Ban the phones!?

The French have been cracking down on mobile phones in schools: as of this rentrée (back-to-school season), a new law fulfils French President Emmanuel Macron’s election promise, so you won’t see another phone in a French school…or will you? Actually, it’s not that simple – for some, not a lot will change.

There have been many column inches dedicated to the new ban on mobile phones in French schools that came into force this September. There is plenty to be said on both sides of the argument, much of which has already been said, so rather than re-hash that, I’ve collated some links for further reading below.

But this is just a quickfire blog post to issue a pedantic “Did you know?” as a bit of background to the debate, which is certainly relevant if we take the approach of “If it works in another country, then why not here”. The actual text of the law (see below) says that in early years settings, primary and lower secondaries (collèges), mobiles are banned, “except where the school expressly permits their use in specific circumstances (especially educational use) or locations”. And for the three final years of secondary education (lycées), the school doesn’t have to but “can” introduce a “total or partial” ban. So in fact, any school that still wants to allow mobiles at lunchtime, in the playground, or even in lessons when the teacher thinks it is appropriate, can do exactly that.

Screenshot from Legifrance, the office French government portal for state legislation

So whatever side of the debate you take (read more below if you want more), remember that the result of the new French law is greater support for schools which want a total ban, but plenty of scope for allowing it – and not only for educational reasons (news article / video – in French).

Here at LGfL TRUSTnet, we’re all about supporting schools to use tech better in the classroom and beyond, and that is the case for those which allow phones and those which don’t. We found that nearly 1 in 10 pupils find it hard to put down their device and have a break (see page 17 of our pupil survey report), and we will be looking at how we can further support schools, parents and pupils with tech addiction / detox over the coming months. It starts of course with the modelling of good behaviour by adults.

 

Links to opinion pieces for/against a UK ban on mobiles in schools:

Does banning smartphones in schools improve children’s development?‘ – Internet Matters article with expert views for and against (have you seen their new Back to School campaign?)

No, mobile phones should not be banned in UK schools‘ – article by Head of School of Education & Childhood Studies, University of Portsmouth

New statistics on parents who want a school ban vs those who still want their children to have their phone – from new Internet Matters research

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12‘ from Huffington Post

Banning kids from having smartphones misses the point LSE response to the above article

‘Self-harm bullying’

Schools and parents hear lots about self-harm and about bullying, but did you know there was such a thing as ‘self-harm bullying’, where children and young people are encouraged to harm themselves or worse? It sounds awful, but it’s important for schools and parents to know what’s going on.

(NB – read on for news of a new teacher CPD training resource)

Self harm quote

When we carried out our online-safety survey of 40,000 pupils around the UK earlier this year (read about it in Hopes & Streams), we asked pupils “Have you ever seen anything that encourages people to hurt themselves?”, which led to the striking statistic that yes, almost 1 in 6 pupils (primary and secondary alike), had seen something that encourages self-harm.

Against the background of headlines about ‘self-harm epidemics‘, with GPs and schools reporting major increases in cutting and other forms of self-harm, we expected to hear about online material from groups that encourage cutting or also eating disorders (known as pro-ana or pro-mia). Unfortunately we did indeed. However, we also found out something else.

Although we had asked separately about bullying, and found that 1 in 4 pupils had been bullied online and 1 in 13 admitted to having been the bully, we were surprised to discover from pupils’ free-text answers that the two topics were linked more closely than ever before. Again and again, we would read comments like the one at the top of this page.

Not only is it common for bullying to include calls to “go kill yourself”, but this is now often followed up by instructions, images, even videos on how to do so. Given the link between bullying and harm or suicide, this is particularly disturbing.

We need the key technology players to be doing more to remove self-harm material from their platforms, through human moderation and use of technology, and we are delighted to see that the government is driving this on as it works on legislation following from the Internet Safety Strategy.

But it is also important that parents and teachers understand what is going on and are ready to respond. One step that we have taken to try and help with this is by creating a CPD presentation for staff specifically on Self-Harm Bullying, which can be delivered by a designated safeguarding or mental health lead within the context of broader staff education about self-harm. It’s available to all schools at safecpd.lgfl.net (please read the notes for each slide carefully – this material should not be delivered lightly; NB – there is also a similar resource on livestreaming at the same link).

