Online safety

The internet provides both opportunities and threats to young people, such as bullying, grooming, exposure to pornographic materials, radicalisation & extremism and sexual exploitation.

Online safety is as an umbrella term for promoting the safeguarding of children and young people when using any device over the internet.  We know that the online world can add great value to the lives of children and young people; whether it being personally or educationally.  This is also an evolving area with developments now in virtual reality there are major shifts in how young people interact with the world.

Many adults believe that young people know more about technology than them, but there’s more to technology that the technology itself.  The internet more than ever is about relationships, choices and respect. Its proper usage requires wisdom, positive personal values, emotional intelligence and self-reflection, and this is where schools can really take a lead.

Definition of online abuse

“Online abuse is abuse that is facilitated using technology. It may take place through social media, online games, or other channels of digital communication. Children can also be re-victimised if evidence of their abuse is recorded or uploaded online. Technology can facilitate a number of illegal abusive behaviours including, but not limited to: harassment; stalking; threatening behaviour; sharing indecent images of children under 18; inciting a child to sexual activity; sexual exploitation; grooming; sexual communication with a child; and, causing a child to view images or watch videos of a sexual act. Using technology to facilitate any of the above activities is online abuse.”

Quotation marks

Knowing their world

It is not only computers that are internet enabled, with games consoles, mobile phones and tablets all allowing the children who use them access to chat rooms, pornography and other sites where they may be at risk. In this digital age online safety is a concern for all who work with, or are parents to children and young people. The internet is a wonderful resource for learning but there are inherent risks in online activity, online abuse is increasing at an alarming rate with a 298% increase in reported incidents of indecent images over the last eight years.

Sometimes when thinking about online safety we focus on risks such as bullying, sexting, CSE and radicalisation. However, we also know that the online world also has the ability to compromise the well-being of an individual in terms of sleep, self-esteem, confidence, peer pressure and the fear of missing out. What is the culture around online life in your school – are young people feeling under pressure to reply on social media throughout the night?

Daily life is now becoming online life, so other areas of risk from our world, such as gambling, are now easily accessible online and young people can find themselves getting into difficulty. Opening up conversations to bridge the divide between the internet and young people’s lived experience in their families, schools and communities can create opportunities to help.

Report Remove

Childline has established Report Remove, a service that allows children and young people under 18 to report and get removed from the internet a nude image or video of themselves that might have been shared online. The webpage includes links to services and information offering emotional and safeguarding support.

Know the risks

  • grooming: through social media and/or gaming, this may involve radicalisation and/or sexual abuse;
  • cyberbullying: can occur through any ICT, especially mobile phones;
  • sexting: sending explicit or compromising photos or videos;
  • sexual abuse: including non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways;
  • financial: although this is rare towards children it does occur – online gambling is an increasing risk;
  • exposure to inappropriate materials, racial hatred, frightening or pornographic pictures and videos;
  • obsessive use of the internet and ICT, for example, addiction to video games;
  • inappropriate or illegal behaviour, for example, exposure to hate mail or offensive images;
  • copyright infringement, for example, the illegal sharing of music, pictures, videos or documents.

Spotting the signs

It is not always easy to spot signs of online abuse or lack of understanding of online safety. They may include:

  • spending much more or much less time online, texting, gaming or using social media;
  • appearing withdrawn, upset or outraged after using the internet or texting;
  • being secretive about who they’re talking to and what they’re doing online or on their mobile phone;
  • having lots of new phone numbers, texts or e-mail addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.

What to do...

  • Do the children and young people you work with know how to ask for help, support and advice?
    • Are they aware how to report to CEOP?
    • Do they know the different ways they can contact ChildLine and the advice and support they offer, including the partnership they have with the Internet Watch Foundation?
    • Do children and young people know about appropriate support, advice sites and apps available to them?
    • Who would they speak to at the school?
    • Would they seek help and support? This is an important question to ask, as there are many reasons why someone would not seek help and support.
  • Is online safety an integral and full part of the curriculum?
  • How do you promote ‘Wellbeing’ within your setting?  How could people see the qualities of self-compassion, self-care and self-reflection through young people’s online presence?
  • Are you working to engage with parents?
    • Does your school actively send out material to parents?
    • Is your website up to date? Do you know the resources available for your website?
    • Is your e-safety policy up to date and accessible to parents?
  • Are staff members at the school up to date with what young people are doing online? Do staff members receive regular information / training, themselves?
  • Does the school have adequate policies and procedures in place, and is everybody following them?

Get some help

We offer online safety training for staff and students focusing on the concept of young people’s digital well-being. Contact us to arrange training or an audit of your school’s approach today.


  • Indecent images of children campaign: supporter pack

    Posters, leaflets and information to educate and empower young men (18-24 years old) to navigate the internet more responsibly by increasing understanding of the law regarding Indecent Images of Children and challenging myths around victim harm and offender stereotypes.

  • Think u know resource library

    A searchable Resource Library with Thinkuknow resources by category and age range. Each resource has a detailed description covering key aims and suggestions for delivery to children and young people.

  • Parents – scare or prepare?

    London Grid for Learning respond to the question “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?”, advising that their answer is usually “no”.

  • Answers to questions parents commonly ask

    Childnet, via the UK Safer Internet Centre, give advice for parents and carers, answering some of the questions parents most frequently ask about online safety.

  • Online safety films to watch with your child

    The UK Safer Internet Centre has published some recommendations online safety films which may be useful for for parents and carers to watch with their children, to engage them in various aspects of online safety education, including winning films from the ChildNet film competition, BBC Own It and The Adventures of Kara, Winston and the SMART Crew!

  • Gaming the system

    “Gaming the system” shows how children enjoy playing online and how gaming can help them to build strategic, teamwork and creative skills. Children say online gaming extends normal play into the digital landscape and provides a chance to make new friends. However, it also reveals the drawbacks, in particular highlighting how many children are spending money on ‘in-game’ purchases because they feel they have to in order to keep up with friends or to advance in the game.

  • Swiggle

    Developed by the South West Grid for Learning, Swiggle is a child friendly search engine that allows for safer searching whilst allowing children to build up effective online skills.  Powered by Google SafeSearch technology the search engine allows children and young people to respond to and report inappropriate online content that they do find promoting self-regulation whilst keeping them safe.

  • What’s the problem?

    A guide from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation for parents of children and young people who have got into trouble online, either through inappropriate or illegal behaviour.  This guide is designed to answer some of the immediate questions you may have after learning about something that is happening, or has happened, in your child’s online life.

  • What parents need to know about online grooming

    At National Online Safety we believe in empowering parents, carers and trusted adults with the information they need to hold an informed conversation about online safety with their children, should they feel it is needed. This guide focuses on one platform of many which we believe trusted adults should be aware of.

  • Online blackmail education resource for 15-18 year olds

    Resource developed by Thinkuknow – Online blackmail is a new education resource which aims to help young people identify key characteristics of how blackmail manifests online, understand the impact it can have, and how they access help if they experience it.

For resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding, subscribe today.

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  • Training resources for DSLs to use in team meetings
  • Reference documents for additional information
  • Handout for school staff summarising online safety
  • Quiz to test staff understanding
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