Ready to speak to SID on February 6! Safer Internet Day is just around the corner

It’s always the first online safety date in the calendar but sneaks up on us every year, so here’s a (hopefully useful) round-up of what’s going on this year for Primary and Secondary schools. This year, the theme is “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you.”

It’s worth a quick reminder of why it’s important. We don’t want schools or pupils to only think about online safety on one day per year, and we don’t want to detract from the vital flow of positive messages that teachers work on all year long. Nonetheless, we are fully behind Safer Internet Day as a celebration of all that is good about the internet and the digital world our children and young people are growing up in.

What’s happening in my area?
If you want a certificate of participation for your school in Safer Internet Day (and why wouldn’t you!!), why not register what you are doing on the official site? On that same page there is a UK map to check out physical events taking place in your area.

Are there official SID Education Packs?
Yes of course, as every year, the amazing Safer Internet Centre team have put together Education Packs and SID TV films which focus on online relationships and digital empathy. These include lesson plans, activities, and films tailored for 3-7s, 7-11s, 11-14s, 14-18s and for parents and carers. Lots to get your digital teeth stuck into

What about LGfL DigiSafe?
This is the point at which we normally point to CyberPass, our online-safety diagnostic tool which all LGfL TRUSTnet schools have access to – find out more here. It’s great for taking a snapshot of competencies to inform teaching & learning.

But actually this year we are focussing all our efforts on running a major UK-wide pupil survey with the NSPCC. It’s open from Y3 (recommended from Y5) to Y11, with slightly different questions for Secondaries, and is a great activity for Safer Internet Day – but fear not, it’s open for the whole of February so you don’t have to do it on SID itself. It doesn’t cost anything to take part in the survey, but you do need to sign up first. Find out all about it (including all the work we have done to make sure it conforms to safeguarding and data-protection best-practice) at

Whatever you do this Safer Internet Day, we’d love to hear about it. Tweet us at @lgfldigisafe (or share with us on Facebook) and let us know how it goes – and remember the hashtags #SID2018 and #SaferInternetDay too!

Demos launches technology briefing on child sexual abuse imagery

Last night I attended the Westminster launch of a new ‘Technology Briefing Series’ from cross-party think-tank Demos. The first paper in this series was a joint effort with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and covered the topic of Online Child Sexual Abuse Imagery (CSAI). The briefing comes while the Government is currently considering responses to the recent green paper on the Internet Safety Strategy, which contained a number of proposals for social media companies in particular “to do more”. The event included a panel discussion with Jamie Bartlett, MPs Yvette Cooper and Vicky Ford, Karim Palant from Facebook and Andrew Puddephatt, the new IWF Chairperson.

The event and the report celebrated the fact that IWF has been instrumental in ensuring that less than 0.1 percent of CSAI content is now hosted in the UK, down from 18 percent in 1996! Alex Krasodomski-Jones from Demos, said: “Technology policy is challenging: it tests our ability as a society and democracy to grapple with difficult problems and find sensible solutions. Demos is committed to improving the public conversation around these issues, to bringing expert voices to the debate, and to help inform difficult decisions. In partnership with the IWF, we are calling for a better dialogue between politicians, experts, the media and the public around technology, its impact on our lives and our democracy. In doing so, we hope to encourage good solutions to complicated issues.”

But as Jamie Bartlett pointed out, whilst it is a hard truth to accept, “the problem is not going to go away”. You can view the full report here, which is definitely worth a read. It tells how the fight against online child sexual abuse content is being won in the UK, but the global threat remains as big as ever.

The speakers at the event yesterday highlighted how the fight against CSAI images is very different to the fight against radical or extremist text, images or videos, largely because of the lack of clarity and legal frameworks and definitions. Yet at the same time, it was pointed out that there were clear lessons to be learned from this area, for example, on how processes and technologies developed by experts at IWF and Microsoft ensure that an image or video, once flagged, cannot resurface (Yvette Cooper MP pointed that this the case currently for certain far-right material).

There was plenty of food for thought from the panelists that I will be digesting over coming months in terms of hate speech and radicalisation. For example, Yvette Cooper pointed out that due to automatic ‘learning’ from our online searches, “In some cases the algorithms are doing the radicalising”. Andrew Puddephatt: “Algorithms don’t do context, it’s important a human analyst makes the decisions about what should or should not be removed. Those analysts should be supported and accountable.”

And as Jamie Bartlett pointed out, “It’s not always radical content that radicalises people; it can be very ordinary things”.


Enough from me now – head over to read the Demos report here!

