National Safeguarding Unit (NSU) - Safe Activities For Everyone

Guidance on helping keep children and young people safe online  

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Online safety 

This section has been produced to provide advice and guidance on the internet and online safety for organisations working with children and young people.

This will enable organisations working with children and young people to:

The interactive communication technologies are constantly evolving and safety issues appear to emerge with each new wave of technological innovation. This content therefore serves as an introduction to online protection.

Alongside the content here, you will find links to other organisations’ websites, which are frequently updated with the most recent developments, and where you can find further information and advice.

Why is keeping children and young people safe online so important?

“Most adults in the UK have access to a mobile and more than a fifth of adult internet users have a profile on a social networking website” 
OFCOM Social Networking Report, April, 2008

One in three adults  who use the internet (29%) say they are watching online or downloading TV programmes or films. Almost all of these are doing so through UK broadcasters’ websites (such as BBC iPlayer)   
OFCOM Social Networking Report, April, 2008  

The internet, mobiles phones, social networking and other interactive services  have transformed the way in which we live. Children and young people are amongst the early adopters of the new technologies and move effortlessly between the various interactive services and devices to communicate, interact, create and share content with family and friends. They also often use these technologies as part of the school curriculum.  

It is most likely that many children and young people already share their experiences of participating in activites provided by voluntary organisations using the internet, mobile and interactive services such as social networking and video sharing sites.

The new communication medium is dynamic and constantly evolving. Users are no longer passive recipients of information found on static websites but active participants in online communities where content is generated and easily shared with others.
 
Businesses, advertisers, government and voluntary and community organisations have also harnessed the opportunities offered by the new technologies to reach, communicate and engage with supporters and the public - including children and young people. This is sometimes called social media and you may be considering or already using social media to involve children and young people in activities and to engage them in virally dissipating information about a fundraising event or campaign messages.   
       
Boy smiling in red t-shirtThere is no doubt that the new technologies offer tremendous opportunities for children and young people however as with any environment there are also risks.

Risks associated with the internet, mobiles and social networking sites and other interactive services include:

  • cyberbullying
  • grooming
  • potential abuse by online predators
  • identity theft
  • exposure to inappropriate content including self-harm
  • racist
  • hate
  • adult pornography.

Some of these risks can be a continuation of the risks children and young people experience offline. However, they can be increased beacuse many children and young people also fail to realise that the internet is a public place.     

You therefore have an important role to play in helping children and young people stay safe online and encouraging safe and responsible use of the technologies.

If your organisation is considering using social media to engage with children and young people it is also important to consider online protection.  This will help you to ensure that staff and volunteers are aware of the potential risks and take steps to keep children and young people safe whilst interacting with your organisation online.  It is also an opportunity to equip them with skills to use these new technologies safely in their everyday lives.

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