Online safety guidance for education practitioners

Staying safe online

Technology has completely revolutionised education and it is important to embrace the exciting opportunities and advances it provides, while also understanding the associated risks.

Online safety forms an integral part of an education provider’s (e.g. schools, pupil referral units and education other than at school (EOTAS)) safeguarding responsibilities to provide a safe environment to learn and prevent access to inappropriate or harmful content, as outlined in the Welsh Government’s statutory guidance Keeping learners safe.

We recognise that as an education practitioner you may have concerns about the safety of your learners as well as your own. This guidance is intended to support you to quickly navigate the online safety guidance and education resources available and access the information and advice you need. This includes practical tips and considerations on staying safe and secure online and guidance and educational resources on a range of specific online issues. Learning resources are available to help you support the needs of all learners, including those with additional learning needs (ALN).


If you are worried that a child or young person has been harmed or is at risk of harm you must speak to your organisation’s Designated Senior Person for Child Protection as soon as possible.

If for any reason you cannot contact the Designated Senior Person for Child Protection contact the local authority Children’s Services Team and report your concerns.

If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger then contact the police on 999.

Seek advice

The Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) is available to support professionals working with children with any online safety issues you, or your learners may face. For more information about this service, see the short guide below.

The Report Harmful Content website is a national reporting centre that has been designed to assist everyone in reporting harmful content online. It provides advice for anyone over 13 who has come across harmful content online and will help you to report it by providing up to date information on community standards and direct links to the correct reporting facilities across multiple platforms. The Report Harmful Content centre will assist you with threats, impersonation, bullying and harassment, self-harm and suicide, online abuse, violent content, unwanted sexual advances and pornographic content.

Online safety concerns can cover many areas, including the risks from online content, contact and conduct. They may take place both in and outside of education settings, but like all safeguarding concerns, can have an impact on the health, safety, development or well-being of your learners. As practitioners, the best way you can safeguard your learners, is to provide effective online safety education, for them and their families.

Digital resilience in education is a key priority for the Welsh Government, as detailed in the Enhancing digital resilience in education: An action plan to protect children and young people online, which provides a strategic vision to keep children and young people safe online in Wales.

Keeping safe online on Hwb hosts an extensive range of resources and supporting guidance to promote the teaching of online safety. These resources have been designed to support lessons on a range of issues which are outlined in this guidance.

This guidance below explores some online safety considerations and includes links to further online safety guidance and education resources to support lesson delivery.

It is important when using technology that the devices and software you use are secure.

Here are some practical steps you can take.

  • Ensure software on devices is up to date including anti-virus protection.
  • Use strong passwords (update any default passwords), protect them and do not share login details.
  • Lock devices when unattended.
  • Headteachers/school digital champions/Hwb administrators should consider turning on multi-factor authentication when staff access all Hwb services off site (i.e. not only when accessing the Hwb User Management Portal). More information may be found in the User management section of the Support Centre area on Hwb.
  • Do not use personal accounts when collaborating – always use accounts provided by your education setting.
  • Always consider carefully the use of cameras and microphones when collaborating and ensure another member of staff is in the ‘room’.

The National Cyber Security Centre has issued guidance recommending extra precaution to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks on devices including laptops, mobiles and tablets.

Phishing emails

A phishing email is a message which asks users to follow a link to an unknown website which could download malware onto your computer, or steal passwords. To prevent this from happening please ensure you do not follow a link to an unknown website. Currently there is a high number of phishing emails circulating and it is recommended that you use caution around emails received from unknown senders.

Additional guidance

National Cyber Security Centre practical tips – Cyber security in schools – practical tips for everyone working in education

Guidance on Hwb’s data protection and security controls can be found in the Hwb Trust Centre.

The fast moving and evolving online world and technology are areas where adults can feel that children are leaps ahead of them, often knowing the latest apps and trends before them.

To equip our young people with the skills to be able to think critically and navigate the digital world in a safe and responsible way, it is essential to feel confident about your knowledge and understanding of the issues. The Keeping learners safe Module 4 provides online safety training specifically for education practitioners. It explains what online safety means and the important role practitioners have in keeping learners safe.

There are also a range of guides available for practitioners focusing on different areas of online safety, including effective teaching of online safety.

The following guidance explores how to make the most of the extensive range of online safety playlists on Hwb, including how they can help your learners.

The following guidance offers tips for dealing with online safety problems, including where to get advice and support when you need it.

The following guidance provides top tips on safeguarding learners online.

This guide outlines what the GDPR is, what it means for schools and sets out possible next steps to prepare your school.

This guide explains what a peer mentor does, the benefits, and how to successfully implement a peer mentoring scheme.

This guide for teachers and support staff looks at emerging trends relevant to young people’s online safety.

The following guide focuses on practical steps education practitioners and support staff can take to manage their online reputation.

The following guide provides key tips for engaging parents and carers in online safety.

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 learners understand the risks of sharing personal information online. These resources explore sharing information, giving consent and managing privacy to help children and young people make informed choices.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

Copyright is an important way for creators to protect their works and stop others using them without permission. It means that everyone who creates a new work has the right to control how others can, or cannot, use it.

