Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity, is to create a new digital service that will give professionals supporting children instant access to relevant knowledge and advice, to help them respond with confidence to the continuously evolving challenges young people face online. Funded by Nominet, and working with Parent Zone, Barnardo’s Project Backpack will combine expert knowledge and data with children’s views and feedback, to transform how young people are supported in their digital lives.
Project Backpack will be available to parents and professionals later this year and follows research commissioned by Nominet (Keeping Children safe online, 2019) and its inaugural Digital Youth Index which highlighted that despite most young people (94%) feeling safe online, parents and professionals working with young people are worried for their safety and often struggle to support them. This is due to a number to factors including the duplication and large volume of legacy resources available to them; a struggle to identify online risks and lack of confidence to help tackle these; and identifying a need to work more closely with children to co-design solutions, to ensure they are relevant to young people’s experiences.
For Barnardo’s to research and develop the solution, Nominet, the public benefit company responsible for the UK internet infrastructure, is providing £500k initial funding. This forms part of its wider response to the challenge of keeping young people safe online – including its REACH programme focused on the online safety of young people in care, which Barnardo’s are also part of.
The first phase of work being delivered between December 2021 and June 2022 will enable Barnardo’s and Parent Zone to:
· conduct in depth user research, and to develop the technical infrastructure for project Backpack
· co-design Project Backpack with young people, professionals, parents and carers
· prototype and pilot models of delivery with key national stakeholders
Following a review of this first stage of work and its promise, Nominet has pledged to support scaling of Project Backpack – a wider rollout of the solution alongside evaluation supported by young people.
Michelle Lee-Izu, Co-CEO, Barnardo’s comments: "The internet gives children amazing opportunities to learn, play and socialise, but unfortunately it also presents significant risks to children’s safety. It’s extremely important that parents, carers and professionals supporting children have the knowledge and confidence to help children stay safe. That’s why we’re so pleased to be working with Nominet and Parent Zone to deliver ‘Project Backpack’, which aims to provide authorities with advice, in real-time, about how to help young people avoid risks online.”
Eleanor Bradley, Interim CEO at Nominet says: “Finding the right path to helping young people tackle issues online is not easy, and so we’re delighted to see our research and funding pinpoint areas and define approaches that will help benefit those most in need. We know that children who are most vulnerable offline are also more vulnerable online, and that evidence shows the best way to support them is by integrating internet safety into well-established programmes like those of Barnardo’s. We’re looking forward to Project Backpack evolving to tangibly help professionals support young people who are vulnerable to online risks.”
Vicki Shotbolt, CEO & Founder, Parent Zone adds: “Without the right insights we won’t build resilience and digital access won’t deliver opportunity for young people – it will amplify existing risk. Thanks to Nominet’s funding and our collaboration with Barnardo’s, we’re confident that Project Backpack will allow us to reimagine how we provide young people with the support they deserve to make the most of the connected world.”
Michelle Lee-Izu, Co-CEO, Barnardo’s, concludes: “Children are growing up in a world where being online is a natural part of their identity. In our work to support children and young people we need to understand this world, and keep up with the rapid pace of change, so we can support them where they are. Project Backpack will help us do this.”
Project Backpack is a personalised and dynamic information service for professionals to help children navigate whatever they encounter in the connected world. Nominet is funding Barnardo’s who will sub-contract Parent Zone.