Online safeguarding - Three things schools need to know
February 12, 2020
The advice comes from the Safer Schools Initiative, led by online safeguarding experts Ineqe Safeguarding Group in partnership with Zurich Municipal and has been released to help teachers identify and address online harms in the classroom.
1. It’s not about the technology, it’s about behaviour
Teachers have deep lived experience of children’s behaviour, giving them unique insight to help safeguard pupils online and offline. Often signs a child is being bullied, even in the online environment, manifest in the classroom, corridors and playgrounds of the school. When a child’s demeanour changes, it’s important teachers also consider their increased level of vulnerability in the online environment, where anonymity can shield and encourage bullying. Keep an eye out for changes to behaviour, listen to what other teachers and children say, take advice and when the time is right – talk to the child
2. Think twice before you take advice
The wrong advice can make things worse – so ensure information shared with parents, children, young people and the school community is accurate, credible and relevant. The best training is built on evidence grounded in practice and real life case studies. Credible and timely information sharing is at the heart of safeguarding. This influences how professionals respond and is critical when seeking advice and/or when escalating a case where any harmful influences go beyond the school gates. Don’t let just anyone come into the school to talk to pupils about online safety, check their credentials.
3. Create the right environment and culture
Children need to know you understand. Everyone can and does make mistakes. They also need to know if they do make a mistake, they have a listening ear. Having a reassuring conversation with students could be worth its weight in gold when things go wrong. If a child is being bullied, suffering in silence because someone has created a fake profile of them or has shared an intimate image of themselves, they’ll need help. This is why the environment and culture created in the comfort and safety of the classroom matters.
At all costs avoid taking away their hope. Desperation can drive children to dark places. If they have faced a relentless bully or shared an image, they need to know something can be done. What goes online doesn’t have to stay online and in many cases material can be removed or hidden from sight.
Tilden Watson, Head of Education at Zurich Municipal said, “Protecting pupils’ safety on and offline is a growing concern for our school customers. We have been working with online safeguarding experts for over two years to help schools to fully understand the risks as well as how to deal with problems if and when they arise.
“Teaching professionals and school staff have an enormous influence on students, so it is vital they have the appropriate tools and most up-to-date information to help them navigate online dangers. Education is central to creating more positive outcomes for young people and keeping the whole school community safer in the increasingly digital world.”
Jim Gamble, online safeguarding expert and the force behind the Safer Schools app said, “Online bullying and image sharing remain monumental challenges for parents, carers, teachers and safeguarding professionals. The best way we can help young people stay safe online is by empowering them through education and teaching them how to protect themselves from harm. If recent experience has taught us one thing, it’s that online issues very often have offline roots.”