2degrees, Netsafe bring back First Phone box initiative to keep Kiwi kids safer online

  • 14/06/2024

How do you keep kids safe on smartphones?

New research by 2degrees has found that 87 percent of parents are worried about their children and what they're viewing online.

To allay parental fears, Netsafe has launched an initiative to help keep kids safe from online harm, including cyber bullying and extortion scams.

The First Phone Programme is similar to a driving theory test in that it provides tips, advice and a test for children to complete alongside their parents when they receive their first phone.

It is a part of the 2degrees First Phones initiative, which it claims to have "invested more than seven figures in" to date.

After a successful first run, 2degrees has brought back its 'First Phone boxes', which are intended to help parents have conversations with their tamariki about how to manage the confusing, scary or harmful parts of the online world.

Cyber security expert John Parsons is working with the companies to get the word out.

"When parents give a phone to a child, if they're not looking at the phone and they haven't given the child the skills on how to use it, that's called 'cyber separation'. The bigger the gap between the guardian and the child, the greater the risk for the child if they go online," Parsons told AM.

"What this product does is build a strong relationship with the child and their use of technology, including the parents having a really good conversation with them about how to look after themselves online - all before they actually take on the technology."

With the First Phone box, the child is given the phone in a special box that also has instructions and an agreement in it, which the child must sign.

"That's an opportunity to reduce cyber separation. In my work, cyber separation is a contributing factor to online sexual exploitation and internet-based abuse, so that's why I'm fully in support of this product," said Parsons.

The boxes are now available in stores across the country and more information on The First Phone Programme is available online.

Watch the full AM interview with Parsons above.