Online Safety Alerts – Think Before you Scare

In recent weeks a number of schools and other professionals have approached the Education Safeguarding Adviser (Online Protection) within the Education Safeguarding team  in relation to warning parents/carers and young people about the online safeguarding risks they have heard about via the media.

In particular, there has been an increase in concerns following media attention regarding the “Blue Whale” game. The UK Safer Internet Centre has published this content with regards to the alleged game which may be helpful to read and share.

Whilst sharing warning about specific risks, apps or trends is often done with good intentions; it can pose risks.  Sharing content, either electronically or otherwise, that is unverified or unrealistic can unintentionally have harmful consequences. Although some of these stories and warnings may be based on facts, many of these warnings have been found to be hoaxes or “fake news”.

We are encouraging all educational settings and professionals to think before they share with their communities.


Children are naturally inclined to take risks as part of normal childhood development; by identifying a specific app or risk, we may encourage children to explore something that previously they had not been aware of, either out of curiosity, or because they are under the impression everyone else is using it (aka FOMO or “fear of missing out”).

If children, or indeed adults, are exposed to content that highlights potentially harmful material, even when meant as a warning, it may cause significant distress. This can be seen by an increase in reports to childline following the recent “Killer Clown” craze.

The publicity that arises from fake news can also lead to copycat activity amongst vulnerable young people. When dangerous behaviours they were previously unaware of are brought to young people’s attention, it may place them at risk of significant risk of harm, either to themselves or others.

Whilst some children may feel confident to report concerns to staff following media reports, other children may use school equipment to research further information for themselves. School should re-evaluate (and in some cases alter) their filtering and monitoring approaches following high profile media stories. Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) should consider monitoring the behaviour of pupils who they feel may be particularly affected or placed at risk.


There will always be risks posed to children, both on and offline. Whilst some concerns will be based on facts, they always need to be put into context. Any online app, website or game which allows communication or the creation/sharing of content brings risks such as; cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate or harmful content or online sexual abuse and exploitation.

“Naming and shaming” an online tool as dangerous may encourage some adults, even with the right intentions, to focus on the app or risk rather than the underlying behaviour or vulnerability.  This can lead some adults to becoming complacent and aware of potential signs and symptoms of harm or abuse. An over reliance on banning and blocking can push children onto other platforms, cause them to hide their activity and ultimately prevent them from disclosing concerns to an adult because their are afraid their internet access will be removed.

Educational settings and professionals should consider if it is always helpful to identify a specific app or risk when talking with children and young people or parents/carers.

  • If there has not been a specific incident that directly involves member of the community, then we must be clear on what we hope to achieve by sharing this information.
    • If the intention is to warn parents/carers, then schools will end up in a never ending battle and are unlikely to be able to keep up due to how quickly technology develops! A focus on general online safety risks and useful tools to enable parents/carers to have appropriate discussions with their children is likely to be more successful at safeguarding in the long term.
  • If settings do decide to identify specific apps or websites (following a specific incident) then they should ensure that the content they share is factual and provides practical advice about responsible use and safety features. Avoid using any personal opinions or judgements, as this can undermine the core messages and in some cases have a detrimental impact on working relationships.

If Kent schools or settings are in doubt about whether to name an app or site, they can seek advice from the Education Safeguarding Adviser (Online Protection) or the e-Safety Development Officer within the Education Safeguarding team.

Two generic template letters are available below and additional letters relating to specific issues (such as cyberbullying or underage use of social networking) or services are available upon request.


Unverified warnings and hoaxes are not new issues. “Urban legends” have been spread via word of mouth for many years; however the use of social media has significantly increased the scale and reach of such stories.

Even in cases where warnings are shared through traditional routes, such as via letters, they can still be photographed and shared online. This can be a serious concern if warnings contain names or details that could compromise criminal investigations; specific information should not be shared, unless advice has been sought from the Police and/or Education Safeguarding team.


Sharing information or safety messages that are untrue or unfounded can significantly damage our credibility in the eyes of young people. Even when information comes from websites or agencies considered to be trustworthy, they may unknowingly be sharing hoaxes or “fake news”. It is therefore crucial that we are all critical consumers and do not always accept or believe everything we read online.

Useful websites that can help determine if an online story is true include:

Discussions relating to fake news can also provide schools with valuable teaching opportunities to develop children’s media literacy skills. Schools can use media reports to explore sensitive issues in a carefully managed and age appropriate way without placing children at risk or identifying specific behaviours. Useful curriculum resources can include:


Highlighting a frightening story may raise awareness in the short term, but it rarely has a lasting impact or results in long term behavioural change.  Schools should provide sensible  and practical advice to children as well as parents/carers and staff. Children should be aware of their personal safety and know how to report concerns, such as telling a trusted adult, reporting to the website/app or accessing appropriate support such from CEOP, the IWF and ChildLine. We should continue to have open and positive conversations with young people about the online world, so that they feel safe and confident to talk to us.