There are links to further reading in that presentation and in the relevant section of our Hopes & Streams report into our findings from the pupil survey. Why not have a look at the LGfL Healthy Minds resource, too for self-harm advice for parents, staff and pupils.

And as ever, let us know what else we can be doing to support in this area.

 

 

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Undressed!

Why on earth is the message in the poster below so important to get across – not just to teens but to really young children? Read on to find out more… 

Poster thumbnailThe online-safety messages of the past decade have meant that parents and professionals are now often aware of issues around teens being coerced or tricked into getting undressed or revealing themselves online (or doing so consensually as part of sexting).

However, there has been a lot less said about what needs to be said to the youngest pupils and why. We really want to get schools and parents on board to spread the message of this poster to the very youngest primary pupils.

Why?

You can read more details on page 22 onwards in our Hopes & Streams report, but here are some of the key points at a glance:

  • Law enforcement agencies such as NCA CEOP (National Crime Agency Child Exploitation and Online Protection) have warned over the past few years of sexual predators tricking young children into getting changed or undressed on camera by playing a ‘game’ or issuing a ‘challenge’ to see how fast they can get changed into different clothes or into a swimming costume. This might happen over video chat or livestreaming apps.
  • That’s why we asked the 40,000 children taking part in our pupil online safety survey if they had been asked to change or undress when using these apps and sites (read the survey report here). We found that:
    • Nearly 1 in 10 pupils who video chat with people they haven’t met have been asked to change or undress
    • More than 1 in 20 pupils who livestream have been asked to change or undress
  • Internet Watch Foundation research has shown that 98% of publicly available livestreamed child sexual abuse images involved children aged 13 and under; 28% were aged 10 and under!
  • If you are still unconvinced, read these case studies (also IWF) of real children affected by this abuse strategy (the youngest was 7 years old but even younger children can be affected.

What next?

That’s why we would love you to share this poster, put it up in your school and ask teachers and parents to add this simple message to the others already being communicated effectively to many primary pupils. You may want to explain to parents (send them here to undressed.lgfl.net if it is helpful) why this message is relevant to (especially) the youngest pupils who do not have the same mental capacity as older children to always realise when they are being tricked.

You will obviously need to be careful how you approach it (and if you aren’t the designated safeguarding lead, speak to them first), but if the youngest children have already internalised this simple message, then hopefully we make a difference.

Teachers, note that there is a new livestreaming CPD training resource for your DSL to present to all staff at safecpd.lgfl.net page (also new there: self-harm bullying).

 

 

 

Hopes & Streams report – 40,000 pupils told us about online safety…

…and boy, did we learn a lot. For the full report, video overview, or to read about a specific theme, head to pupilsurvey.lgfl.net. Meanwhile here on SafeBlog, we are starting a series of posts on themes from the survey. 

 

Mental health / self-harm and livestreaming were major themes, and there was plenty to learn about violent and sexual content and sharing, online pornography, friendships, bullying, and who children want to talk to for advice). Just to be clear, there were many positives – it’s not all doom and gloom.

But in this first post, we thought it would be useful to skip to the end and reproduce our recommendation for schools’ next steps. Hopefully they will inspire you to want to go back and read the report to find out more and why we say. This is a list from the conclusion section of the report:

  • You told us parents are key, and the survey confirmed this, so drive parental engagement with a focus on this key statistic: 73% of pupils trust their parents on online safety (but only half talk about it with them more than once a year). Make this the basis for all work with parents in this area – it is worthwhile
  • Use the resources and lesson ideas linked to each thematic section of the report – there are plenty of direct links, or use the filters at saferesources.lgfl.net to shape teaching & learning and support staff and parents
  • Use the quotes and statistics dotted throughout this report as discussion starters in class and in staff inset –taking just one quote and statistic from a specific section will give you plenty of potential for a valuable discussion
  • Remember the distress caused by violent videos, especially towards animals, which is an area that adults often do not identify
  • Investigate the role of peer programmes for pupils to support each other – ‘telling a friend’ was the second favourite option for talking about the worst things that happen online
  • Consider predator behaviour (and talk to parents about why it matters for the youngest children) regarding coercing children to change clothes on camera – remember our statistics show how this affects the very youngest children
  • Focus on behaviours rather than lists of ‘bad apps’ – predators hop around apps, so scare stories just lead to a false sense of security
  • Discuss latest screen time concerns with parents and share sensible advice on balancing activities rather than limiting time
  • Address technology addiction by asking pupils what they think about the nearly 1 in 3 who admitted finding it hard to stop using devices to have a break
  • Refresh teacher, parent and pupil awareness of helplines for advice and support
  • Incorporate real-life examples from normal adult life into online safety education – admit that we can get it wrong too
  • Make sure the youngest pupils know they should talk to a trusted adult about anything that gives them ‘a funny feeling inside’
  • Provide staff refreshers on key documents such as Keeping Children Safe in Education and the UKCCIS Sexting Guidance
  • View and share materials on understanding the motives for self-harm in the mental health section, considering how to talk about the issues without ‘giving ideas’

