Fortnightly Safeguarding Briefing

28th October 2019

Safeguarding Network - Confidence in safeguarding

Welcome to your latest briefing

Some of our readers have noticed that we are a little out of sync here at Safeguarding Network in that we did not publish a briefing last week and therefore technically we have not followed our "fortnightly" schedule. For many schools in Devon (where we are based), last week was half term, however we have subsequently discovered that this was not necessarily the case across the whole country with some being off this week. Our apologies for any confusion, but hopefully all will be redeemed going forward.

In this briefing:

  • Body image
  • Children gambling online
  • Protecting disabled children from sexual abuse
Girl looking off to side partially covering face

Body image

A recent survey by Plan International reinforces our understanding that young people, and specifically girls, experience a huge pressure on their body image. The survey identified that every area of a young person's life can feed into this, from comments at school to images in the media. Many see this as just something that they have to deal with, or a part of growing up. However just as with peer on peer abuse, it is important that within organisations that work with children and young people these stereotypes are challenged and positive messages reinforced.

Of 1000 girls and young women surveyed, 89% "feel pressure to fit an 'ideal' face and body type", with 25% feeling ashamed or disgusted by their body and 1 in 6 stating that they have missed school or work due to worries about their appearance. This is nothing new, with evidence to House of Commons enquiry in 2016 illustrating this point across primary, secondary and FE age ranges. The 2019 Girl's Attitudes Survey (Girl Guiding Association) shows that the issues are deep routed, suggesting that 45% of girls aged 11-21 feel the need to check their phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

If we consider the contextual side of this, schools and organisations working with girls and young women are only one small part of their lives and what they are exposed to. Whilst this may therefore seem like an insurmountable challenge, it is important that staff are aware of the need to demonstrate positive role modelling and challenge on every occasion possible. Safeguarding Network has resources available to help consider this in more detail.

Gaming the System - report cover

Children gambling online

A recent report by the Children's Commissioner reinforces the impact of gaming on children's lives. The report suggests around 93% of children in the UK play video games, and whilst there can be positives, adults don't fully grasp the issues this brings. As well as the issue of gambling, the report's research identified issues around bullying (e.g. if the young person was using the default player in a game they worried they would be seen as poor and not able to afford to buy different 'skins'), aggression from others and exposure to strangers.

The research found that pressure from peers and strangers can lead to children and young people feeling the need to spend money on in-game purchases, as well as influences from other areas such as YouTube gamers. Game design can also influence children and young people with the basic game being "free" but to progress spending is required.

Often the spending can be for what are known as 'loot packs' where the player does not know what they are going to get until after they have spent the money. This however presents a catch 22 as young people want to progress, but do not know what they will get and whether it will help them, aka gambling. Children and young people may not however see it as gambling, and arguably to some the money is not real as they do not see cash changing hands. As the report highlights, there is a need to ensure that children and young people are taught to be digital citizens, further reiterating the need to know how to keep themselves safe online.

NSPCC report - report cover

Protecting disabled children from sexual abuse

We are all aware of the statistic that children with disabilities are over 3x more likely to be abused. This research by the NSPCC looks specifically at sexual abuse recognising that whilst a lot of work has been done with professionals, there is a lack of knowledge about parent's understanding. Of note is that parents recognised the increased vulnerability, but would rarely discuss it with others. The report however also found that parents would take individual steps to protect their child, but that this could also actively serve to limit their child's experiences, with many parents reporting that their child could only access activities if they were there.

The research found that many parents were aware that over-protection was not ideal as a long term strategy to keep their child safe, but they felt that they had to do whatever was necessary.

When looking at what would help, parents identified appropriate and accessible sex and relationship education for disabled children including everyone working together to deliver consistent messages about safe touch, choice and control and the young person speaking out when they feel unsafe. This would include support plans identifying appropriate communication methods and tools ensuring that children and young people have access to a number of people who understand their communication method. Parents also considered it important to have safe spaces where they can talk about issues such as sexual abuse and share ideas.

It is of note that this research identifies that even with the current international focus on sexual violence, harm and harassment, sexual abuse continues to be a taboo subject. It is important that all children and young people with disabilities, regardless of level of need, have the same access to support and safe care as non-disabled children. This applies to all children with disabilities regardless of level of need or provision that they are in.

Who are we?

Safeguarding Network recognise that the demands on schools are increasing from every aspect. Safeguarding is no exception. Using our front-line safeguarding experience and knowledge we develop resources to help schools meet their safeguarding requirements with the aim of helping lighten the load.

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