During this period, it is recognised that many in the school community (staff, governors, children and young people and parents and carers) are likely to spend more time online, whether that is for entertainment, to stay in touch with friends and family, to support home learning or to hold staff and governor meetings. There are clearly many benefits to staying connected, however, increased time spent online may also increase the risk of encountering online safety issues.
Technology has revolutionised education and while it is important to embrace the exciting opportunities and advances it provides, it is just as important to understand and take action against the associated risks.
Online safety forms an integral part of a school’s safeguarding responsibilities as outlined in the Welsh Government’s statutory guidance Keeping learners safe. Governing bodies are accountable for ensuring effective policies and procedures are in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in accordance with this guidance, and monitoring its compliance with them. Schools should identify a Designated Senior Person for Child Protection, with lead responsibility for managing child protection issues and cases, as well as identify a designated governor for child protection. Information for school governing bodies: coronavirus has also been published on the Welsh Government website.
The guidance in this document explores some online safety considerations for your school, providing information on good practice and the resources available to help support you in your governing body discussions. The Welsh Government has also published Five key questions for governing bodies to help challenge their schools and colleges to effectively safeguard their learners.
Details of trusted partners and organisations, all of which are operational during this time, are provided in the ‘Further help and support’ section should you or anyone you know need help or guidance on a particular issue.
Worried about a child or young person?
If you are worried that a child or young person has been harmed or is at risk of harm then you must speak to your school’s Designated Senior Person for Child Protection or designated governor for child protection as soon as possible.
If for any reason you cannot contact your school’s Designated Senior Person for Child Protection or designated governor for child protection then contact the local authority Children’s Services Team and report any concerns.
If a child or young person is in immediate danger then contact the police on 999 straight away.
General online safety
Following publication of the Keeping learners safe statutory guidance, e-learning course modules were launched to help schools and educational settings understand their roles and responsibilities to keep learners safe. Course Module 5 provides online safety training specifically for governors and explains the important role governors have in keeping learners safe.
- For advice on how to use and/or assign the Keeping learners safe modules, please follow this guide.
- Online safety for governors – Module 5
This resource offers advice on supporting you, your school and fellow governors with staying safe online. There are also links and suggestions for acceptable use and policy documents provided.
360 degree safe Cymru is a self-review tool for schools to assess and improve their online safety policy and practice.
The majority of schools across Wales use the tool and the data it provides shows that online safety provision in schools is improving year on year. Schools with clear online safeguarding policies will be better placed to consider how these may be applied to distance learning and good practice suggests that schools should continually review their online safety policy and practice.
Consent, privacy and data
Sharing content is an important part of what we do on the internet and while it offers positive opportunities, it can present challenges. It is important that schools understand the risks of sharing information online and these resources explore the issues and risks relating to consent, managing privacy, personal data and security.
Gaming can improve problem-solving skills, sharpen visual processing and enhance memory power as well as providing moments of diversion and play. However, it is important for children and young people to take regular breaks, know who they are talking to and report any concerns to the game moderators or a trusted adult.
Illegal and offensive content
As children and young people become more active online, there is an increased possibility they will come across content that upsets them. Some of this may be illegal or might be considered offensive.
It is possible to report offensive or upsetting content such as online abuse or threats, self-harm or suicide content or unwanted sexual advances to the Report Harmful Content website.
Inappropriate or sexual images or videos of someone believed to be under the age of 18 can be reported anonymously to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Information about other reporting organisations as well as those offering advice and support is available in the ‘Further help and support’ section.
The following resources will help governors to consider the impact of illegal and offensive content and offers strategies that schools can use to manage the online environment to reduce the risks.
Your school may consider live-streaming as a practical and appropriate approach in certain circumstances, particularly in support of learner engagement and well-being. However this should be used with great care, and with all appropriate safeguards in place, which protect both the learner and the teacher.
If your school does choose to live-stream lessons, due regard should be given to the guidance outlined in Live-streaming safeguarding principles and practice for education practitioners to ensure staff and learners are appropriately protected and safeguarded.