Understanding copyright and how it applies to schools and your work as an educational practitioner is important to ensure that you are aware of what you can and cannot do when using the work of others in your teaching as well as in the educational materials you create for learners.

Guidance for practitioners

Gaming can offer several learning opportunities and benefits. It can improve problem-solving skills, sharpen visual processing, enhance memory power and provide moments of diversion and play. However, it is important for your learners to stay safe while gaming by taking regular breaks, knowing who they are talking to and reporting any concerns to the game moderators or a trusted adult. The resources listed below provide information about the benefits and risks of online gaming and steps that can be taken to ensure your learners stay safe. Links are also provided to some safe and secure educational games available on Hwb.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

There are safe and secure educational games in Hwb you could try with your learners, including Minecraft: Education Edition and J2blast.

Additionally, the NSPCC has additional tips about gaming online safely as well as information about risks.

As children and young people are currently 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. These resources will help you to consider the impact of illegal and offensive content and look at strategies for managing the online environment to reduce the risks.

You can report offensive or upsetting content such as online abuse or threats, self-harm or suicide content or unwanted sexual advances on the Report Harmful Content website.

If you or a learner encounter any inappropriate or sexual images or videos of someone you believe to be under 18, report it anonymously to the Internet Watch Foundation.

This resource will help you to consider the impact of illegal and offensive content and look at strategies for managing the online environment to reduce the risks.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

You 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 you do, due regard should be given to the guidance outlined in Live-streaming and video-conferencing: safeguarding principles and practice to ensure you and your learners are appropriately protected and safeguarded.

For further support please see Live lessons.

Many of us are relying on social platforms to communicate with friends and family through apps and websites such as FaceTime, Skype, Houseparty, Whatsapp or Facebook messenger. Live-streaming is becoming another popular way for children and young people to stay connected.

Live-streaming is the broadcasting of real-time, live video using the internet. When you live-stream, your audience can see what you are doing and comment on your broadcast.

Children and young people are using live-streaming services to broadcast and watch others live-stream, this can include celebrities, video bloggers (or ‘vloggers’) and ‘gamers’, as well as friends and family.

Whilst live-streaming can be a positive outlet for children and young people to express themselves and connect with people who have similar interests, it can also have serious consequences.

The resources below explore what live-streaming is, the risks and opportunities that it presents and how children and young people can stay safe to ensure they have a positive experience.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

There is a growing body of evidence examining the impact of the internet on the mood and mental health of children and young people.

The internet by itself is not the main cause of poor mental health. However the way children and young people might use it can impact them. These resources explore how you can help your learners to think about the positive and negative impact of online experiences.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

We are increasingly accessing news and information through social media platforms rather than traditional sources. This can result in confusion by misleading and inaccurate information. It is important to encourage your learners to check the source and credibility of information and develop their critical thinking.

For more information and resources visit our stop the spread of misinformation page.

As an education practitioner, you have a duty to respond to the information that has been shared with you. How the education setting deals with online bullying should be set out in bullying and safeguarding policies and should be dealt with in accordance with these policies. The following are some guides about understanding, challenging and responding to online bullying.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

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. These resources explore what online hate speech is, the motives behind it, the effect on those targeted and the ways you can support your learners to challenge it positively and safely.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

The Report Harmful Content website can be used to report offensive content, such as online abuse or threats. The service can support you to get the content removed if it does not adhere to the platform’s community standards. It is recognised that this might not solve the issue and depending on the situation, you may also want to report it as a hate crime so that the police can investigate.

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 provide you with guidance to discuss this topic with your learners and help them think about their online relationships.

Trying to engage learners with understanding risk online is not always an easy task. Stranger danger has taken on a completely new meaning now that it has become normal to interact online with people we don’t necessarily know offline. In fact, many now regard their regular online gaming partners as friends, despite never having met them or knowing anything about them outside of the gaming platform. Gaming, social media and messaging apps are very popular. Therefore we need to reassess the ways in which we engage learners in understanding who to trust online and how to deal with online predators. These resources provide information on issues surrounding online grooming.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

Protecting children and young people from abuse remains a police priority during this time.

If learners want to talk anonymously about something that is worrying them, contact information for expert organisations is included in the ‘Further help and support services’ section.

If you have concerns about inappropriate communication online then you can also report this to the National Crime Agency – CEOP.

If you are concerned that a child has been a victim of child sexual abuse, whether that is online or offline, then you should report this by calling 999 (the police) or the National Crime Agency – CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection).

We all know how important the internet is for young people. However, for many young people, they can get caught up in or become victims of unacceptable online behaviours, which can make them feel threatened, exploited, coerced, humiliated, upset, sexualised or discriminated against.

Online sexual harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual behaviour on any digital platform. Online sexual harassment can include a wide range of behaviours that use digital content (images, videos, posts, messages, pages) on a variety of different online platforms (private or public).

The ‘Step Up, Speak Up’ toolkit for practitioners includes a series of lesson plans and activities designed to address the issue of online sexual harassment amongst young people 13-17 years old.

