Technology has become part of our everyday life.
For young people, there’s little difference between online and offline.
The advance of digital technology has had many positive impacts on children’s lives. It has enabled access to education and healthcare, enhanced the rights to information and freedom of expression and supported the development of relationships with family and friends.
We continue to drive programmes to capitalise on the positive impacts of the connectivity and digital services we provide for our customers and the communities where we operate. You can learn more in Our Purpose Pillars.
We also recognise children are a particularly vulnerable group in today’s digital world. Unicef state that children “can be disproportionately, severely and permanently impacted by business activities, operations and relationships” and as such merit special consideration and attention from businesses when they consider their human rights impacts.
Vodafone is committed to upholding child rights at all stages of our business operations. We seek to support children and their parents to become responsible digital citizens. This includes up to date guidance and conversations about safe and responsible conduct in cyberspace.
In 2021, we were recognised in the Global Child Forum Benchmark, the State of Children’s Rights and Business 2021, as a leader and the top scoring company in the Technology and Telecommunications sector.
You can learn more about the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to here.
Assessing our impact
As a global communications technology company, we recognise our operations could impact children. We conduct regular assessments to identify the most material risks to our business. Digital rights, including protecting child rights, is one of the most significant rights identified.
We can’t solve these challenges alone. We contribute to the following multi-stakeholder groups to help us address risks to children and keep pace with developments.
We wanted to understand more about how our operations impact children. In 2021, an expert consultancy was commissioned to support us in carrying out an assessment using UNICEF’s Child Rights Impact Self-Assessment Tool for Mobile Operators (MO-CRIA).
It reported on the following:
- How our operations impact the rights of the child, both opportunities and risk.
- Where we can improve.
- How we perform against Unicef’s baseline requirements and suggested further actions.
We are implementing the recommendations focusing first on updating our child protection policy for the digital world, and included it in our human rights policy. Other changes are being included in aligned policies, such as updating our Brand policy to address risks from using influencers to promote products, reinforcing in our resourcing policies that we will not employ anyone under the age of 18, updating our Code of Ethical Purchasing to require remedial collaboration with government and non governmental organisations if child labour is found, to ensure the child's needs are met, and revewd our Speak Up channels against the UN Guiding principles to check that its language is easy to understand for children.
This exercise is complemented by detailed impact assessments conducted in specific circumstances, such as the development of a new product or service.
How Vodafone impacts child rights
- Supporting children’s rights to information, education, play, freedom of expression and more.
- Offering access to services that benefit children and their parents such as health services, solutions for disabled children and refugees.
Child online safety
- Supporting the fight against child sexual exploitation.
- Supporting children's rights to information, education, play, freedom of expression and more.
- Safe products and services.
- Respecting children’s privacy in the collection, use and sharing of data.
- Easy to understand terms and conditions.
Managing local community impacts - including land rights and impacts on the environment - around infrastructure.
Human resources & procurement
- Eliminating child labour.
- Decent work for parents and care givers.
- Child safeguarding guidelines if we engage with children.
Marketing & advertising
- Ensuring marketing does not target children inappropriately.
- Including diverse representation and role models in marketing, advertising and sponsorships.
Interactions between children and security guards especially in areas of conflict and heightened violence.
Managing child rights
Our Child Protection Policy (now integrated in our Human Rights Policy) sets out how we seek to support our customers in navigating the evolving digital landscape through tools and education.
Our commitments to broader child rights are also embedded in group policies and processes.
Our Group Code of Conduct prohibits all forms of workplace abuse and harassment and explicitly states we will not tolerate child labour. This is complemented by several family-friendly policies, such as our Global Parental Leave Policy. Our Code of Ethical Purchasing also strictly prohibits child labour in our responsible supply chain.
Privacy and Product Safety
At an early stage in the development process, any products that process personal data go through a privacy impact assessment (PIA). The PIA includes explicit requirements for parental consent, child-appropriate language, and avoidance of profiling of children. If we collect their personal data, the PIA also mandates we do not directly market to children. We also use other product assessment processes which includes a check to ensure that any risks to children or other vulnerable people are identified and addressed.
Our Group External Communication Policy and Brand Guidelines set out guidance on responsibly engaging with social media influencers and sponsorship.
Child Sexual Abuse Content
As a founding signatory of the GSMA Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content, Vodafone is committed to removing such content or, where this is not possible, the disruption of the sharing of or access to this material.
We manage child rights in the context of our overall human rights programme.
Need help to keep your child safe online?
Explore our online safety resources to stay up to date.
Whether you’re a parent, carer, teacher, young person, older sibling or student — our online resources cover everything from ‘how-to’ guides, expert advice, to interactive learning tools to stay safe and happy in an ever-changing digital world.