There were recommendations for government and industry too, and of course for us – what do we plan do do as a result of this survey. Head to pupilsurvey.lgfl.net and read the report to find out more. Next blog – mental health and self-harm bullying.

 

Help your children and pupils ‘Own It’ with the BBC

For the LGfL DigiSafe team, a clear online-safety resource highlight of 2018 so far has been the launch of BBC Own It! And the best bit? It’s not a single resource, but an entire portal – aimed at and very much ‘in’ the voice of young people. We met Own It Editor Dave Howard and asked for his top tips for parents and teachers taking a first foray into the uber-cool world of Own It.

Here’s what Dave had to say (scroll to the end to find out our favourites, and let us know yours, too):

“BBC Own It is designed to speak directly with children (mostly aged 9 to 12) about things that affect their lives online. However, much of our content can just as easily be used by parents, teachers and other professionals to start conversations with young people about staying healthy and happy in digital spaces. If you’re keen to explore the site in more detail, here are ten links to get you started:

 1) Gaming: should you take a break?

Linked to the WHO recently classifying gaming addiction as a mental health condition, this video (and associated text advice from psychiatrist and Own It advisor Dr Aaron Balick) could be used to kick off a conversation about gaming habits, and being aware of lines they could cross.

 2) Doggie Diagnosis

We are building the Own It Scottie Dogs, Will and Ainslie, into a brand that helps us find humorous ways in to tricky topics. In this short comic animation, one of our furry friends starts to worry that he has a serious illness – after doing a ‘Doggle’ search of his symptoms. 

 3) The best and worst of life online

This hard-hitting film was a central plank of Own It’s launch on Safer Internet Day back in February.  It can be used to start a conversation about how children and teens are themselves in control of how they conduct themselves online, and how the words they choose to use online – nice or nasty – can impact others.

 4) “Be curious, be smart, be kind, be you”

This spoken-word piece was workshopped and composed with kids by former European and Scottish Slam Poetry champion MiKo Berry. It celebrates the internet as the greatest invention of modern times.  But it also explores how, just as cars need seat-belts to go fast, we need to consider how we keep ourselves safe online. 

 5) How manky is your mobile?

This video is a deliberately different take on digital well-being.  Our phones and devices go with us everywhere, including to the bathroom (yes, even yours – don’t deny it!) This video, starring CBBC and Radio 1 presenter Katie Thistleton, shows how many gross things could be living on our phones.  

A ‘top five’ of Own It resources just wouldn’t cover it – so here are five more I couldn’t go without mentioning:

6) Have you seen bullying in online gaming?

A video, in which kids talk about their personal experiences with bullying in online gaming. How did it make them feel? It is a great platform to get kids in classrooms to talk about their own experiences and share them with an adult.

 7) Being smart on social media

This is one of a series of films shot with the casts of CBBC shows, and stars actors Millie and Tallulah, who play Millie Inbetween and her older sister. It’s intended for introducing kids to social media for the first time – and asks them to prioritise security settings, and not giving away too much information about yourself.

8) Are you parents savvy on social media?

Part of our “Managing Parents” collection. Team Own It vlogger, Scola Dondo, and her mum talk about their shared life online and what it’s like posting things to social media that your parents can see. This video is important in getting kids to realise that it’s not awful being friends with your parents online and, actually, you can help each other.

 9) 8 Ways to Spot a “Sharent” listicle
When we showed this page to a group of children in Glasgow, they cheered and gave it a standing ovation.  This collection of memes can be used by children to start a conversation if they feel their parents or carers are sharing too much of their lives online.

