With the cost-of-living crisis deepening and low-income Brits worried about affording mobile data to keep their children online and entertained over the summer holidays, Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation are providing free O2 data via the National Databank to support families in need over the six-week break.
Virgin Media O2’s new research reveals 81% of those with a household income of less than £15,000 say their family’s mobile data usage will increase over the summer holidays, and of them, seven in 10 say they’ll struggle to afford to keep their kids connected.
More than three quarters (77%) are also worried they’ll have to pay more to keep their households online, with low-income Brits grappling with the cost-of-living crisis estimating they’ll spend an extra £27 over the holidays on mobile data to keep their children occupied.
Parents’ fears and guilt over lack of internet access
The study also found almost half of low-income Brits (45%) believe their children won’t have the same access to the internet at home over the holidays compared to when they’re at school during term time, with 28% feeling they’re letting their children down as they can’t afford to keep them connected.
Almost a third (31%) are worried their children will be isolated over the summer holidays as they will be cut off from speaking, messaging or playing games online with their friends, with almost a quarter of parents (24%) worried their children’s mental health will suffer.
Parents are also concerned their children will fall behind with their studies, with more than half (51%) stating their children can’t access online learning, such as online videos to practice phonics or maths, as they won’t have the same access to computers they’d normally have at school.
Free mobile data to keep families online
To keep families connected, Virgin Media O2 founded the National Databank in partnership with the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation.
The National Databank is like a foodbank but provides free O2 mobile data, texts and calls for people who need it.
Parents can access 20GB of free O2 data per month for six months, along with texts and calls, which is enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing per month, at nearly 1,300 National Databank Hubs nationwide. People can find their nearest National Databank Hub here.
Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the National Databank by the end of 2025 and, since the initiative was launched in July 2021, the organisation has provided more than 85,000 free O2 SIM cards and more than 80,000 free O2 data vouchers.
In addition, Virgin Media O2 is supporting the National Device Bank where people can access donated tablets and laptops to help their families get online.
Dana Haidan, Chief Sustainability Officer at Virgin Media O2 said:
“As the summer holidays begin at such a financially challenging time for low-income families, we know many parents are worried about keeping their children online and entertained over the break.
“That’s why we’re helping families stay connected with the National Databank where they can access 20GB of free O2 mobile data every month to help their kids stay in touch with their friends and up to date with their learning, supporting their mental health and wellbeing, too.”
Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said:
“The cost-of-living crisis is affecting families in the UK more than ever, as these alarming statistics show.
“Parents and families – so many of whom are already struggling with day-to-day living – shouldn’t be worrying about staying online over the school holidays.
“That’s why Good Things Foundation and Virgin Media O2’s National Databank is tackling digital exclusion through a combined offer of devices, data and digital skills support.
“With 1 in 20 UK households having no home internet access, collectively we all need to do more to help the most vulnerable people in our society connect with digital.
“This underpins our 2022-2025 strategy, asking for more ambitious and far-reaching change as we scale up and expand our work in the UK. Together, we can fix the digital divide – for good.”
Tamara, a mum of three from Birmingham, who receives O2 mobile data from SmartLyte – Get Families Talking, a National Databank Hub based in the city, said:
“The data means that I can continue working over the summer holidays and the children can learn, keep up with homework and play games together.
“They can contact their friends and video call their grandmother. It would be a really difficult summer without the data.”