Wanted: Secondary schools to feed back on Internet Safety Strategy

Update – 23/01/2018 – this consultation is now closed

Government’s consultation on the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper – opportunity for secondary schools to participate (via telephone dial in)

LGfL TRUSTnet held a series of successful teacher focus groups with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DMCS) before Christmas in London and Liverpool to garner opinions on internet safety in schools and to feed back on the proposed internet safety strategy. The official online consultation is closed, but there is still an opportunity (Secondary schools only this time) to share their challenges and opportunities and help shape government strategy. Please share! The following text from DCMS has all the details:


The Government’s Internet Safety Strategy published on 11th October and looks at how we can make Britain the safest place in the world for users to be online. We want everybody to be able to access the benefits of the internet without harm, and this means working together with a wide range of stakeholders to develop safer online communities and empowering citizens to manage risks and stay safe online.

We know that schools play a critical role supporting children when they have suffered online harms. The Strategy sets out how DCMS and DfE will work together to ensure support for schools on these issues. We recognise that companies also have a responsibility for conduct and content on their products and platforms and are therefore setting stretching objectives for industry on tackling online harms.

We’d like to get school staff (i.e teachers, teaching assistants, wellbeing staff) views on the full range of proposals in the Strategy and are therefore conducting focus groups across the whole of the UK. Schools will be credited for their contribution to the consultation (/not referenced, as preferred).

If you would like to take part please contact, stating your role, school & availability to attend one session via telephone dial in from the following:

    • Friday 19th January 4-5pm
    • Monday 22nd January 4-5pm
    • Wednesday 24th January 4-5pm
    • Thursday 25th January 12-1pm


Sexual violence and harassment in schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched new guidance for school leaders, safeguarding professionals and governing bodies/proprietors on peer-to-peer sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges” is also referenced in the proposed new Keeping Children Safe in Education document (see this previous blogpost) for September 2018.

The guidance stresses that schools absolutely must take all forms of sexual violence and harassment seriously and explains how it exists on a continuum, so it is essential that behaviours sometimes considered as ‘low level’ are treated seriously and not allowed to perpetuate. Schools need to take action on a range of issues and the document makes specific reference to behaviours which are often tolerated or treated as minor misdemeanours, such as bra-strap flicking and the careless use of language.

The LGfL DigiSafe team was proud to contribute to document’s development whilst it was being drafted, and we think the new DfE document provides clear guidance and helpful case studies to show schools what to do in certain situations. The following is taken from a summary of the document given in KCSIE.

  • Schools and colleges should consider the following:
    • It is more likely that girls will be the victims of sexual violence and more likely that sexual harassment will be perpetrated by boys.
    • Schools and colleges should be aware of the importance of:
      • making clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable, will never be tolerated and is not an inevitable part of growing up;
      • not tolerating or dismissing sexual violence or sexual harassment as “banter”, “part of growing up”, “just having a laugh” or “boys being boys”; and
      • challenging behaviours (which are potentially criminal in nature), such as grabbing bottoms, breasts, vaginas and penises. Dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them.
    • Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) can be especially vulnerable. Disabled and deaf children are three times more likely to be abused than their peers. Additional barriers can sometimes exist when recognising abuse in SEND children (see paragraph 96 in Part 2 of this guidance).

The document will be updated again in response to the KCSIE consultation for September 2018, but already provides very useful guidance for schools and colleges. Its release is timely support for schools, coming shortly after two other useful documents on similar issues were published, by Childnet and the National Education Union/Feminista respectively: ‘Young people’s experiences of online sexual harassment‘ and ‘It’s just everywhere – a study on sexism and how we tackle it‘.

Both those studies are useful for schools to read: Childnet revealed that in the last year alone, 25% of 13 – 17 year olds had experienced online rumours about their sexual behaviour, 24% had received an unwanted sexual message or image, and 10% had been pressured to share a nude image of themselves. And the NUE report revealed that a quarter of all secondary teachers witness gender stereotyping and discrimination at school every day, and an even higher number (27%) did not feel confident about knowing what how to respond to a sexist incident at school.

Against this background, the publication of clear guidelines from the government on dealing with all levels of sexual violence and harassment can only be welcomed as a very positive step. So have a read and see how you can adapt your policies, procedures and strategic responses to incidents to begin making a change today.

Proposed KCSIE update for September 2018

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation to find out what schools think about proposed changes to the key safeguarding document Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), which will be revised for September 2018.

The current KCSIE document came into force in September 2016, bringing in various changes such as new specific mentions and an appendix for online safety, as well as ‘appropriate filtering and monitoring’. The Department for Education is now consulting on proposals for the next update, so it is worth having a look and having a say before the consultation ends just before February half-term.

You can find all the relevant documents and links on this DfE page. These include:

  • An overview document of the consultation and changes (at the bottom of the page in ‘related docs’)
  • The proposed new KCSIE document itself (also in ‘related docs’); Appendix H on p92 shows a useful list of changes
  • A link to an online survey to gather your views

To help see the changes at a glance, we have also compiled a Word document that shows tracked changes between the two versions, which may be particularly useful for those who are familiar with the 2016 version.

