The story behind Childnet International
Childnet CEO, Will Gardner, reflects on Childnet's history and looks towards the future.
Twenty years ago, on the 5th September 1995, Nigel Williams founded and became the first CEO of Childnet International.
Nigel was a visionary and he saw that the growth in communication and new technologies would have a profound impact on the way we interact with the world and that children may be at risk of being harmed or of not benefitting from these changes if their interests were not promoted or protected. His response was to create a charity that would promote the rights of children in a digital age. Hence, Childnet was born.
20 years later and I am delighted to be able to share with you Childnet’s journey in this special anniversary report. So much has changed since 1995 and what stands out to me is that however much technology has changed and whatever impact this had on the way we learn, work, communicate and play, Childnet’s values and ethos have remained the same.
At the heart of all of our work is the voice of young people. Childnet has always believed that it is important to promote the interests of children, not simply by seeking to protect them but also by empowering them, listening to them and giving them opportunities to take the lead in creating a better internet. Our empowering, youth-led, evidence-based and collaborative approach has helped us continue to promote the positive power of the internet whilst responding to the risks and promoting children’s resilience and wellbeing, both here in the UK and globally.
The involvement of young people is particularly vital, given the changes in this area are, and will continue to be, constant and often rapid. Since 2009 when I followed Stephen Carrick-Davies as CEO, we have seen, with the advent of touch screens, an explosion in access and use and even ownership of new technology by young children. A key focus of our work over these years has been to lead with supporting younger children, and those who care for them, to help build digital safety skills right from the point that children start using technology. This work, like many other moments in our history, is an example of how we have embraced new approaches to address emerging issues whilst remaining true to our values.
As we look towards the future we know that Childnet’s work is more important than ever and what is needed is a shared response. We couldn’t have achieved what we have achieved without the dedication of our staff and trustees and the work of our incredible partners and all of the young people who have participated in our work. The technology will change, the issues will change but our mission will remain the same: to work in partnership with others around the world to help make the internet a great and safe place for children. We look forward to working with you to achieve this.
Will Gardner, CEO