Communicating with parents about staying safe online is challenging but really important, so we thought you might like to see a letter that Greenvale Primary in Croydon (thanks for letting us share it!) sent home to parents about safe search engines, the challenges of YouTube, YouTube Kids and parental settings. This school had just decided to make YouTube available more widely than before – whether or not that applies to you, the rest may give you useful ideas.
Please use, adapt and send, and let us know if it helps. You can download the text as a Word file to edit and adapt alongside other useful such documents from safepolicies.lgfl.net as a word document if you want to adapt and use the text . Otherwise read on here just to see the text:
Online Safety at XXX
Dear Parent / Carer,
I write with regards to
children’s access to media through the use of YouTube.
At XXX, we have a number of internet filters in place which means that inappropriate websites are blocked so that children are unable to access these whilst at school. These filters are also able to block sites as requested by the school. In recent years, we have blocked YouTube for children as it can sometimes be difficult to monitor the content within videos. After discussion with our Internet Service Provider, we have now decided to reinstate access to YouTube at XXX.
We took this decision, as
our view around applications such as YouTube is that children will more than
likely be accessing these websites whilst at home and that by simply blocking
websites which may show inappropriate content, we are unable to demonstrate how
to be vigilant and act if and when we were to come across inappropriate
content. We would also like to make
clear that we would be applying a ‘strict, restricted’ level of security on YouTube
which will block out videos that are deemed inappropriate for primary aged
At school, we will also
speak with the children to make them aware that they are only to go on YouTube
when asked to do so by a teacher for specific work reasons. This way, we can ensure that their use is
monitored and that children have a specific reason for viewing media. This rule will apply throughout the school
day, including for children who attend breakfast and after-school club.
As a school, we would like
to encourage the use of ‘YouTube Kids’ (as opposed to the main YouTube version)
which is more suitable for children.
Please note that this can only be accessed via an app and is not web-based. There are also search engines which are far
more user friendly and suitable for children of primary school age, such as ‘Swiggle’ which can help ensure that children do not accidently
come across content which is inappropriate.
Through downloading ‘Google
Family Link’, or ‘Apple
Screen Time’ (both free apps) you are
also able to block or allow different apps on your children’s devices.
Finally, in assembly today,
we have shared a song from CEOP with the children and asked them to show you
this at home over the weekend. We hope
that this will help open up some helpful dialogue between families about online
safety. Please click here to access a copy of
this video. The video
that we have watched is video 1, however you will see a number of other videos
which will help initiate discussions around staying safe online.
information about how you are able to review or update parental controls for
apps and devices, please click here. This website provides parents with
simple to follow instructions for how to keep your children safe at home.
can be a wonderful place and we believe can be of great benefit to our pupils. Our highest priority is ensuring that
children remain safe whilst online and ensuring they know what action to take
should they come across anything that is inappropriate or causes them distress.
[ END ] Now over to you… If you have one that’s much more helpful in your opinion, why not share for the benefit of others? Get in touch
If you are joining us now on Facebook Live, see below for links to what we are looking at. If you weren’t with us, hopefully it will still be a useful reference guide. Obviously in the limited time it isn’t possible to cover everything.
There is more at parentsafe.lgfl.net (but that page is more for schools to use for sharing individual items rather than the whole page). Parents why not follow @LGfLDigiSafe on Twitter or Facebook or subscribe to this blog.
This is the video we watched – what might your children plan to do but not tell you about? Don’t make the answer to punish them or take away devices though as they will be even less likely to tell you.
Here’s are some of the other resources we looked at:
‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is an expression many people know, but we have called this poster campaign “There’s no such thing as free chicken” to highlight the dangers of chicken-shop grooming.
You may have arrived at this page because you have seen the poster on the right and want to find out more. If you are a parent, carer or teacher, you may want to watch the excellent YouTube video below which explains the concept of chicken-shop grooming in the context of gangs – the same principles apply for sexual and criminal exploitation.
If you are a young person, you may want to watch this Barnado’s video too. Whereas the YouTube video below talks about criminal exploitation (tricking you into a gang), this one explains sexual exploitation (tricking you into sex).
The principles are the same though; it doesn’t need to be an expensive pair of trainers – if a cousin of a friend or a friend of a friend is buying you fast food or small gifts, they might just be nice… or they may expect you to return the ‘debt’ you don’t know you are building up. This can faster than you think, even if you think ‘it wouldn’t happen to me’.
If something has happened though, it’s not your fault. Talk to a teacher, a parent/carer, the police, Childline or The Mix. If someone is blackmailing you they will tell you there’s no way out, but there is.