The consultation is also being used to find out what you think of the excellent new DfE guidance also published at the end of last week on sexual violence and harrassment in schools (more on that here). Make sure you read that document, as it is very helpful and will help you make a difference in this key area, which is covered in the new KCSIE with several paragraphs dedicated to the issue.

The online safety section has not been changed; however, DfE specifically ask for suggested amendments as part of the consultation, so if you have views, now is the time to share them.

Check out one of the links above to find out more about key changes that will affect your safeguarding practice.

Supporting parents who want to film, photograph or stream school events

Why not show this to parents before you start this year’s Nativity play at school? Food for thought…

It’s that time of year again where parents will be filing into the school hall for a Nativity play or other Christmas extravaganza, devices at the ready (if you are reading this at another time of year, the same applies to sports days, trips, plays and other school gatherings on school site and beyond).

But is your school ready? Have you made it clear to parents what your rules are to keep children safe, conform to data protection rules, and ensure everyone can enjoy the experience without having to peer around a tablet the size of a bucket? And have you considered that someone who you think might be filming the event could actually be livestreaming it? The mind boggles, but in a world where seemingly everyone videos and shares everything, it happens.

So here is a sample letter you can edit and share with parents (remember to make it fit your policies). You might want to take a more informal approach and share the above video – but be sure to add a couple of lines to make clear what your rules are, what you expect and why it is important to respect the rules.

As the letter explains in more detail for parents, there are very important reasons for restrictions which parents need to understand – or else they will think we are killjoys or just luddites who don’t understand the selfie generation. Namely:

  • Child protection – looked-after children often have restrictions for their own protection that hopefully very few parents and staff will know about; others may not be officially flagged but have family backgrounds which mean that sharing images in an identifiable context could put them in danger.
  • GDPR (the new General Data Protection Regulation) and the new Data Protection Bill. Sharing could otherwise potentially incur fines for contravention of data protection rules. Photos are personal data, after all (NB they become ‘special category data’ only when used with biometrics).
  • Some families may object for religious or cultural reasons, or simply for reasons of personal privacy – we must respect this.
  • Sharing images of children in school uniform helps identify them so should not be done unless avoidable.
  • We encourage young people to think about their online reputation and digital footprint, so we should be good adult role models by not oversharing (or providing embarrassment in later life – and it is not for us to judge what is embarrassing or not).

You might take one of the approaches described in the letter, insisting on personal use only, or providing staged opportunities at the end; you may decide to ban all recording devices and be done with; you may ban recording but hire a professional to record the event or a dress rehearsal to share with parents later (costs money but better quality and less disruption). If you do the latter though, just make sure you aren’t the ones falling foul of the rules – are parental permissions for school photography up to date?

Whatever you do, make sure everyone knows the rules, and remind them that apart from anything else, school events and activities are a lot more enjoyable for all concerned without a sea of phones and tablets; memories are a lot more likely to stick than a grainy image is to be regularly viewed. As it says at the end of the letter, “Remember, your child wants to see you looking at them, not at your phone”.


Want to find out more?

All I want for Christmas is… online

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting ipads, please put a bitcoin in the live-streamed hat… It isn’t long until schools can pack up for a couple of weeks (although it will feel like you’ve never left when you return in January). Here’s our whistlestop tour of how you might be able to support parents before and after Christmas.

Let’s cut to the chase and get the negatives out of the way. Things can go wrong, in all kinds of areas, so it’s good to know where to go for support. If you share two links with parents in a pre-Christmas newsletter (or any other time), you might want to share and The first is an overview of all the links we have collated that can support parents with online safety and safeguarding, on all the range of issues I will cover here; the second has all the major helplines, hotlines and advice lines – you don’t need to wait until things go wrong.

The Ofcom Children and Parents Media report came out at the end of November; as usual it contains many revealing statistics. For example, mobile phone ownership – not just use – has more than doubled among 5-7 year olds. And 96% of all children between 5 and 15 now have access to the internet at home. Yet 69% of parents do not use the baked-in parental controls and filters.

It’s a fair assumption that Christmas won’t lead to a drop in either of those numbers. So what better time to remind parents that there is plenty of support for them regarding settings. Two top tips from our parent resource collection are Internet Matters for how to turn on parental controls for your home broadband with any of the big providers, and call the NSPCC / O2 Parent Helpline on 0808 800 5002 for help setting up new mobile devices.

It’s not just about controlling, blocking and filtering, of course. Knowing what your child is doing online and offline is invaluable, and there are tools to help you with that. At we have selected guides to the apps young people use, to help you tell your CoD from your Roblox. As ever, it’s more about what they are doing, not where. And whilst the guides will help with that, the best way to find out is through conversation. Easier said than done? The Internet Matters tablet app will help with that, guiding parents through  the right questions to ask.

