of the sort just described – this upcoming project involves partnering with the PSHE Association, UK Finance, Cifas, Dr David Zendle, and Reason Digital.
Vicki Shotbolt, founder and CEO of Parent Zone commented: “The UK is facing an increasing number of children living in poverty. It’s likely that an unprecedented surge in the cost of living and an imminent recession will lead to more children experiencing risk online and possible harm. As children are able to buy, trade and earn online more easily, those risks and harms will increasingly include financial harms. The response from the system to CFH is still at a nascent stage compared to other areas of harm – but with Nominet’s funding, this can be changed.”
Paul Fletcher, CEO, Nominet, commented: “As many activities, such as gaming, went online, it pioneered financial mechanics that are now encouraging young people to engage in dangerous behaviour for reward while also providing new avenues for abusers to engage, manipulate, and control children. As a society, we are currently ill-equipped to understand and respond to this issue. I'm proud that Nominet is able to give critical funds towards the development of solutions that will prevent and mitigate this rising category of harms."
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