Online safety – advice for practitioners
The internet is a great way for children and adults to connect with others and learn new things. As interactions between people are increasingly taking place online it is essential that we safeguard children and adults as robustly in the virtual world as we do in the real one. We can do this through:
- promoting safe online behaviour to children, young people, adults and their families
- taking children, young people, adults and their families’ online actions and networks into account when providing support.
Why is online safety important?
Children, young people, adults and their families go online for a variety of reasons, including to:
- search for information or content on search engines
- share images and watch videos through websites or mobile apps
- use social networking websites
- write or reply to messages on forums and message boards
- play games along or with others through websites, apps or games consoles
- chat with other people through online, games, messenger apps, games consoles, webcams, social network, and other instant communication tools
- find new friends and partners.
There are lots of benefits in going online, and also some risks. These include:
- exposure to and sharing of explicit material (including sexting)
- grooming and child sex abuse or exploitation
- identity theft or cyber-hacking
- addiction, gambling and debt
- desensitizing children to violence and intimacy.
It is important that as professionals we are confident in talking with children, young people, adults and their families about their online choices and interactions. This includes tablets, laptops, phones etc, for example:
- personal information shared on-line: checking privacy settings, sharing contact details, geotagging
- images shared and online communication: online support networks, inappropriate images (e.g. sexting), online bullying or harassment
- online relationships: safe online friendships, meeting up with online friends or potential partners.
Advice and resources
There is a huge range of online safety advice available on the internet.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre works to eradicate the sexual abuse of children, tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces.
ClickCEOP is a Facebook application that helps to promote safer Internet use when using Facebook; to find out more visit their website at www.facebook.com/clickceop
CEOP’s website www.ceop.police.uk/ provides support for young people, parents and carers while surfing online, and offers help and advice on topics such as:
- harmful content.
CEOP also enables people to immediately report anything online which they find concerning, such as harmful or inappropriate content, or possible grooming behaviour.
CEOP Thinkuknow provides advice for parents and carers, children and young people and those that work with them www.thinkuknow.co.uk/
The CEOP ThinkUKnow website provides a range of online videos and games to educate children and young people about safer internet use. The website also provides resources targeted at the children’s workforce at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/professionals
The Safer Internet Centre
The Safer Internet Centre has been commissioned by the European Commission and has set up a national helpline for professionals working with children and young people, specifically tackling the area of online safety. The main areas they offer support include social networking sites, bullying, sexting, online gaming and child protection. The helpline will aim to resolve issues professionals face about themselves, such as protecting professional identity, and also about young people in relation to online safety.
The helpline is primarily a signposting, advice, and mediation service, urgent safeguarding matters should be dealt with as per normal child protection procedures. Due to the nature of the service, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, although anonymity will be protected where possible.
Contact the Safer Internet Centre Helpline on tele: 0844 381 4772 (Monday to Friday, 10.00am – 4.00pm) or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.saferinternet.org.uk/
Safer Internet Day is held every year in February – for more information visit the website at www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day
For advice aimed at foster carers, adoptive parents and social workers visit the website at www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources/fostering-adoption
Childnet International is a children’s charity with the mission to help make the internet a great and safe place for children. Childnet has developed a range of award-winning websites and resources to help provide children, parents and teachers with the information and skills they need to use the internet safely and responsibly. The Know IT All for parents contains advice for parents and carers, and a special section for children and young people and can be found on their website at www.childnet.com/resources/
The kidsmart website has age appropriate advice for children and young people, teachers and parents and can be found on their website at www.kidsmart.org.uk/
Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the only recognised organisation in the UK operating an internet ‘Hotline’ for the public and IT professionals to report their inadvertent exposure to potentially illegal content online.
Its aim is to minimise the availability of potentially illegal internet content, specifically:
- child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
- criminally obscene content hosted in the UK
- incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK.
You can report online sexual abuse and content, as well as inappropriate chat or behaviour towards a child online, from the IWF website. If you see an image of child abuse on the web, please report it on their website at www.iwf.org.uk
Please note: it is against the law to actively seek out such images and doing so in order to report it would not be a defence in court.
Hertfordshire grid for learning
More advice for schools and parents can be found on their website at www.thegrid.org.uk/eservices/l
Lancs grid for learning
Further advice can be found on their website at www.lancsngfl.ac.uk/
Guidance for professionals working with young people
NSPCC Online Safety pages has further advice and tools which can be found on their website at www.nspcc.org.uk/online-safety/
The government paper Online Abuse and Bullying prevention Guide for professionals working with young people (March 2015) has lots of advice for professionals.
NSPCC and O2 have joined forces to keep children safe online. The work includes: an online safety helpline for parents to call for technical advice; online safety workshops in schools and workplaces; and training staff in O2 stores to help adults with their online safety concerns.
Further information can be found on the NSPCC website at www.nspcc.org.uk/nspcc-o2-online-safety-partnership/ at www.nspcc.org.uk/online-safety/ and at www.o2.co.uk/help/nspcc
ChildLine has lots of online and mobile safety tips for children and young on their website at www.childline.org.uk/
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has launched a new campaign to deter people from viewing child abuse images online. The Stop it now resources include information and support to help users of online abuse images cope with difficult emotions and change their behaviour. Further information can be found on their website at get-help.stopitnow.org.uk/
ParentPort is run by the UK’s media regulators to set and enforce standards across the media to protect children from inappropriate material; find out more on their website at www.parentport.org.uk/
Learning and Development
The MSB offers online learning with our partner Virtual College; further information can be found on their website at manchesterscb.virtual-college.co.uk
The NSPCC has recently launched an online learning course for anyone working with children. The course is a joint initiative between the NSPCC and the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
The Keeping children safe online course is an online introductory safeguarding course for anyone who works with children to enable them to learn how children use the internet and how to keep them safe from abuse. Visit their website at www.nspcc.org.uk