Christmas is a great time for guilt trips about excesses, but it’s not just eating or drinking but also screen time that often tops the list of parenting worries. So maybe a good time to remind parents that screen time isn’t the same as screen time. Any ‘official’ limits are fairly arbitrary in fact as there are so many factors that define what’s good and what’s bad. If you want to delve into all the research, start with Professor Sonia Livingstone’s work here. But for a great overview to share with parents, use this flyer: “It’s time to end the screen time scare”. And back that up with the Children’s Commissioner’s new idea of a Digital 5-A-Day – that’s your Boxing Day hike over the moors justified!

All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned livestreaming, gaming, sexting and all the other justified worries that parents and schools might be dealing with over the festive period and next year. Click on the links to find out more on those topics, and remember if it’s all getting too much, there is help for school staff too – get in touch with the Professionals Online Safety Helpline from the Safer Internet Centre for help and advice on specific cases too.

Merry Christmas – I won’t be sending you a card; I’m using an app this year…

UPDATE 11/12/17 – Now head over to this blog post from the Kent CC team for more useful links and a letter to send home to parents with advice on new tech they might buy for their children for Christmas.

Internet Safety Green Paper

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) recently published a green paper (consultation) on the government’s new internet-safety strategy, as part of the ‘Digital Charter’. The education world normally keeps its eyes peeled for key documents from the DfE but pays less heed to those from other government departments, but this one will have a big impact on the future of online safety in homes, businesses and schools, so is very much worth a look.

The 62 pages of the green paper are very much worth a read and can be found here. The government is looking for responses to the consultation, and it would be good to hear as many voices as possible from the education sector. So if you haven’t the time, find someone in your organisation to have a look through the lens of your situation and needs.

The consultation is for organisations and also for individuals (in fact, there are many more questions for individuals than for organisations), so why not try and get parents at your school to have a look and have their say. The questions make sense without reading the green paper, so encourage them to have a say to help shape their children’s online lives – and why not suggest parents answer the questions together with their children as a great conversation starter?

As for the green paper itself, the principles are (lifted verbatim):

  • What is unacceptable offline should be unacceptable online
  • All users should be empowered to manage online risks and stay safe
  • Technology companies have a responsibility to their users

…and the priorities (again, verbatim):

  • Setting out the responsibilities of companies to their users
  • Encouraging better technological solutions and their widespread use
  • Supporting children, parents and carers to improve online safety
  • Directly tackling a range of online harms



Now nobody is going to argue with those aims or priorities, so you might be tempted to say “So what?”. It is great news that the government is looking to boost internet safety, but it will impact on many areas of life, so have a look and make sure you can have a say. Here are just some of the things that stood out for me (not a comprehensive summary, not an official LGfL response, and indeed some might not even be good things from your perspective):

  • Great to see lots of mentions of and recognition for amazing organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation and other Safer Internet Centre partners, voluntary organisations, public bodies and private corporations too. They do amazing work, so it’s great to see it flagged in a key document like this. Some great positive reminders that all is not ill…
  • UKCCIS is losing its second ‘c’. The UK Council for Child Internet Safety will no longer be just for children’s safety, but for internet safety in general. We currently sit on the Education Working Group of UKCCIS and look forward to seeing a more prominent role for this organisation which does amazing work already (e.g. sexting guidance for schools and much more besides).
  • UKCIS (née UKCCIS) will “streamline and target education and advice on online safety for parents” – that is great news and we can help there too (e.g.
  • The social-media levy and code of practice are on the way. There has been lots of discussion about whether the levy is a good thing or not (some say of course; some ask if it might discourage organisations from the efforts they already make, which are not inconsiderable?)
  • A new Online Hate Crime Hub to streamline efforts to combat hate online.
  • The government will be looking closely at online gaming. Given the stories that we regularly hear of young children playing violent video games at age ratings far above their age (18 games aren’t more difficult, they are given the rating for similar reasons as 18 films), that is also worth looking at.
  • Connected toys and the internet of things are to face scrutiny as well (to find out more about some of the risks and developments in this area, have a look at the blogs from John Carr, who keeps a close eye on these things).
  • A reminder that Relationships Education is coming for Primaries and Relationships and Sex Education for Secondaries. PSHE is still a ‘maybe’, but hopefully…
  • Other controversial topics get mentions too: revenge porn, fake news and age-verification of pornography (which is coming in next year).

It’s good to see a mix of education, legislation and self-regulation – some you may like, some you may not. But have a look and see or say what you think…

CyberPass shortlisted for a Bett Award!

Great news for two resources from LGfL. Head over to the main curriculum blog to find out more… 

Online-safety books for staff and pupils

~ by guest contributor Paul Bradshaw

Despite being a bit of a geek, and having had a Kindle device since they first came out, I still very much prefer the feel of a real book in my hand, whether for professional or personal enlightenment!

Below, I have made a list of a selection of the books that I use when in schools working with children, young people and staff, and I trust that you may wish to consider using yourself?