Since posting this blog, there has been media coverage of the story such as this newspaper article which may be of interest. It references written evidence submitted to the Youth Select Committee by The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales which you can read here. You may want to watch the ITV video in the tweet below for more information too.
I recently gave a talk on ten online safety axioms which might not be as effective as we think for keeping children safe. As it seemed to pique some interest, here’s a quick blog version. You will disagree with some; they are supposed to be provocative and make you ‘stop and think’ (see #1 for why that’s ironic).
Watch the video below, or just read on, or to see a shorter video just for the statement you want, click any of the numbered images below.
It’s important to note that there is some truth in all ten statements, but the ‘problem’ is that they represent potentially dangerous simplifications of complex concepts. When we address the same issues with adults, we say it’s too difficult to boil down to a pithy rule, but when it comes to educating children, often we do exactly that. This blog doesn’t give many answers, but lots of questions to think about.
First though, it’s important to know what we mean when we talk about staying safe online. Here are six versions of ‘safe’ – how many more can you think of, and which one(s) are we trying to achieve?
Here’s #1 – a sentence that anyone who has ever given an online-safety talk has probably used (yes, including me; yes, you will find the phrase in our resources now and again; no, I haven’t got an easy alternative – that’s the point). Critical thinking is such an important skill, but it can’t be taught by learning the phrase above. ‘Think’ what? If a teen is about to send a nude image to a boyfriend/girlfriend, the answer to “Do I want to send this?” or “Do I want the other person to see it?” might be “YEEEES”. There is often lots of thinking before clicking, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to wise choices.**
As with all of these points, you could easily get a blog out of this one (hold on, I did! It’s here). Parents often worry about screen time, and often with good reason…but not always. We don’t talk about food time, we talk about healthy diets; not how long you eat, but how and what. In the same way, time on a screen isn’t time on a screen: are two hours scrolling through other people’s lives on social media the same as a video call with Grandma, research for homework, a times-table game and reading an ebook? Let’s not perpetuate an unhelpful simplification. Check out the blog for more, and screentime.lgfl.net for some handy handouts and guidance (Digital Five a Day, for example).
No, I haven’t gone mad. Of course it’s good advice (ish), but is it even possible? Look at the screenshots above? As adults we might see a form that asks for too much information but shrug our shoulders and do it anyway. We might see a list of permissions that are unnecessary, but because “I neeeeeed that app,” we install it anyway. Why should children be more grown up about it than we are? Oh, and we haven’t even covered the fact that your Amazon parcel probably won’t turn up if you don’t give your name and home address, and if you lie about your age and give a false name, many social media providers will delete your account. So maybe not such a handy one-liner after all…
Yes I have used this phrase, and no I can’t think of an alternative expression. This is a great challenge for those of us who create materials for schools. Apologies to those teachers who take a resource but then need to spend half an hour talking about what a trusted adult is. Given that most abusers are known by a child and therefore within the ‘circle of trust’, this is such a key concept. And what about when today’s trusted adult becomes tomorrow’s abuser? It’s no wonder we reach for a handy turn of phrase to sum it up, but it’s never that simple. As ever, critical thinking is…critical (have a look at the Trust Me resource). There’s no easy answer and we need to keep encouraging reporting, but perhaps with more of a focus on telling when something doesn’t feel right (for primary, try video 1 of Jessie & Friends – it’s brilliant). It might not be pleasant, but we may also need to spend more time telling children that sometimes good people do bad things.
This graphic speaks for itself. The quotes, which come from our online behaviour survey of 40,000 pupils Hopes & Streams, illustrate why this advice might be helpful as part of a wider strategy, but certainly shouldn’t have the word ‘just’ at the start; there is so much more to consider. As with #3 about sharing personal details, this may be a good example of asking children to be digitally resilient where actually we shouldn’t. Instead, we should be protecting them and offering an alternative (or telling industry to do so, which is exactly what the government is working on at the moment with the Online Harms White Paper).
The quote above came from a focus group we carried out with a group of Year 8 students at a London secondary school. It highlights just how careful we need to be when ‘delivering’ online safety education. The pupils we spoke to could eloquently describe some of the classic rules we are talking about in this blog, and what to do in certain situations. But when the border between online and offline only exists in a lesson, is the theoretical conversation we have with them any use in a situation they don’t even see as online? After all, safeguarding is safeguarding (online and off), safety is safety (ditto), and behaviour is behaviour (ditto ditto).
Here’s another one which is challenging for providers of online safety resources, not just for teachers at the coalface. On the one hand, just because a resource is brilliant, it doesn’t mean it will be when you endure it for the fifth consecutive year. So teachers be careful, but also let us (and all the other amazing providers of materials for schools) know what areas need more coverage, and we’ll get cracking! But at the same time, we need to address the issues that upset children: many of the topics on the infographic above from our survey might be obvious to children, but not all. No adult guessed that videos being shared of animals being hurt would be one of the things that complained about most. Are we asking them and meeting their needs?