Live-streaming is the broadcasting of real-time, live video using the internet. When you live-stream, your audience can see what you’re doing and comment on your broadcast. All you need to live-stream is an internet-enabled device and a platform to broadcast on. While this can be a great tool, it can also have some serious consequences.
Mental health and well-being
There is growing evidence about the impact of the internet on mood and mental health and while the internet itself is not the main cause of poor mental health, the way children and young people use the internet can impact them. These resources explore the positive and negative impact of online experiences.
- Mental health and the internet
- Screen time, technology, mental health and well-being
- The insta effect: Body image and self-worth in a digital age
- Responding to issues of self-harm and thoughts of suicide in young people
We are increasingly accessing news and information from multiple sources which can result in confusion and increased anxiety from misleading information. It is important to encourage learners to check the source and credibility of information and develop their critical thinking. The following resources explore the importance of questioning and fact checking information.
Online bullying is a term that encompasses a wide range of bullying which is enabled by technology. School governing bodies in Wales have a duty to promote the safety and well-being of children and young people in their care and these resources will aid governors to support their schools in developing robust anti-bullying policies.
Online hate is any online communication or expression that encourages or promotes hatred, discrimination or violence, against any person or group, because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. This resource explores what online hate speech is, the motives behind it, the effect on those targeted and the ways to challenge it positively and safely.
Children and young people are spending more time online than ever before. From gaming platforms to social networks and other platforms, digital technology allows us to stay in touch. However, not all online interactions are positive. These resources aim to raise awareness within schools of the importance of addressing issues of online relationships with learners.
Pornography and the extent to which children and young people may be exposed to it can be concerning. These resources explore some issues they may encounter related to pornography.
Radicalisation and extremism
Being able to communicate with a wide audience through the internet can be rewarding and positive, but for some, it provides them with the ability to persuade others to support extremism or oppose British values. These resources look at what is meant by radicalisation and extremism, your responsibilities under the Prevent duty guidance and how to prevent children and young people being drawn into terrorism.
Terrorism or extremism related online content can be reported to the police Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit. Concerns about a child or young person being radicalised should be reported to the police by calling 101 and, if necessary, completing a Prevent Referral Form so that they can receive local safeguarding support.
Whether we are learning or working online, speaking with friends and family, gaming or seeking information, technology plays a significant role in our daily lives. Balancing screen time has become an important consideration to ensure that children and young people use technology in a positive and healthy way.
With more of us having mobile devices and from an earlier age, it is now easier than ever to take and share an image. Sharing images can be fun, however, it is important for children and young people to consider what they share and how it reflects on them.
Sexting is a form of image sharing, which involves taking a nude or sexually explicit image and sending it to another person. Creating, sharing or storing a nude, semi-nude or sexually explicit image or video of a child under the age of 18 is illegal. These resources provide information on the consequences as well as practical advice.
- Sharing images
- The insta effect: Body image and self worth in a digital age
- Sexting: Responding to incidents and safeguarding learners
Social media apps and platforms continue to be popular with children and young people – used wisely, they can offer many benefits. The following resources explain some of the risks and benefits of using social media and how young people can use them in a positive way.
This is a rapidly evolving area and in recognition of this information on popular social media platforms and supporting resources will be published in May 2020. This will include the most up to date information on Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Roblox, Twitter, Facebook, Misinformation and House Party.
Further help and support
For further help, advice, support and to report content and concerns the following are trusted partners and organisations.
A confidential, anonymous, and free bilingual helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales.
A free, private and confidential service available to anyone under 19 in the UK where they can talk about anything. Whatever the worry, they are there to listen.
Working to protect children and prevent abuse, including a dedicated helpline with professional counsellors.
Report concerns about online sexual abuse safely and securely on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection website.
A national reporting centre that has been designed to assist everyone in reporting harmful content they see online.
Report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images.
A helpline service which is available 24/7 for anyone who is struggling to cope or who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.
Providing help and advice about violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Operated by the UK Safer Internet Centre this helpline offers professionals who work with children across the UK support, advice and mediation with online safety issues.