My opinions are entirely my own and I can vouch that I am not in the pay of Amazon or Waterstones =)

Whilst I have readily admitted that I prefer real books to e-books, quite often I will also purchase the e-version, if available, and then make this into a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, to share with larger groups of children. If this is not possible, I would endeavour to use a visualiser to create a “big book” experience.

I hope that you will find my recommendations of some use in your classroom setting – happy reading =)

“Dot” is a lovely picture for young children about getting the right balance in your life between Online and Offline activities. It is written by Randi Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister. It is delightfully charming and wise. I have used this with Reception children through to sixth formers, as part of a wider debate regarding screen time. The un-named dog, is a real star of this book – one Reception class, I worked with named her Chloe – which is good enough for me.

In a similar vein to Dot, “Tek: The Modern Caveboy”, by Patrick McDonnell, tells a similar tale of how enlightened you can become by the real world, if you only put the phone, tablet or game controller down for a while and be enchanted with what’s happening in the real world. This is a board book and is iPad shaped. I love that in the top right corner of each page, the battery indicator level diminishes as you turn each page. Wonderful.

Hannah Whaley has a series of books about the adventures of Webster, a tech obsessed spider! “Webster’s Friend”, however, is my favourite. This is the tale of Webster and his brother, who unbeknown to each other go online, each pretending to be someone else. This book delicately introduces the reader to issues about strangers online and the perils of anonymity on the web.

Jeanne Willis is a family favourite children’s author and Tony Ross is a celebrated children’s illustrator so what’s not to like about this charming (but sinister) tale of a young chick who loves to surf the web, “Chicken Clicking”. Told in rhyming couplets, this book really has an impact – be sure to revisit each page to look for additional detail in Tony Ross’s art work.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross return with this fabulous online safety follow-up to “Chicken Clicking”. In this rhyming tale, two goats, Billy and Cyril, get into all kinds of mischief when they fail to hand in a mobile phone that they find; culminating in a trolling of a Troll scenario. Very insightful – I have used this with Reception through to Y6.Not Online Safety but do check out two of my all-time favourite Jeanne Willis books which my grown-up children still adore, “The Tale of Georgie Grub” and “The Tale of Mucky Mabel” – fabulous.

“Penguinpig” (by Stuart Spendlow and boldly illustrated by Amy Bradley) was recommended to me by an EYFS teacher three years ago, and it’s one of my “go to” books when I am delivering Online Safety for younger children. It’s a cautionary tale about not always believing everything that you read and see online.

Shona Innes’ and Irisz Agocs’“ The Internet is like a puddle” is a lovely analogy of the internet compared to a puddle – my favourite line being, “Some puddles look really clear on the surface, but underneath there might be a whole lot of dirt or slime.” Beautifully illustrated.

Did you know that the Big Bad Wolf is an avid online gamer, or that Rapunzel has trouble getting a decent WIFI signal in her tower? Be prepared to find out more about everyone’s favourite fairy tale characters in “Once Upon a Time Online”, by David Bedford and Rosie Reeve. Another great tale told in rhyming couplets.

Written by Ciara Flood for Childnet this is a tale in the style of Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the way that it shows what would happen to Digiduck® if he went through with sharing online an unkind image of his friend. Help arrives just in time for Digiduck® when faced with this difficult decision! An engaging and beautifully illustrated story of friendship and responsibility online. The Digiduck® collection has been created to help parents and teachers support children aged 3 – 7 about how to be a good friend online. The collection includes a book that you can purchase as well as a PDF version. They have recently created an interactive app.

A handy reference guide for KS2 children, their parents and teachers, too. “Staying Safe Online” by Louie Stowell offers lots of practical advice into an array of online safety concerns whilst maintaining that the internet can be a wonderful thing (it is!). Modern and circumspect, an indispensable guide.

A bit of a left field choice, but I have been using extracts from this comic / graphic novel with Upper KS2, and KS3 – KS4 children. “Terms and Conditions” by R. Sikoryak, conveys the dry subject matter of Apple’s iTunes Terms and Conditions in a very accessible medium which are great for starting discussions about all manner of social media apps. The illustrations in this book are rich, varied and very funny and there’s so much to see. Check this out, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

And finally, a little more cerebral, and one for staff who are interested in finding out more about Online Safety, is this NSPCC/Wiley Press title, “Online Risk to Children – Impact, Protection and Prevention”. This is a collection of 12 essays by professionals working in this arena. Fascinating and thought provoking. Best quote is from Martin Waller ( a teacher, working in the North East of England), “Education needs to reflect the way in which online technologies are used in the real world to ensure that teaching and learning genuinely prepares children for the future so that they can think critically about the way in which these technologies can be used safely and appropriately.”

Paul Bradshaw is Senior School Improvement Officer for New Technologies & Online Safety at School Improvement Liverpool, Liverpool City Council (major TRUSTnet partner).

He is also a valued member of the LGfL TRUSTnet Safeguarding Board.