It is quite understandable why you would give into the temptation to give parents the list of ‘bad apps’ that they often ask for. And it’s understandable why they ask for one. But it’s not a good idea. We wrote a Scare vs Prepare blog on the topic a while ago (read it here; it also includes a video explainer), but in a nutshell, it can create a false sense of security and unnecessary panic, and when there is something really ghastly out there, warnings provide free publicity and generate intrigue. Is the answer to say nothing? No, but to warn about behaviours and risks where necessary, because they can apply on all manner of apps. And just like people, bad things happen on good apps.
Adults never fritter away time scrolling through cat gifs and end up missing a deadline as a result. Or do they? It’s important to give credit where credit is due: whilst we do need to help children and young people manage their time, and any parent knows from ‘the homework conversation’ how stressful this is, let’s keep talking to them about it but also listen and learn how they manage, and give help where it’s needed. Think that sounds crazy? Then read here about how Snapchatters deal with maintaining a 500-day 75-friend streak record when they need to get out the house, or what they do when it’s exam time. We will always need to play the annoying adult role, but a little more insight may lead to more effective haranguing.
The amazing Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics has spent ten years debunking the term digital native and has written a lot about the term and the concept (she suggests naïve expert is preferable). But the three statistics above from our survey illustrate our final fallacy (surely no question mark needed on this one?) rather well in the words of young people. Not enough children tell anybody about bad stuff online, but when they do, they often choose to tell parent. After all, even though not many have ‘that conversation’ regularly, three quarters of children trust what their parents have to say (naturally only when they want to hear an opinion!). And why is that? Because they recognise that it’s not about the app; it’s about the behaviour! So when we facilitate the myth that anyone is ‘too old to get it’, we are doing ourselves, and our children, a major disservice.
So there we have it – my top ten fallacies, which are of course mainly ‘over simplifications of complex issues with a sprinkling of fact’. But that doesn’t make for quite such a good blog title. Let us know what you think, and which ones have I missed? Tweet us at @LGfLDigiSafe
** Please note that to keep this blog shorter than War & Peace, I can only scratch the surface of each point here so some arguments may appear flaky. I could say much more, and am happy to tell you more on the subject, but why not let them marinade in your mind for a while – you may be surprised what you think in a couple of weeks’ time.
Hello and welcome to my first blog post at LGfL! I’m honoured to have joined the DigiSafe centre of excellence in safeguarding and look forward to sharing our latest developments, top tips and best practice to support you in your role safeguarding young people online.
Some of you may have seen me presenting at the LGfL conference and Bett Futures Stage – or you might have come across the Prevent Toolkit for Schools which I developed recently. I am passionate about empowering young people online and promoting wellbeing through the positive use of technology – so much so that I completed a Masters on a whole school approach to tackling cyberbullying, where I developed our school’s award winning CyberMentor programme, which reduced online incidents by 47% in the first year. And thanks to a generous grant from John Lyon’s Charity, we were able to roll it out across our partner schools in Ealing to develop their online safety provision, publishing the findings in a special edition of the Journal of Assistive Technology. More recently I completed a 2-year secondment with Ealing Council as their Prevent Schools Adviser, where I established the ARISE Network and Quality Assurance Mark, working in collaboration with the DfE, and a network of primary, secondary, independent, faith and special schools, to address challenges and develop best practice in implementing the Prevent duty.
Outside of this, I love travel,
foreign film, tai chi, street food and going to the theatre. Interesting fact –
exactly a year ago this week I was biting into a scone at the Royal Garden
Party in Buckingham Palace – an incredibly humbling experience being surrounded
by inspiring individuals from all walks – and I still have the napkin!
Must get back to work now, we are
working on some exciting initiatives and training opportunities coming your way,
so watch this space!
October 2019 update. The government has announced that the age verification of online pornography will not be implemented.
They said it couldn’t be done, but AV Day approaches as the UK becomes the first country in the world to enforce age verification for online pornography, with a view to turning off pornography for under 18s. What will it mean in reality?
This groundbreaking move is being watched closely around the world and may be copied in other countries, but why is it necessary in the first place? Whilst it is accepted that young people will find a way to access pornography if they are determined to do so, it is harmful for their development to learn about sex from pornography rather than sex education, and can damage them in various ways as they continue through adolescence. Add that to the fact that a lot of the time children and young people are not seeking out pornography but stumble across it or have it sent to them (not sure that’s true? scroll through the graphics below from our research!), and the reasons for the new law become even clearer.