10) Get Urgent Help or Advice Here
This is the most important page on the Own It site.  Please, if at all possible, make the children you work with aware of it.  It’s a fast-track to places they can go to get help when they need it – from Childline to CEOP to dialing 999 in an emergency.”

Dave Howard, Editor of BBC Own It

PS from the LGfL DigiSafe Team – three of our favourites so far are:

  1. Number 3 above (The best and worst of life online) – great blend of the awful and the awesome
  2. When your parents are on social – different way to start a parent session, thinking about who exactly has no filter – adults or children, and…
  3. This great series where Kids Explain concepts to their parents – genius!

Tweet @LGfLDigiSafe and let us know yours…

 

 

 

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018

The Department for Education’s flagship safeguarding document is ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ or KCSIE for short. It has been updated for September 2018, with valuable new additions that all schools need to consider. Designated Safeguarding Leads and school leaders and owners need to read it all, but here is an introduction to some of the changes that will have an impact on everybody.

WHO IS IT FOR?

Wherever I go to talk to teachers about safeguarding, I like to ask if everyone at their school has read Part 1 of KCSIE. The guidance is statutory, which means that schools must follow what it says, and within the introduction it points out that Part 1, the first 15 pages of the document, is to be read by all staff. That doesn’t mean all teachers, but all staff – in the office, in the site team, in the canteen…

Annex A covers specific forms of abuse and safeguarding issues, and should be read by leaders and anyone in school who works directly with children. If you think this isn’t the case in your school, why not stop reading now and go and set the wheels in motion for this to take place now. Not to mention Annex C about online safety…

HOW CAN I SEE WHAT’S CHANGED?

There is no way around reading the document itself, but to help you get to grips with the changes at a glance if you are well accustomed to the previous KCSIE, we have put together a tracked changes document here, and Annex H of the main document (scroll down this page to see the 2018 version) includes the changes in table form.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

One key new area is the addition of Part 5, which refers to and summarises the new DfE advice on sexual violence and harassment in schools. It is worth reading the full document as it is very helpful, with case studies, actions and guidance for a range of issues. The text stresses that schools must take all forms of sexual violence and harassment seriously and explains how it exists on a continuum.

Behaviours sometimes considered as ‘low level’ must be 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.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

Many schools, especially those in London will now be more familiar with ‘county lines’ than at the time the 2016 document was published. KCSIE now gives a useful summary of the phenomenon in Annex A with key factors involved in this type of abuse.

There are many other changes, small and large. For example, there is new mention of contextual safeguarding and how we need to work on understanding the full picture to understand children’s lives and the overall safeguarding jigsaw. Schools are now recommended to hold at least two emergency contacts after cases of deaths in the home of the single contact themselves.

In online safety, new resources and signposting has been added, as well as mention of topics to cover such as fake news, pornography and racist extremism. The role of the school designated safeguarding lead is defined in KCSIE; this 2018 edition of KCSIE adds the words ‘including online safety’ after safeguarding and child protection, highlighting how the DSL has lead responsibility, and online safety is inseparable from safeguarding. This is a really helpful addition, highlighting that whilst it’s fine to have an online-safety lead other than the DSL or deputy DSL, there must be a very close working relationship and support lines between anyone in this position and the DSL.

WHAT NEXT?

This post is just a summary of a few points in the new KCSIE to get you started – there is not room to cover everything here, so make sure you go to the document itself on gov.uk (and remember the tracked changes version might help the first time you read it). For other perspectives, picking out other key points, why not check out Andrew Hall’s update page and video here, an NSPCC overview here, or Kenty County Council’s online safety in KCSIE overview here.

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, so get your colleagues reading! September’s CPD updates for all school staff always include reminders and new aspects to look out for, but the new KCSIE gives us an opportunity to return to these issues and cover new areas to help make the next academic year a great one for keeping children safe.

 

 

 

 

Gangs support

This post is a copy of the links shared via the LGfL DigiSafe newsletter a few weeks ago, but due to popular demand, I’m reposting here a roundup of resources and advice available for schools on knives and gangs. Do let us know what else you would find useful.