Safe Online in 2017

In case you haven’t seen it yet, we published the new ‘Safe Online in 2017 – A State of the Capital Report’ a few weeks ago. The termly report (read the full report here) is based on data from two terms’ use of the CyberPass online safety diagnostic tool by London schools in the spring and summer terms of 2017 (1 January to 31 July).

Over half a million questions were answered: encouragingly, 74% of which correctly. The data in this report reveals an interesting snapshot of pupils who are seemingly well acquainted with education messages about dealing with friends and what to share online, but raises the question of why it is not always translated into practice. Read the overview news article about the launch here, or read and share the full report here.

Relax – it’s only a catfish!

It's only a it?Do you know what catfishing is? I must admit that I didn’t until I saw someone reading an article on the Tube the other day about someone being “…catfished aged 14” (NB: not one to open in front of a class). My shameful ignorance of the term extended to not knowing that there is an MTV show of the same name and that it is such common parlance that there were efforts to bring in an anti-catfish law in parliament.

But once I had worked out what it meant – namely, to use someone else’s photo to trick your way into a sexual relationship – it got me thinking about the dangers of careless language for safeguarding young people. In the article that triggered all this, catfishing was actually a reference to attempted child sexual abuse via grooming and CSE.

Give it a cuddly name though (I know, you wouldn’t cuddle a catfish), and all of a sudden it is normalised and is easy to shrug off as harmless fun. To be fair to the newspaper, it was a direct quote, and let me be clear that I intend no criticism at all of the victim, as the word has become a cultural reference (just one that I didn’t know).

Although I am probably inviting accusations of “political correctness gone mad”, isn’t this a good example of why language matters? Last week’s post on SafeBlog was about roasting, which is essentially bullying by another name; the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal was in part allowed to perpetuate because the girls involved were ‘engaging in risk-taking behaviours’ rather than described as vulnerable, at-risk children. And only this week there was news of a (admittedly disgraced and imprisoned) US congressman sexting a child, which, although it sounds bad in itself, is not so clear-cut as soliciting child sexual abuse imagery.

Sexism and racism campaigners have long campaigned against terms and expressions that only serve to consolidate prejudice. If you aren’t convinced, ask yourself when a politician would talk about a tax burden, and when would they say contribution instead? They would choose very carefully, and with good reason – words shape the way we think about a subject…a lot. The linguistic term for this is framing, and there are plenty of fascinating books and research on the subject should you want to get academic.

Either way, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that what we say and the words we use shape what we think, and can therefore play an important role in keeping children safe.


PS – For handy signposts to information about child sexual exploitation, see

PPS – If you are a school DSL or online-safety lead, you might want to sign up to our newsletter here

To roast or not to roast?

Roasting“Roast me!” is a phrase I would normally only use when pretending to be a potato, which doesn’t happen all that often.

Those of you over a certain age probably feel the same (aspirations to vegetable imitation notwithstanding). But for young people, its alternative meaning can have severe consequences.

It’s not at all new (this article was posted over a year ago and it had been around for a couple of years before that), but it seems to be coming round again.

What is it? Put simply, posting a photo or video of yourself alongside the hashtag #roastme and thereby inviting friends and strangers alike to tease you for it. Harmless banter…after all, they literally asked for it? Or something more nefarious?

We mustn’t forget the following: one person’s teasing is another’s bullying, and the same words can always have a different impact on us depending on who said them; these things can quickly spiral out of control; sometimes people haven’t actually posted the photo in question but ‘volunteer’ others; and asking to be roasted is clearly harmful and self-destructive in some cases (psychologists have likened it to self-harm where the user really is seeking abuse).

So what to do? Whether you use this half-baked term (pun very much intended) to talk about the issues or just think about all the instant social media putdowns we are all partial to now and again for a laugh at others’ expense, the issues are the same.

We could do worse than encourage young people (and adults) to do two simple things: stop and think before you click, and then ask the perennial self-reflective question “how would it make me feel?”


That’s enough from me, so why not head over to now for signposts to a wide range of resources and organisations that help schools and families with bullying issues.

Kids need more/less time online [delete as appropriate]

Here are two headlines from this morning’s Guardian (other news outlets are available):

“Stop children bingeing on social media during holidays, parents urged”

“Encourage children to spend more time online, says former GCHQ head”

Both are equally interesting stories, and both worth a read. But which one is right? On the face of it, they sum up neatly the conundrum that parents face and how difficult it is to boil down advice into a pithy instruction. What are we supposed to do? Cut back or encourage? Screentime – good or bad?

As so often, the headlines don’t tell the whole story. I reckon that if you put Anne Longfield and Robert Hannigan in a room together (the Children’s Commissioner and former GCHQ boss, respectively), they would be in broad agreement about many issues. Anne Longfield’s excellent new ‘Digital 5 A Day‘ isn’t all about digital detox, albeit the ability to put down your device is a key health factor and very much part of the equation. But 1/5 of the digi-pie, she says, is to spend time online to ‘get creative’.