There are all kinds of practicalities around the technology and how you prove your age safely and maintaining data protection and confidentiality. I could tell you more about that as I’ve sat on a policy group looking at the issues, but they are less relevant for schools as they work with under-18s.
The key thing to know is that the law applies to commercial sites only – this means ones where the user pays OR the primary commercial aim of the site is to offer pornography. That means not all porn will be blocked (so certain social media sites which have an enormous amount of porn on them are not yet covered by the law; but watch this space!).
With the advent of RSHE (Relationships, Sex & Health Education) coming soon as a statutory subject, and against the background of the new legislation coming into force and therefore becoming more of a hot topic than it is anyway (lots of schools are already doing great work here), it is worth pointing out the resources out there to support teachers. At LGfL we have put together a one-stop signposting area to multiple resources from a range of organisations – visit pornography.lgfl.net to find lesson plans, advice pages for pupils and parents, guidance from the regulator and much more.
One resource from the page which is particularly worth highlighting is this ( ↑ ) amazing new package from Childnet called Myth or Reality (part of a full new RSHE toolkit). The pornography part of the kit is truly brilliant, with full lessons and discussion guides, excellent teacher notes and 3 powerful ‘talking head’ videos explaining young people’s experiences with porn. Take a look and get ready for the discussions that could help young people as the issue hits the headlines more and more over the coming months.
“I’ve been asked to run a parent session on online safety – what should we do?” That’s a question we are often asked, often accompanied by a deep sigh because nobody came to the last one, or only the same people. Here are some suggestions. The ‘not-very-graphical graphic’ with below is a summary list to start with, or read on for a little more detail. And remember parentsafe.lgfl.net is the place where we signpost to helpful resources for this area.
Point 1 above (don’t bother!) isn’t intended to be provocative, but we always recommend drip-feeding information to parents throughout the year. If you send home a regular newsletter about curriculum or events, why not add a pointer, reminder or resource each time. That is easy to do but can have a regular impact. If you are going to have a face-to-face sessions as well, and they can be very helpful, first consider whether a standalone big-bang approach once a year will be effective. Will parents come? Will the right ones come who you really want to be there? Will all the effort lead to sustainable change/support? If the answer to any of those is no, then maybe another approach is better. Why not add it onto an existing event, for example? Anyway, once you have decided how to approach it, here is just one of many ways you might approach it (remember the key is to customise for your setting, children and parents!).
Point 2 – why not show the image above on screen as parents come into the session? The statistics are from Hopes & Streams, our survey of 40,000 young people. They speak for themselves but are certainly worth discussing – ask parents if they feel confident talking about online safety with their children, and point out how the first 2 stats show why it is so important that they do, and how the third one demonstrates that children recognise how adults’ life experience can be helpful, even on an app, site or game you’ve never heard of, let alone used – so it is worth it, and can help! We have a poster you may want to use with these stats as well here (from safeposters.lgfl.net).
Point 3 – if you haven’t got an ‘AUP’ (Acceptable Use Policy, which is actually more about behaviour than use), then get one! We have a template for you here. It’s no good just having one though – show it, talk it through and discuss why each point is important. Even if you fear some may ignore it, it gives you a foundation for any tricky conversations you may have in future. But above all, discussing the rationale for it with parents will probably mean that they will understand and adhere to it!
Points 4 & 5 – give some background to life online to young people by referring to our survey of 40,000 pupils from Primary and Secondary schools, Hopes & Streams. You could show the video from the page, or simply scroll through the flipbook to see some of the topics and quotes / statistics. Below are some of the themes, but see the report for statistics and quotes.
Point 6 – make sure you watch them first as you might get questions if you do things differently, but Internet Matters made videos to show parents what they might expect their children to cover at school in the area of online safety, either for Primary or Secondary.
As with everything on this list, you could also send it in advance, or as one of your weekly reminders, or…
Point 7 – this is a non-point. Please don’t include telling parents about the latest scary apps/sites/games/scares/dares etc by name!! Don’t give alist of bad apps or good apps. Why on earth not? See here (this is more for staff than for parents, but helpful for you as background to this).
Point 8 – However, if parents want to find out about a particular app (why not demo it?) there’s the NSPCC’s NetAware app which gives great overviews and summaries of the risks, opportunities and what parents/children think. Find this and others via apps.lgfl.net
Point 9– While we’re talking apps, show parents the Internet Matters app for having a conversation with a child. It’s a great ipad app which an adult holds at one end and the child at the other (see below), and it gives you the conversation to have that you might otherwise be wary of! Parentzone has a great newsletter they may want to sign up to as well.