To accompany the resource, Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet International discusses the research undertaken in developing the toolkit and the issue of online sexual harassment facing young people, which to some extent is normalised, in our ‘Views from the experts’ article.

Pornography and the extent to which children and young people may be exposed to it can be concerning. Advice for how to initiate and manage constructive conversations about pornography with learners can be found in the following resources.

Guidance for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

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 help parents and carers prevent their child being radicalised.

Guidance for practitioners

You can report terrorism related content to the police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit. If you are concerned about your child or another family member or friend being radicalised, you can seek advice from the police by calling 101 and, if necessary, complete a Prevent referral form so that they can receive local safeguarding support.

There are also resources for families which you could signpost or promote, such as this short film and accompanying family guide. These aid understanding of what is meant by radicalisation and extremism, what the current research says and what can be done to help manage this with children and young people.

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.

Teaching resources for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

With more of us having mobile devices and often from an early 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.

Guidance for practitioners:

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners:

Sharing nudes and semi-nudes – sometimes referred to as ‘sexting’ – is the creation and/or sharing of nude or semi-nude images, videos or live streams by young people under the age of 18. Creating, sharing or storing a nude, semi-nude or sexually explicit image or video of a child under the age of 18 is illegal. 

The following guide can help you to develop a deeper understanding of why it happens, the legal context and the role that you can have in supporting and educating learners on this issue.

Most cases of creating and sharing nudes or semi-nude images take place outside education settings, but this is where incidents often manifest and so a swift and confident response is important.

The following guidance can support education settings with developing procedures to respond to incidents involving sharing nudes or semi-nudes as part of their safeguarding arrangements.

The accompanying overview document for all staff provides a short summary on what to do if an incident comes to their attention.

The Responding to incidents of sharing nudes webinar outlines some key considerations to help you ensure that children and young people who are involved in an incident are appropriately safeguarded and supported.

To address this issue with parents and carers, there is a short film and accompanying family guide explaining what sharing nudes or ‘sexting’ is, why it can be problematic, and how to speak to children and young people about it to help protect them.

Social media has become an integral tool for communicating and information seeking in the twenty-first century.

As a practitioner, you will be aware of the importance of ensuring that you conduct yourself professionally and carefully online, including on social media apps and platforms. There is no reason for any professional to engage with a learner using their personal social media accounts. If social media contact is necessary this should be through the school’s social media account.

The following guide provides top ten tips for practitioners to stay safe on social media.

The following guide focuses on practical steps education practitioners and support staff can take to manage their online reputation.

To teach learners how to use social media responsibly, the following resources explain key considerations, benefits and risks of using social media.

These Social media checklists on using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Roblox are aimed at everyone who uses social networks and are useful for educational practitioners, parents and carers and learners. The checklists can be downloaded and provide information on managing data and privacy, and using the safety and reporting features available on these social networks.

Guidance and resources for practitioners

Learning resources for primary and secondary learners

Hwb hosts ten of the NSPCC’s NetAware online safety guides, including YouTube and WhatsApp, to provide information on the online world of children and young people and how you can help them stay safe.

This is a rapidly evolving area and, in recognition of this, and to support families to stay safe online at this unprecedented time, information on popular social media platforms and supporting resources will be published in May. This will include the most up-to-date information on Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Roblox, Twitter, Facebook, Misinformation, and Houseparty.

The 360 degree safe Cymru tool allows education settings to review and improve their online safety policy and practice.

Over 1,400 schools across Wales use the tool and evidence from the tool data shows that online safety provision in schools is improving year on year. The tool records all the entries made by schools enabling them to report on the national benchmark level (the average level recorded by schools). Over the last five years this average level has continued to improve each year.

Education settings should continually review their online safety policy and practice to ensure that:

  • responsibilities are allocated to relevant people
  • acceptable use is reviewed, understood and promoted and is consistent with the culture of the setting
  • there is clear understanding of how inappropriate use will be dealt with
  • technical solutions are relevant and up to date in light of technological change
  • staff and governors receive regular updated online safety training
  • education programmes continue to ensure that children and young people are safe, resilient and responsible users of online technologies and have high levels of digital literacy
  • they continue to meet statutory requirements and adapt to changes in national guidance
  • they learn from incidents and changing behaviours and adapt policy and provision accordingly.

For more information about revisiting your 360 degree safe Cymru review please see the guides below.

Re-visiting the 360 degree safe tool and updating the  review allows leaders to check that their provision is up to date and still relevant. It also allows access to the regularly updated links in the tool to good practice documents and national guidance.

Education settings can register for 360 degree safe Cymru by logging in to their Hwb account and clicking on the link on the Hwb home page.

Keeping safe online on Hwb contains a wide range of advice, guidance and resources about keeping your learners safe online.

There are also a number of organisations that provide different types of support.


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.

Report Harmful Content

A national reporting centre that has been designed to assist everyone in reporting harmful content they see online.

Internet Watch Foundation (IWG)

Report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images.

Samaritans Cymru

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.

Live Fear Free

Providing help and advice about violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH)

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.

Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK Safer Internet Centre

Helpline offering professionals who work with children across the UK support, advice and mediation with online safety issues.