This year, we at LGfL DigiSafe plan to look at new ways to support young people who feel they have to be ‘always on’. There is definitely scope to improve education and resource in this area. But how about that ‘get creative’ pie slice? Let’s encourage the potential young people have to make the most of the devices and apps at their disposal to make music, videos, augmented and virtual reality scenes, plays, artwork, stories, blogs, vlogs, games, podcasts, and the like, or learn about the languages, sports and countryside just before they put down the pad and head out to enjoy them in the flesh.

Perhaps we can have our digi-pie and eat it…

GDPR and social media ages – why does it matter

Here’s a holiday treat – rather than a blog post from me, a recommendation of a fantastic blog by internet safety luminary John Carr.

John’s latest blog post is about the minimum age for using social media, which is currently up for debate because of GDPR, the new data protection legislation coming into force next May.

You might wonder why that matters – for one, if the minimum age were 16, then sexual predators could claim to ‘not know’ they were targetting an under-age child, because anyone on social media therefore “should be” over the age of consent.

Anyway, rather than reading something from me this week, head over to read John’s latest post (not his first on the matter!), to find out more.

Hip, hip, hypocrisy!

On the one face; on the other...
Two of my many faces…

This is an online-safety post with no happy end or tidy solution. Not so unusual in itself, but this time it’s because we as adults are the problem. Now, that isn’t so unusual in itself of course – adults are famously bad digital role models for the children we work with / look after / care for / parent. You did know that, right? Hmmm…

But while our digital lives and footprints snowball out of control (mixed metaphors are allowed at the end of term), and our behaviours morph to suit data-guzzling corporations without us even noticing, why do we stick so rigidly to the same messages and rules for children and young people that we would never dream of adhering to ourselves?

Hands up who has ever smiled a secret smile when receiving lots of birthday greetings on Facebook? Would you be a bit miffed if you didn’t get any? And of course if it’s a birthday with a zero on the end, we expect even more (whilst pretending coyly that we don’t want anyone to know). But how does Facebook know? Surely we don’t enter our birthday on a social network, let alone allow ‘friends’ we’ve never met to see it? No, no, and thrice no! As for our date of birth – don’t be ridiculous!

So why do we keep telling young people never to enter such details on their profile, then act surprised when they do? All the while tutting at the naked narcissism of youth!

“That’s different! It’s a trade-off we are prepared to accept. We can look after ourselves but our children can’t.” Of course there’s an element of truth there (although not that much), but when you consider that effective online-safety education is about behaviour rather than understanding the app of the moment, then you realise that what we adults get up to is quite important too.

And before we rationalise that all away, why not reread this post and replace the date of birth example with something else we ‘would never do’, like post things we wouldn’t want our grandmother or employer to see…etc…etc.

Something to ponder over the summer break.

Let’s talk about sext!

Sexting Article ScreenshotAnother day, another series of sensationalist sexting headlines (nothing to do with selling newspapers, honest!). Here’s one of the more balanced ones from the BBC which is based on the latest figures from the police. Not wanting to become another voice shouting “Aaaagh, sexting!”, here are a couple of things to bear in mind when thinking about the issue of sexting in schools:

  1. If you are a school, general advice isn’t enough. Yes you can find all kinds of great educational resources online, and lots of sources will tell you what to do if you have a sexting incident. But there is one single document for schools from UKCCIS with what you need to do, how, in what order, and when you should or should not report to the police – you don’t always have to. If you haven’t heard of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, it is a key body with representation from the DfE and other government departments.
  2. There’s sexting and sexting. So when you read scary articles about it, you need to bear in mind that lots of young people regard a risqué chat as sexting. Imagine what then happens when someone hears about this but that person thinks sexting means exposed genitals. And then tells someone else who would think a bikini shot is a sext…or maybe it is for a child but not for an adult…or it is if it is sent privately but not if it’s posted on Facebook. Yes I’m muddying the waters, but that is the pond we are in. So yet again, we can’t get around the fact that to address sexting we need more talk, not more tech.
  3. Did you know that very few young people talk about sexting anyway unless they’re talking to an adult who first used the word?

If you want to read a bit more about sexting, the image that I have added to this post is from an article I wrote for one of our magazines and may be useful to share with staff when talking about sexting.

Otherwise, head straight to to find all the best resources (from a wide range of providers) to use with pupils and parents (handy before the summer holidays), and of course that key UKCCIS reference document (which includes great CPD activities for September safeguarding updates).

Right, now back to the headlines…

Don’t panic – it’s only Snap Maps! Then again…

Don't panicIf you’ve been on social media today, you may like me have been inundated with people sharing Nadia Sawalha’s video warning parents about Snap Maps, the new tracking functionality (for want of a better term) baked into the latest Snap Chat update. The 2 minute video has been viewed over 6,000 times in less than a day, so it’s obviously causing a lot of concern.