Point 10– Screen time is often a concern for parents, but the best thing you can do is reassure them that ‘how long?’ isn’t as important as ‘what’ and having balance. screentime.lgfl.net has plenty including flyers you could hand out, plus a blog from us that explains a bit more about what to look for. Remember you can’t compare one bit of screen time with another, in the same way as you can’t compare broccoli with KFC or chicken dippers when talking about food – so beware people offering official time limits or polarising ‘good’ or ‘bad’ judgments.
Point 11– Convey the really important message below for the youngest children who might get tricked into getting changed on camera (that risk is for all of them!). Find the full resolution poster below, why this is for the youngest pupils – and ALL of them – and a video explanation at undressed.lgfl.net.
Point 12 – Again for younger pupils, but actually a key message for all children and young people (although the video is probably worth showing for all primary year groups even if it’s aimed at EYFS/KS1), show this great new video to parents and explain how important the message is for children to tell an adult if something feels funny in their tummy (and I dare you not to be singing the song for days! New from CEOP – Jessie & Friends has a really good message and for older children too, talk about who they talk to / reporting.
Point 13 – Talk about parental control / self-control apps and safe search engines. There are strong views for/against, but consider the ‘training wheels’ approach). There are safe search engines like Swiggle which are great for home use, and apps like Family Link from Google, Digital Wellbeing or similar apps (e.g. Quality Time) and Screen Time for Apple devices. Remember that these are great for easing children into their first device use, and as they get older, great for them (or for parents and teachers too!!) to regulate their own use and see how much time they really spend scrolling on Instagram. And remember Internet Matters tells you how to set parental controls on all the main UK internet service providers. That won’t solve everything, but it’s a start and important in the context of all the other point.
Point 14 – This point will make such a difference. Get some pupils to come along and say what they play, and what they like or don’t like, and get the parents to ask questions. You’ll be surprised, and so will the parents.
Point 15 – There’s gaming advice at gaming.lgfl.net and all manner of materials you may find useful, but why not simply ask how many parents have played the games their children play / how many let them play 18 games; ask why and remind parents that 18 games are not called 18 because of higher skills level, but because like films or alcohol, they are not age-appropriate and can cause long term damage. Rape, killing prostitutes, all manner of other attacks and murder, nudity and so on are commonplace with very lifelike graphics in some 18 games that primary children play! Do they know?
Point 16 – Having covered some of these points, why not return to the Hopes & Streams parent/reporting stats and ask them their next steps.
Point 17 – Talk about online pornography and Serious Youth Violence. We might not want to address such issues but they are a reality and there are great tools out there for all ages. ** Next week Childnet are launching great new online pornography materials – we will add them here once live **
Point 19 – End on a positive! Yes it is possible – and important. Hopes & Streams has plenty of positives – one example is below. And of course use those you know about and ask your pupils for their examples – they will be the most powerful.
Point 20 – Start again! Keep it up and drip feed throughout the year. Well done; you’re doing a great job.
ADDENDUM – only a few hours have passed but I keep thinking of new things to add, e.g. if you are going to invite an outside speaker to deliver a parent session, consider if that’s the best thing (sometimes it will be a great idea but they won’t be there to answer any questions from parents in future), but use the UKCIS document Using External Visitors to Support Online Safety Education to help make sure they are the best person for the job.
This blog has been adapted from a presentation given at the LGfL curriculum conference on 25/4/19. If you were there and would like to see the slides again, click here.
The Government today published the Online Harms White Paper, following last year’s Green Paper, published as part of the UK Internet Safety Strategy. What’s new? What’s changed? What do you think?
If you want to read the full 102 pages – and why wouldn’t you? – or the shorter executive summary, see them both on this gov.uk page. The proposals are open to public consultation.
As there are so many overviews already online, I shan’t try and produce another, but to give some handy links to go and read exactly what you are after, in general and for schools.
Firstly, for some overviews and a take on how the media is covering the launch, you may want to read this BBC article or this from the Telegraph. Press coverage is largely positive with many bodies welcoming the policies and strategies; where there is criticism it largely relates to the feasibility of certain proposals or civil liberty concerns around privacy and censorship.
One key proposal relates to a new regulator for online safety in the UK. Although the White Paper does not specify who this will be, it mentions Ofcom as a likely interim regulator, so you may be interested in this speech from the Ofcom CEO. In it Sally Martin outlines how a regulator might approach online safety and some of the challenges it would expect to face.
Although there is lots to it, we recommend you have a look at the government’s proposals to see if you want to reply to the consultation as a school or individual.