Some of the most important messages about keeping safe online, which apply to all websites, games and apps, that can be shared with children as well as parent/carers are:

  • Be aware of age restrictions and why they are in place
  • Use privacy settings and be aware that when things are posted online, they can always be copied and shared
  • Block and report users or posts that are worrying or upsetting to the website/app involved
  • If you are worried or upset by something you see or experience online, then talk to a trusted adult

Educational settings and professionals should encourage parents to discuss online safety at home and to talk to their child about what they do online. Useful websites to signpost parents/carers to for support include:

All adults should celebrate the exciting things, both on and offline, and provide sensible advice and assistance if children are taking risks. If schools have specific concerns relating to the safety and wellbeing of any members of their community, then they should following appropriate safeguarding procedures.

Additional sources of support for young people experiencing mental health difficulties are:

Online dangers will always exist, much like in the real world. Partnership working and empowering adults as well as children and young people how to manage and mitigate risk is essential.

This content has been produced with thanks to Penny Patterson from Havering Education Services who created Safeguarding hoaxes and fake news – April 2017.


Posted in Advice, e-Safety, Independent Schools, Kent, Online safety, Parents, Professionals, Research, Safeguarding, Schools, Social Media, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FREE PSHE Association-accredited resources regarding body image and self-esteem from Parent Zone and Dove

Parent Zone are working with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to bring its acclaimed PSHE Association-accredited resources to UK schools. FREE in-school teaching resources are available, that have been specially designed to help teachers deliver workshops to pupils, promoting self-esteem and body confidence.

The expert resources for teachers and parents are based on comprehensive research, in collaboration with the Centre For Appearance Research (UWE), and evaluated by body image experts. The school resources are accredited by the PSHE Association.

They address key topics including media influence, peer pressure and strategies for promoting body image and self-esteem. Students learn through class discussion, small-group activities, videos and activity worksheets. Schools can deliver a single workshop, or register to access a more in-depth 5-session programme.

Alongside the Dove Self-Esteem Project pages on Parent Zone, the Parent Info website has separate help and information aimed at parents, including a free downloadable 40-page parent guide.

Posted in Body Image and Self-Esteem, Children and Young People, e-Safety, Online safety, Parent Info, Parent Zone, Parents, PSHE, Resources, Schools, Secondary Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Home Office Resource – Indecent images of children: guidance for young people

The Home Office has published guidance for young people to help them consider what is meant by the term “Indecent images of children“.

The guidance explores the following content:

  1. Overview
  2. Different terms and what they mean
  3. Working together
  4. Further information about the law

Schools may find this guidance helpful to share with young people as part of discussions relating to positive healthy relationships within Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).

Schools and other professionals may find this helpful to share with young people, parents/carers and staff to enable them to have age appropriate conversations relating to the complexities and their understanding of this issue for young people. It may be particularly helpful when providing support and education (both preventative and reactive) regarding issues relating to youth produced sexual imagery (aka “sexting”).

Further guidance specific to recognising and responding to youth produced sexual imagery (aka “sexting”) can be found at:

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Childline launches new ‘For Me’ app to support young people via their smartphone

Childline has launched an app to provide counselling to young people in need of help directly through their mobile devices. The app has been named ‘For Me‘ to ensure that it can be discreetly installed, this means that if someone happens to see the young person’s phone they can’t tell it’s a Childline service.

‘For Me’ was created by 4 teenagers who realised there was an urgent need for young people to have easy access to confidential advice and support.

When Childline first launched over 30 years ago all contact was over the phone, with many calls being made from telephone boxes. How children and young people contact them now is dramatically different:

  • 71% of counselling sessions are delivered online via email and 1-2-1 chat
  • Last year, 1.8 million sessions on the Childline website were conducted via mobile devices.

The app, developed in partnership with Barclays, is now available as a free download so young people can easily access Childline’s online services.

These include:

  • 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor
  • ‘Ask Sam’ problem pages
  • Private locker – a personal area where young people can track their mood and write down their thoughts.

Schools may wish to share and highlight this app with pupils and staff; for example via the school website, newsletters or information around the school.

For Me Posters

Canterbury College have created two posters to help raise awareness of the “For Me” app with their students, which other schools/settings may find helpful to print and use.

Posters shared with kind permission from Canterbury College

(Click on the image and then right click to “save as” to download the image)


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Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to be made statutory in all schools

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening MP, announced that relationships and sex education will be made statutory in all primary and secondary schools, with schools required to teach this content from September 2019.

All primary schools in England will be required to teach age-appropriate ‘relationships education’ and all secondary schools in England will be required to teach age-appropriate ‘relationships and sex education’. Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver the subjects; faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith and parent’s will continue to have a right to withdraw their child.

The current statutory guidance for Sex and Relationships Education was introduced in 2000 and has become increasingly outdated as it fails to address the risks that today’s children experience including cyberbullying, ‘sexting’ and staying safe online.