KnifeFree campaign and resources

You may have seen Home Office #KnifeFree adverts in the past few weeks. There is an accompanying website: knifefree.co.uk has videos of people who have moved away from or resisted gangs, includes risks, consequences, facts, info for parents, reporting advice and further links. The videos may be more suited to Secondary pupils, but there is lots that could be useful in Primaries for teachers and parents.

There are also POSTERS which might help as discussion starters around school.

The NSPCC has a dedicated gangs page which will be useful for all colleagues. There is advice and guidance and a great video to share with staff / parents.
Make sure parents are aware they can call the NSPCC hotline (0808 800 5000) for adults concerned about a child for advice on issues including gangs:

Here is a government advice leaflet for parents and carers (it’s from 2014 but still offers useful advice). 

 

Poster from Brent council with signs to look out for – meant for parents but great for the staffroom too.

 

And there are two great advice pages designed for young people from Childline on Gangs and Gun and knife crime

Finally, below is a list of further links that may be of use / interest.

But first, we are looking at what other support we can offer to schools in the area of gangs, in particular in relation to social-media-driven conflict, aggression and violence. If you have ideas or particular needs in this area, hit reply to tell us so we can best provide the support  you need.

Education for a Connected World

If you are reading this, you probably already have an interest in online safety, digital resilience, digital citizenship, or whatever term is currently en vogue in your setting. But what about the people around you who don’t? How can we prepare children and young people for a connected world if we are a lone voice or expected to do it all ourselves? Unsurprisingly, we probably can’t. But…

Education for a Connected World framework


If only there were a way for teachers to work together across the curriculum to ensure progression in digital resilience without starting again or reinventing the wheel, and allowing everyone to get on board, including those who may not have a natural affinity or interest, as well as those who simply feel ill equipped to do so…

You’ll be pleased to hear that’s exactly what there now is, with the new UKCCIS digital resilience framework Education for a Connected World. If you haven’t heard of UKCCIS, it is the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and well worth finding out more about here, especially after the government’s Internet Safety Strategy highlighted its future strategic role. (disclaimer: we at LGfL DigiSafe sit on the education working group which developed the framework).

It is a progression framework with four nominal age ranges – EYFS -7, 7-11, 11-14 and 14-18 – but of course the ‘stage, not age’ principle applies and you can apply it as appropriate. For example, specialist SEND schools may well take a different approach, and this may be the case in many mainstream schools as well. But the point is to offer a baseline to plan against and help you to consolidate learning and identify progression. The framework is divided into eight broad themes covering behaviour and knowledge, protection, development and respect for others, norms, and laws:

  • Self-image and Identity
  • Online relationships
  • Online reputation
  • Online bullying
  • Managing online information
  • Health, wellbeing and lifestyle
  • Privacy and security
  • Copyright and ownership

Each strand and age range has ‘can do’ statements in the style of a typical class learning objective, ranging from this for the lower ages: “If something happens that makes me feel sad, worried, uncomfortable or frightened I can give examples of when and how to speak to an adult I can trust” to this for upper secondary students: “I can describe the laws governing online sexual content.”

Some of the topics covered by the statements are challenging, such as addressing online pornography for secondary students. But they are in the framework with good reason, both in terms of real-world necessity and legislative landscape (the introduction of relationships and sex education, and the upcoming introduction of age verification for online pornography). Incidentally, on that, there is some support for teachers at pornography.lgfl.net. A different kind of challenge for many colleagues might be teaching about new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, which is mentioned in several strands. But again, it’s there because of the reality of the world we live in, let alone the world as it will be when our pupils leave school in a few years’ time.

As we move towards summer and the inevitable reviews and rewrites of curriculum plans, schemes of work and so on, it’s a great time to engage with colleagues on this issue and have this document at the ready to support you as you do so. I bet your colleagues will be surprised to discover how many of the statements they already cover. And where you don’t, plenty of organisations are working to provide resources to support you. Many of which you can find at saferesources.lgfl.net.

What we saw today at the LGfL TRUSTnet Conference


Un drôle de blog this time – this is just a round up of the links and ideas and pointers shared today in my sessions at the LGfL TRUSTnet conference.

So apologies for the list, but…it’s a list! Also being shared on the newsletter – sign up at dslcontacts.lgfl.net

Some top viewing tips (not made by us):

Some top viewing tips (from us)

Find out about all the following topics with videos you can use for CPD in your schools with colleagues, all from the DigiSafe conference and open access here.

