EU internet guidelines must not block free access to Childline, charity says


The NSPCC is calling on European regulators to ensure that new EU guidelines do not stop them from giving young people in distress completely free online access to its new Childline website.

Efforts to provide free online access to Childline have been led by O2, which already offers zero-rate access to NSPCC services for its customers. The charity is also in talks with Vodafone, EE, BT, TalkTalk, Three, Sky and Virgin about delivering ‘zero-rating’ for the website.

This would mean young people not having to use their data allowance on mobile devices or requiring credit on their mobile phone to access the information and advice they may desperately need, mirroring the free and confidential Childline telephone service that’s been available to young people since the 1980s.


A change to current guidelines

Under existing draft EU guidelines, communication providers can give free access to websites as long as the person has an available data allowance on their mobile device.

However, they are not allowed to zero-rate a specific website if the user has met their data cap and all other applications are blocked, something that the charity is keen to change ahead of the new EU guidelines being finalised at the end of August.

O2 has also been working in partnership with NSPCC for the past year to provide parents with the skills and support to keep children safe online.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “To continue our commitment to provide free and private contact for young people in need it is now vital that the communications industry as a whole is not prevented by EU guidelines in ‘zero rating’ the new Childline website.”

New and improved

NSPCC has recently relaunched its Childline website. By being easier to access on mobile and tablet devices, Childline is now more relevant and appropriate to those who use the service.

The website also allows users to create a ‘mood journal’ so they can record, in confidence, how they feel each day and counsellors can respond if they have any concerns.

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