My name is Jane Houghton and I’ve been with O2 for 13 years. I manage the online safety advice line for O2 in partnership with NSPCC.

The helpline is just over 3 years old and launched in 2015 after we identified there were too many people who didn’t know where to turn for help understanding the online world. The service is available for all parents, carers and professionals – no matter which network provider they are with – because it’s the right thing to do.

The advice line helps adults and children with questions regarding online safety, giving quick and practical advice either by telephone or email. For example, we are regularly asked how to set up parental controls on many devices ranging from mobile phones, tablets, games consoles and home broadband. We also support lots of schools and communities nationwide with online safety literature to further educate people and let them know help is available if they need it.

I love how technology makes our lives easier. But I’m also aware of how things can go wrong, especially when devices used by children and vulnerable adults are not set up with the simple controls available. Adding these controls and understanding what they can offer you as a parent can make a real difference.

Keeping an eye on what kids are doing online

Parents and carers often struggle to keep an eye on what children are seeing and doing online. It’s not like back in my day (oh dear I sound old) when the only form of communication was a landline, and if you used it for too long your parents would check the phone bill to see who your were calling and for how long. Which, in my situation, often meant mum unplugging the phone and taking it to work with her or adding a lock to it!

You can’t check your child’s phone bill to see how much time they’re spending online, as it’s usually a monthly fee with data included. That’s why it’s vital we help parents and carers to understand that they can be in the know, and they do have support.

We seem to have become comfortable with the idea that while our children are online in the house, rather than playing out in the street or park, they are believed to be safer – but sadly they are not as the danger is often on the other side of a screen. Online safety is the new green cross code or stranger danger, and while children do look at some internet safety as part of the school curriculum, parents now have somewhere to go for their support by calling us.

The advice line is ran by O2 customer service agents who are experts in online safety. The advice line is open Monday – Friday 9am – 7pm and most bank holidays. If you would like to get in touch, the number to call is 0808 800 5002.

Here are examples of some of the most popular questions we are asked:

  • My child can be watching something innocent on YouTube one minute, then inappropriate the next – how can I stop that?
  • How can I manage the time my child spends online?
  • How do I know my child is not talking to someone who is a potential groomer?
  • I am concerned that my son is speaking to complete strangers on his games console, what can I do?

Step by step guidance and support

The team have helped thousands of people; here is what they say following our help.

“The adviser we spoke to was amazing, very calm, very supportive of us as parents and great at listening. We are so thankful for her assistance at a time when honestly we have never felt so afraid vulnerable and scared for our daughter. It’s really horrible that this has happened, but also reassuring that we’re not alone and are not actually terrible parents.”

“The helpline advisor booked me an appointment with an O2 Guru in the local O2 store to help me add parental controls to her devices and make them as secure as possible. I took my devices into the store with me, the appointment lasted about 40 minutes and it was great to put the parental controls in place and get the accounts closed. We also downloaded an app called YouTube Kids; this app filters the content so that my daughter will only come across age appropriate content.

My daughter was happy for me to add protection settings to her devices as she had learned more about the dangers of being online. “

“Very helpful, a quick call followed by an email giving me the step by step guidance for the devices my child uses, really glad I called them “

“I am not very technical, but the simple steps they gave me were easy to follow”

O2 and NSPCC want to help your family enjoy the best of the digital world safely and confidently. To help, we’ve put lots of useful information on our website. Or if you would prefer to speak to someone, call our online safety advice helpline, visit o2.co.uk/nspcc or call 0808 800 5002. Lines are open from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on weekends and will be free of charge.

The NSPCC helpline is open 24 hours a day, ready to give support and advice to any adult who’s worried about a child. Call 0800 800 5000, visit nspcc.org.uk/help, email help@nspcc.org.uk