  • Livestreaming from CEOP
  • Prevent and radicalisation from various specialist speakers
  • Safeguarding in PSHE from the PSHE Association
  • Online pornography from the NSPCC and BBFC
  • Sexting from the expert who wrote the guidance, and a real-life sexting case study

Monitoring
If you are interested in proactive technical monitoring solution, click here just to let us know current interest as it was a long time ago that we originally asked.

Reminders of LGfL services:

National / official documents

Staying in touch with us

Survey

  • If you want us to email you (one-off, you won’t get added to a list) when the report of the pupil survey comes out, you can sign up for that here.

Our key links

EDIT – 02/05/18

  • Laura Higgins joined us from UK Safer Internet Centre’s Professional Online Safety Helpline. Her presentation is here.

Gambling in schools – what are the odds?

Have you heard of loot boxes or skins trading? If not and you are thinking an article about gambling among schoolchildren is not for you – gaming, sure, but not gambling – then you might want to think again and read on.

When we are keeping children safe in schools, issues which affect adults are also recognised as affecting young people. It is widely accepted that sexual exploitation or abuse, alcohol or drugs need addressing by schools because they affect young people, whether directly or indirectly via family members. Yet gambling is often left out of prevention campaigns and PSHE planning, seen as an adults-only problem.

Yet the Gambling Commission’s 2017 annual report found that 12% of 11-16 year olds had spent their own money on gambling in the past week (compared to 16% who had used alcohol, 5% cigarettes and 3% illegal drugs). This probably conservative estimate should be enough in itself to make us sit up and pay attention, especially when you consider how safeguarding concerns tend to trickle down school year groups to ever younger children.

Whilst the tell-tale signs of drug or alcohol use can alert schools to a problem, especially directly after their consumption, online gambling can take place on a phone in seconds, under a desk at school or under the covers at night. That has been the case for several years now, and is only becoming easier and more prevalent. And so the chance to recognise a problem and offer support with addiction is all the more important.

That’s why Demos, Gamble Aware and the PSHE Association worked together to conduct research on preventing gambling harms for young people which has led to an academic report and new PSHE resources for schools launched this week.

The resources have been piloted and proven in terms of increasing awareness and are well worth a look; they focus on critical thinking, managing risk, developing resilience, looking out for your friends and knowing where to go for support.

Ring any bells? Yup, just like pretty much every other online issue. So have a look and see how you might incorporate these into your curriculum. They are for Secondaries, but as ever, they are worth a look if you are in a Primary to see what might be of use. The Demos research has all manner of interesting findings, such as the fact that children’s exposure to gambling adverts has tripled between 2005 and 2012.

But what about those loot boxes and skins? Children and young people are at the forefront of experimental gambling, often in a twilight zone where users don’t know they are gambling and unscrupulous providers sometimes want to keep it that way. And if you don’t know you are gambling, how can prevention messages reach you?

You can read an overview of skins and skin betting from ParentZone here, but in a nutshell you can purchase or win new items or outfits or weapons in a game, and these can be traded or wagered on the outcome of another game (sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of pounds), leading to large wins…or heavy losses.

Loot boxes are reminiscent of game shows of yore, where the gamesmaster asks contestants to trade their winnings for the contents of a mystery box, which could hold the keys to a house, a car, or nothing. Today, these now appear as paid add-ons in games that young people play. You pay to open a box and maybe win something, or then again…

So whilst it wouldn’t be a good idea to introduce the term loot box to your class or ask if they have ever traded skins and get them interested in something they hadn’t heard of before, you may want to keep an eye and ear out when you talk to them about the games they play online. Gambling – it’s not child’s play!

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 pupilsurvey.lgfl.net

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 internetsafetystrategy@culture.gov.uk, 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 parentsafe.lgfl.net and reporting.lgfl.net. 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 apps.lgfl.net 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

 

So…?

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. parentsafe.lgfl.net)
  • 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…

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.

@SI_Liverpool

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 catfish....is 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 cse.lgfl.net

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 bullying.lgfl.net 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 sexting.lgfl.net 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 osresources.lgfl.net for supporting resources and guidance or point parents to osparents.lgfl.net 

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 sexting.lgfl.net *

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

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 Music.ly and Live.ly

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

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 dslcontacts.lgfl.net

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 safesurvey.lgfl.net