The UK Safer Internet day on 6th February, raises awareness of the online dangers and how to support young people. The use of technology, the internet, and social media, is central to all of our lives, whether we like to admit it or not. It is therefore a large part of the lives of children and young people and often something that they feel is essential, making it a high priority for safeguarding and keeping our children safe.
It is well known that many children and young people have been targeted through the use of social media, resulting in children falling victim to child sexual exploitation and radicalisation. The development of certain apps in technology and social media can facilitate bullying and “trolling”.
Keeping Children Safe in Education (2016) (KCSIE) and the December 2017 public consultation categorises online risk under the 3 C’s – Content, Contact & Conduct:
- Illegal and harmful content
- Harmful interactions
- Personal online behaviours
Recent studies show that the majority of all 12 to 16 year olds turn to YouTube for “factual” information, one in three young people admit to meeting their “online” friends in real life and an estimated 90 per cent of radicalisation takes place online. A thorough understanding of this continually emerging subject is therefore more important than ever. Of equal importance and concern, self-harm and suicide rates as a result of cyberbullying are also on the rise.
In line with KCSIE, all school staff must have adequate training around e-safety and it is essential that a clear message is provided to children and young people about how to access technology and social media safely. It is also very important that pupils are taught how to be resilient, both in order to deal with things they see online that upset them, and to be aware of how to avoid unintentionally becoming a “troll”.
Children can too easily fall foul of inadvertently contributing to problems they may not be aware of, through “liking” or “sharing” a post they consider to be funny, but could feel hurtful or damaging to the person featured.
What precautions can you take?
Filtering and blocking of inappropriate images, videos and websites should of course be put in place both in the school setting and at home. Schools can offer support to parents on how to understand and monitor their child’s use of social media.
That said, we must also recognise that the internet is a great potential source for learning and information. Internet use takes place in school, at home and on the go, with many children having unrestricted access through mobile phones and tablets.
Schools should therefore have policies in place around mobile technology while in school and it is vital that parents and carers are included within learning around e-safety.
As part of our work at One Education, conversations with parents have highlighted the lack of knowledge around specific social media sites and app technology. Some parents and carers don’t realise that many apps are public and require specific security, otherwise they can leave children vulnerable to online predators.
Peer-to-peer sexual harassment
December 2017 saw the introduction of specific guidance around “Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges” (2017) (SVSH). This guidance highlights the use of technology and social media in terms of peer-to-peer sexual violence and sexual harassment.
It specifically discusses sexual harassment in regards to taking and sharing inappropriate images, videos, or “sexting”, coercion, exploitation and threatening behaviour through online technology and online sexual harassment.