Meanwhile if you would like more information or support to use with pupils or parents on some of the topics raised which may be discussed more widely as a result of the publication of the White Paper, here are some handy links to collections of materials that may help you (we could go on…):
Those links address the general themes, but why not engage pupils in what they think needs to be done as a result of the Internet Safety Strategy. For a very relevant discussion starter with children and young people, you could use these proposals from 5rights on how new apps, sites and games should be designed (screenshot below from p6 of this report). Show them this list and I’m sure there will be plenty of useful feedback!
I’ll let you into a secret – I don’t like the term screen time; I think it’s unhelpful as a concept, let alone as a framework for discussion or safeguarding. So it’s ironic I’m writing a blog about it. Read on to find out more…and yes, to see some guidance on it too!
Many column inches are dedicated to the issue of children’s screen time each week – normally along the lines of “it’s out of control!” or “the country’s going to the dogs, and it’s all because of excessive screen time”. Until recently, these articles referred to 20-years-old US screen-time rules which were actually written for television viewing, but now two UK bodies have published great advice to help frame the debate.
Both are worth a read and may surprise you if you have heard about them, as some extracts were rather selectively quoted to fit a particular narrative. But here’s the rub – neither of them recommend a one-size-fits-all screen-time limit, and what pleases me is that they actually seem to mainly talk about the term to debunk it.
CMO tells us “scientific
research is currently insufficiently conclusive…”, “[no] evidence of a causal
relationship between screen-based activities and mental health problems”. And
from RCPCH: “time spent on screens – from social media to computers and
television – is a major part of modern life and a necessary part of modern education.”
The popular view that “screen time is directly ‘toxic’ to health […] has
essentially no evidence to support it”.
The two bodies don’t dismiss popular worries, recommending further research whilst warning against the classic correlation-causation trap (as illustrated by these classic Tyler Viglen graphs). As the CMOs point out, “it could be, for example, that CYP who already have mental health problems are more likely to spend more time on social media.” Also, they warn against conflating three distinct issues:
Content (is it educational, illegal, creative, inspirational, negative?)
Persuasive design (make sure you read this by 5 Rights)
It is important to remember at this point that the internet is an amplifier for whatever we put into it, and it holds up a mirror to society – when good things happen online, they can be made amazing; unfortunately, the reverse is very much true as well. That’s why I’d rather focus on what is happening on the screen than how much time is spent on it.
RCPCH and CMO do offer warnings, and advise caution – always balanced against the potential benefits of screen-based activities. Where a young person is missing out on physical activity, time with friends or family, schoolwork, or of course sleep, screen-time limits are needed.
RCPCH points out
that it is easy to lose track of what you eat, so snacking can be a big
problem, and we must never forget how important it is for young people to get
enough sleep every night. As with all issues around online safety and digital
resilience, a conversation is needed between schools, parents and young people.
So how can we support parents? Use the handy overview flyer for parents from the CMO document, for example (see image above) and use these practical questions from the RCPCH guidance:
Is screen time in your household controlled? Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do? Does screen use interfere with sleep? Are you able to control snacking during screen time?
Other great organisations like Childnet, Webwise and Internet Matters have also published accessible information to share with parents. And already a classic is the Digital-Five-A-Day from the Children’s Commissioner, which really helps to show why screen time isn’t just screen time (passively consuming versus active creation, learning, support, etc). You can find links to all of these via www.screentime.lgfl.net
All of these great tools can help parents take control, support and learn alongside their children, without focussing on an artificial ideal time limit. After all, as RCPCH points out, what about homework done on screens – is that all bad? Should all screen-based fun time be cancelled if this week’s homework was online?
We have come this far and not said much about all the content and contacts online that cause concern and sometimes great damage. These problems are well documented elsewhere (e.g. in the news every day, and of course in Hopes and Streams). But screen-time limits won’t help here, as it only takes a second to click on a bad link to a self-harm image, beheading or pornography; and a bullying message doesn’t take long either.
In school, we help prevent this with made-for-schools filtering and many other protections, but at home it’s different.
That’s where all the sensible precautions around using filters at home come in, plus of course making sure you know and can see what your children are doing and having an open conversation around what goes on online, and what shouldn’t. Have a look at parentsafe.lgfl.net or screentime.lgfl.net to find out more about some of the great ways there to get these conversations started. You will also find links to tools from Google and Apple to help adults and young people monitor and control their own screen time and see how much time they really spent being creative as opposed to mindless scrolling…
And it would be remiss to go any further without mentioning that the best source of research in this area is from Sonia Livingstone from the LSE, who has has writing about screen time and related issues for years. Check out her blog for fascinating insights into this and many other topics relating to digital parenting.
