Exploring online safety issues gives your organisation an opportunity to review your existing safeguarding policies and procedures.
Creating online safety policies and procedures may not be a complex task.You may simply need to extend your anti-bullying policy to address cyberbullying or create an acceptable use policy if your organisation provides access to computers and the internet on site. You may need to put in place procedures for situations where children and young people create potentially inappropriate content whilst participating in your organisation’s activities, for example using a mobile to take a photo and then share it on a social networking site.
If you are unsure of where to begin, you may find the approaches to writing policies and procedures that are used in other settings a useful start.
A great deal of work has already been carried out to empower teachers and group leaders to encourage safe and responsible use of the technologies and also deal with its misuse.
Safe to learn: Cyberbullying, produced by the DCFS (now DFE) in collaboration with industry and children’s charities, deals with preventing and investigating cyberbullying.
Teachtoday offers a range of resources for teachers including links to the safety advice provided by some of the major internet service providers, mobile operators and social networking services.
Teach your child provides advice and guidance for parents on a range of issues including Internet Safety.
Reporting online concerns about potential abuse
Your safeguarding policy should include procedures for the reporting of potentially illegal/abusive content or activity, including child sexual abusive images and online grooming.
In addition to referral to the organisation’s designated safeguarding person, concerns arising online should be reported as follows
- In the UK, illegal sexual child abuse images should be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation or to the police
- Reports about suspicious behaviour towards children and young people in an online environment should be made to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
- Law enforcement agencies and the service provider may need to take urgent steps to locate the child and/or remove the content from the internet.
Where a child or young person may be in immediate danger, always dial 999 for police assistance.
Online safety information for staff and volunteers
Make sure that yourstaff (paid and volunteers), are aware of the online risks and the need to protect their own privacy online. They should understand the risks in posting and sharing content which may damage their reputation.
In situations where your organisation has a presence online, staff and volunteers may be communicating with supporters and this could include children and young people. It is therefore important that your policies include a definition of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour online when representing the organisation.
Staff should not give out their mobile numbers or befriend children and young people online including social networking sites – unless the organisation has gained parental consent. Parental consent forms should cover online communication. Information about your organisation’s presence online should also be provided to parents and carers and their permission should be sought before asking for children’s email addresses and their mobile phone numbers.
Where an organisation has a presence on a social networking site and children the organisation knows to be below the minimum age necessary to register on the site (this is usually 13 years of age) have attempted to add the organisation as a ‘friend’, parents or carers should be notified.