And indeed it should! If you have only read this far to see whether I plan to support or pooh-pooh the concerns, the answer is…both. As usual, life in today’s digital world isn’t quite as simple as all that.

We first flagged the issue when we shared this BBC article ten days ago. As I wrote, “Not for the first time, geotagging adding unnecessary layer of risk”. Snapchat is incredibly popular among schoolchildren (and the age limit of 13 is often disregarded). In a nutshell, the new functionality allows friends (or everyone in the whole world, or nobody at all, depending on your settings) to see where you were the last time you used Snapchat, where you have shared photos or videos publicly to ‘Stories’, to view them and see where they were posted. And when I say where, I mean exactly where, on a highly detailed streetmap.

The privacy concerns are obvious and are all the more concerning because Snap Chat is so prevalent among young people. I had a quick look and it did indeed seem rather scary on several levels.

But there is good news. For a start, after featuring on mainstream news a few weeks ago, online-safety news is being shared by a celebrity (now gone up to 7.5k views just while I’ve been writing this) and lots of parents who might not necessarily be reached by traditional channels are stopping to think about what their children are doing online. That can only be good news – and this is a great time for schools to offer online-safety support to parents (often a seemingly thankless task).

Secondly, on this particular issue, it is perfectly simple to resolve and to change your Snapchat settings (here’s a handy link from the Snap team to share for that).

But given everything I’ve just said, we do need to guard against a couple of things: we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that working out what to do about Snapchat is enough (or that banning it, which I am not suggesting anyway, solves the problem). The same issues exist with a myriad of apps: remember Instagram has geotagging turned on as a default for most users; so we need to fashion a thoughtful approach to educating young (and old) users. Sounds tricky, but it can be done. Just don’t panic!

One more thing though – there is a reason companies develop these features: they are popular with young people! So let’s be aware of the issues, but stay positive to make a digital difference.


PS – Still worried / interested / want to know more? Head to for supporting resources and guidance or point parents to 

Great news for young people wanting to report an image of themselves

I went to the NSPCC Conference today – a great event from a great organisation. As you can imagine there were many interesting takeaways; one that struck me in particular was news from the Internet Watch Foundation and Childline which will make a massive difference to young people wanting to remove an explicit/nude image online.

IWF can only enforce the removal of such images where the child in question is under 18. Where age is not obvious even to experts, young people wanting to report an image of themselves have previously needed to engage with authorities to prove their age, which can cause distress and put them off wanting to report.

But now the IWF and Childline are using an age verification app called Yoti (other such apps exist; this is not an endorsement) to help young people under 18 report images and prove their age at a click (or a few anyway). They can use the app to scan their passport or other ID, compare with a selfie and therefore add age verification to any report. Great news that will change lives.

Reports can be made either via the IWF or Childline website – spread the word!

  • Remember though to follow the UKCCIS guidelines for every element of how schools should deal with incidents of sexting. Access it and other sexting resources via *

** A variety of reporting links for online safety and safeguarding issues are at **

Votes mean prizes

The election is already over, but given the horse-trading that has now begun, this article I wrote for Education Today last month may be of interest. What do we demand of our politicians to protect those without a voice…?



Education Technology Magazine roundtable on how to keep children safe online.

I recently took part in a ’round table’ as they call them in the trade for Education Technology magazine. They asked a series of questions to me and others on online safety, and here is the result. To read, click the pic!

Channel 4 investigation into and

If you didn’t see this on Channel 4 News last night, it is well worth a look. Very worrying to know what goes on on a couple of leading providers. Share with staff and parents!!

But please remember, these dangers do not just exist on two platforms, so we must not be tempted to vilify these two and ban childern from using them, only to then sit back and relax. That would be a very dangerous sense of security that would endanger our children. We need to educate children on the risks which are everywhere.

And as John Carr says in the interview within the Channel 4 piece, predators often use one app to make initial contact and then ask the child to move to another. The dangers move with them!

Watch the Channel 4 piece here

Talking to children about terrorism

candlesI have put together some information to help you with this topic after the sad events of the weekend, based on an article I wrote recently for Education Today, plus various links to further resources and support. Read it here

Newsletter for DSLs and online safety leads

We want to talk to the relevant people about our new Online Safety &Safeguarding Centre of Excellence. If you are a DSL / online-safety coordinator, that’s you!

So if you would like to receive regular information and updates relevant to your role, sign up at

Help us help you?

So whilst I am getting the hang of this blogging malarkey – do let me know what you would like to find out about – you should know that we are committing time, energy and money into the development of a safeguarding centre of excellence.

But we want to hear from you to make sure we provide the support you need. So if you haven’t already, please ask your school’s designated safeguarding or online-safety lead to fill out a quick survey to help shape our support for you at

Welcome to our new online safety and safeguarding blog

Welcome to a new blog from LGfL TRUSTnet’s Online Safety & Safeguarding Manager Mark Bentley.

That’s me