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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. As we pause to develop a refreshed version of the magazine (so popular that it occasionally brought traffic to a standstill in the Suffolk village that was its distribution home), now feels like an appropriate moment to reflect on its success. 

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 we have decided to pause. We felt it was time to take stock of where we are and what is needed for the next phase of support for families as they manage children’s digital lives. Parents have far higher levels of awareness of the subjects we covered in Digital Parenting, and there are more sources of support. The need for expert information continues and our task now is to make sure we continue to deliver the highest quality, most relevant support for parents through our social impact work and the partnerships that align with our mission.

We are developing a bold new offer for parents, working with new partners to reach parents with children of all ages. Our partnership with NCA CEOP to deliver Parent Info allows us to provide regularly updated expert content on all of the issues facing children and young people that are caused or amplified by the internet. Our other partnerships with Google, the Home Office, and Children in Need are allowing us to create new products tailored to the needs of families, including a very special ‘digital family support worker’. Fear not, however, Digital Parenting is simply taking a break for now. We will be consulting with the people who have been such supporters over the years to hear what their priorities are for what comes next - and announcing new resources for parents very soon.