I would write more, but I’m fast approaching my screen-time limit, so I’d better get off and…
Of course, there’s more to it than regulation, but rather than add to the column inches, this ‘blog in quotes’ is a reminder of the best and worst of young people’s online lives – in their own words (from Hopes & Streams). Just be sure to scroll to the end!
The problem – it’s everywhere
Porn and violence
It isn’t always what we expect
Grown-ups don’t always get it
Reporting isn’t always effective
Mental health is taking a big hit
Self-harm is rife and even used for bullying
But there is so much that is good. For a start, often others DO help!
And they love things like this
Social media can bring together those who wouldn’t otherwise meet
Even gaming can be positive; even families can benefit from video chat
The internet is an amplifier of good and bad: the output can be amazing or horrendous, depending on the input. This Safer Internet Day, let’s remember the positive, but commit to tackling the negative with a mixture of government intervention, industry investment and self-improvement (time, money and moderation), and lots of education (for young people and adults). Remembering of course that all of those will be so much more effective if based on the voice of the young person. “That makes me happy and great.”
Having learned so much from the 40,000 pupils who took part in our online safety survey earlier this year (read Hopes & Streams here), the LGfL DigiSafe team has now begun a series of focus groups in schools to find out a bit more about some of the issues raised. In our first school visit, we sat down with a group of Year 8 pupils in a leading London secondary and began to chew the online fat. Here’s a selection of the insights they shared. The analysis is deliberately brief to let the young people do the talking.
The quote says it all. Before starting our session properly, I asked what the pupils understand by the terms online and online safety, and soon I heard the quote above. We know that young people don’t have the same distinction between the ‘offline’ and ‘online’ worlds that adults do (actually I’m not sure adults do either apart from when they’re talking about children); but this emphasised how important it is to make sure that the language we use actually means something. For example, if our pupils can repeat back to us ‘five top tips for behaving online’ but don’t think YouTube or Snapchat are online, then they won’t apply those principles to what they do on such apps. That can’t be overly helpful!
Thank you, next!
There are so many resources out there, but if we pick the best ones, it may be true that someone else thought it was the best one last year as well. And if it’s ten years old (even if the message is still correct), then it might be time to move on and use something else as the impact will have been lost. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that’s why we are committed to releasing new research and new resources. And if you aren’t sure, ask your pupils if they’ve seen/done it before – if so, talk about what they think of it!
In Hopes & Streams, we found out that secondary students were 7 times more likely to be negative about online-safety education (specifically it being about scaring them), and the students reminded us that the more we tell them not to do something or use a certain app or website, the more likely they are to do it. That ties in well with our Scare or Prepare message to schools (read about that here).
Teaching AND Learning
It wasn’t that students didn’t want to talk about what goes on with social media or learn techniques for dealing with their online lives, but they were keen to say that teachers needed to listen first to what their realities were. I’m sure no teacher disagrees with that, but of course the pressures of fitting everything into the curriculum or school day makes it so hard – nonetheless, a useful reminder for us all.
Nobody will ever know!
I’ll give you one guess what the quote above referred to… That’s right, explicit images. When I asked what do teachers need to know more about, one student was quick to point out “peer pressure”, which led onto this quote. You can find resources, the official guidance and signposting at sexting.lgfl.net, but peer pressure covers so many more areas, and maybe schools might want to use this quote to talk in a safer context about being pressured to share something else (password, personal details, embarrassing picture of someone else, etc) to start a discussion about trust and critical thinking.
So you like streaks too? Snap!
No discussion with young people would be complete without lots of mentions of Snapchat (YouTube, Instagram and Fortnite came up too, of course, but what we heard about Snap was very interesting). We talked about streaks (what’s that?) and it was no surprise that most of them had plenty – one student had them with 75 friends, some up to 500 days old – but that won’t surprise anyone. What was great to hear though, was that although they did some as soon as they got up, as soon as they got in from school and just before bed, they were capable of rationalising and being sensible too:
• For example, if he was in a hurry, student X would simply draw an ‘S’ on an image and send it to all 75 friends – job done for the day! Another said that her brother was in Year 11 (GCSE year) and so had stopped using the app. As so often, young people deserve more credit than they always receive.
• When asked about one of the excellent ‘5 Rights’ proposals to enforce default ‘streak holidays'(page 6 of this), the students were all in favour of this way to have a break but not lose out on the fun element.
• And don’t forget, Snapchat isn’t just about nudes and cat pics; one student reminded us that social media is a good thing because if he had forgotten the homework, he would use it to ask what it was and not get in trouble.
It’s good to talk…
That’s what we think anyway. Do get in touch, share this blog (we’re @lgfldigisafe on Twitter and Facebook alike) and let us know what you think of the points above and how we can support schools in the light of these comments. And of course, tell us what you think we should cover in one of our next focus groups – we will be back in schools throughout the academic year to see what else we can find out for the benefit of schools.
Here’s a question lots of schools ask: “Should we pass on warnings to parents about specific (named) apps, sites and games, or give them lists of ones to stop children using at all costs?” You may have seen a few, or even been asked to share them, sometimes from official sources or with really appealing graphics. But our answer is usually…no.
Oct 2019 edit – last time it was Momo; this week it’s a warning email going to schools about a livestreaming app. Please don’t share it!
To find out why, watch/share the above video, or read on (the text below includes links to other sources at the end, but is otherwise essentially the same).
It can be useful for professionals to know about specific risks. So why not share them as widely as possible? If an app children use has had a grooming incident, a site seems to promote self-harm or suicide, or a game is full of inappropriate material, surely it makes sense to pass on this information to parents?
This may seem counter-intuitive, especially when you see scary headlines about the perils of the online world, but it’s not always* helpful to name and shame. Not because the information is necessarily wrong, but it’s a complex issue, and there are three key problems with those headline-grabbing warnings. You run the risk of:
Generating a false sense of security. If parents think they just need to make sure their children aren’t playing one particular game, but then everything is okay, they might miss out what else is going on!
Giving free publicity to what can sometimes be pretty awful sites. Widely spread warnings can even boost their traffic, especially if you are sharing a glossy poster about the dangers of a particular app. After all, tell a teenager something is off-limits or dangerous, what it’s called and where to find it, and what’s going to happen next…?
Spreading panic and making parents think everything online is bad. That won’t help build digital resilience and it won’t make the most of the amazing opportunities of today’s technology. Nor of course will it encourage parents and children to talk openly about their online lives – the good, bad and the ugly. And this is what will help them stay safe from the real dangers that are out there.
So does that mean we don’t have any answers? Not at all. We carry out research to better understand the latest risks and dangers online, sometimes uncovering new ones ourselves, and we work hard to share this information with schools and to give them advice and resources that will help them understand how to manage the risks. What’s more, for the schools on our network, we have all kinds of technology to protect them, and for example where necessary we will move sites into different categories on our filtering to keep staff and pupils safe, too.
What about the parents though – are we saying keep them in the dark? Not at all. But bad things happen on good apps (and vice versa). So rather than sharing lists of “dodgy” and “safe” apps, which are often based on headlines, rumours and last year’s scandals**, we say instead focus on helping parents to understand the latest features and functionality of games and apps, and what to look out for when gaming or livestreaming, using virtual reality or whatever the next big thing is that hasn’t been invented yet.
Take livestreaming, for example. It used to be available in only a few apps, but now it’s everywhere, almost as an afterthought sometimes. So don’t try to learn the names of everywhere you can stream, but talk to your child about if they are allowed to do it, and if so how, where and when. What’s allowed? What’s not? Take a look at undressed.lgfl.net for a warning message worth sharing in a non-scary way.
It can feel overwhelming for parents, so try to:
Drip feed information throughout the school year
Remember to focus on the positives of using technology, as well as all the bad stuff. And above all, try to
Help establish a dialogue between children and parents about their online lives.
Parentsafe.lgfl.net has all kinds of materials from us and other amazing organisations working in this space to help you work with parents and support their conversations.
So remember, next time you are tempted to share a flashy name and shame warning with parents, stop for a second to ask yourself – is it going to scare or prepare; is it designed for panic or protection? Get in touch and let us know how we can help you do more of the latter.
Oh, and by the way…
* We accept that there are some really unsavoury apps run by companies which don’t seem to care about keeping children safe, and at the same time there are others with amazing ‘safety by design’ baked in, plus a commitment to keeping children safe. But the point is, this can change from one day to the next, and keeping up with it is virtually impossible, whereas talking to your child about having fun but staying safe online, plus showing an interest and discussing how to behave and react is altogether more realistic and productive in the long-term, and more likely to keep them safe when bad things happen on good apps.
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 forthe 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.
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:
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)
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.
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 (or watch this) to find out…
The 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.
You can read more details on page 22 onwards in our Hopes & Streams report, or watch this short short video, 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.
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).
…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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
EDIT JAN 2019 – SEE OUR SERIES OF VIDEOS WITH YOUTH VIOLENCE SPECIALIST CRAIG PINKNEY HERE
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.
You may have seen Home Office #KnifeFree adverts in the past few weeks. There is an accompanying website: knifefree.co.ukhas 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:
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.
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…
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, stating your role, school & availability to attend one session via telephone dial in from the following:
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).
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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. 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…
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Another 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:
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.
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.
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).
If 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.
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 **
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!
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!