From 2019,  lessons will  be expected to have an age-appropriate  emphasis on what constitutes healthy relationships, as well as the dangers of sexting, online pornography and sexual harassment. A range of curriculum resources to help schools consider this can be found on Kelsi.

The amendments that the Government will table to the Children and Social Work Bill will also create a power enabling the Government to make regulations requiring PSHE to be taught in academies and schools maintained by the local authority, following further departmental work and consultation on subject content.


The announcement follows the launch of a new Government drive on internet safety.

Posted in 2017, Department for Education, DfE, e-Safety, Government, Independent Schools, Pornography, Primary Resources, Schools, Secondary Resources, Sexting, SRE | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government launches major new drive on internet safety

Ministers have begun work on a new Internet Safety Strategy aimed at making Britain the safest country in the world for children and young people to be online. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is leading the new cross-Government drive on behalf of the Prime Minister – with a green paper expected in the summer.

A report has been commissioned to provide up to date evidence of how young people are using the internet, the dangers they face, and the gaps that exist in keeping them safe. Sonia Livingstone is leading this work together with Professor Julia Davidson and Dr Jo Bryce, on behalf of the UK’s Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) Evidence Group.

Ministers will also hold a series of round tables in the coming weeks with social media companies, technology firms, young people, charities and mental health experts to examine online risks and how to tackle them. The round tables are also expected to examine concerns around issues like trolling and other aggressive behaviour including rape threats against women and will involve ministers and officials from departments across Government including the Home Office, Department for Education, Department of Health and Ministry of Justice as part of a coordinated effort to make the internet safer.

The work is expected to centre on four main priorities:

  • How to help young people help themselves
  • Helping parents face up the dangers and discuss them with children
  • Industry’s responsibilities to society
  • How technology can help provide solutions.

The focus will be on preventing children and young people from harm online and making the internet a safer place.

Further information on the UK Digital Strategy can be found here.


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Childnet Film Competition 2017 now open!

Open to all UK schools and youth organisations, the eighth annual Childnet film competition invites young people aged 7-18 to take on the challenge of creating a short film about internet safety. All films must showcase positive and inspiring use of the internet and clearly reflect the chosen theme. The Film Competition is split into two age categories and schools or youth organisations must oversee and submit entries on behalf of participants.

  • Primary aged young people (7 – 11) are invited to create a 60 second film in response to the theme: ‘Be the Change – It starts with us’, looking at how young people can work together to make the internet a great and safe place.
  • Secondary aged young people (11 – 18) are invited to create a 2 minute film in response to the theme: ‘Be the Change – We’re online for good’, looking at what are young people doing to have a positive effect online. 

For both age groups Childnet are looking for creative, imaginative films which reflect a positive and inspiring message. Young people might express their ideas through comedy, animation, or music and are encouraged to consider different filmmaking styles such as creating an advert, campaign or documentary.

The judging panel will be looking out for films which are the most creative, inspiring and have a clear message. The three selected finalists from both the primary and secondary age category will be invited to a private screening at London’s BFI where they will be presented great prizes for their school or youth organisation to award their creative achievements!

To inspire young people to help others stay safe online, entrants are being encouraged to share their film competition stories on social media using the hashtag #bethechange.  Whether this is a message about the issues being explored, a picture from the creative process or even a tip from the young filmmakers, schools and youth organisations can share their updates with @Childnet.

Schools and settings can find out more information on the Childnet website (including information about copyright and top filming tips) and can email for an information pack.

Important dates

  1. Competition closes Monday 12th June 2017 (5pm)
  2. Finalists notified Monday 19th June 2017
  3. Screening and finalist’s event at the BFI Monday 3rd July 2017
Posted in 2017, Childnet, Competition, e-Safety, Primary Resources, Schools, Secondary Resources | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

University of Kent Centre for Child Protection – Safer Internet Day Competition

Although Safer Internet Day  has now taken place for 2017, the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent are running a poster competition for schools. They are also providing a selection of worksheets (suitable for KS2, KS3 and KS4) based on their Lottie and Zak resources.

These worksheets are available to schools and settings even if they do not have access to the full suite of Zan/Lottie resources. If Kent and Medway schools are interested in attending this training at a special reduced rate then please contact the Centre for Child Protection directly for further information.

For further information about their competition (which ends on 10th March) and to download the resources please access their website here.



Posted in 2017, Competition, e-Safety, Lottie, Safer Internet Day, Schools, University of Kent, Zak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

#SID2017 – Top Tips for Young People and Parents

The following tips from the UK Safer Internet Centre may be helpful for schools and settings to share with learners and parents/carers so they can consider how they can help “be the change?” for this years Safer Internet Day.

How can young people ‘Be the Change’?

  • Be kind: use images and videos to make a positive impact, and think carefully about the impact on others before you share something online.
  • Be a critical thinker: seeing is not believing… when you see something online take a moment to see the full picture.
  • Be you: technology provides a powerful way to express yourself. Think about what your images and videos say about you, are you happy with the story you are telling? Don’t be pressured into doing something online you don’t feel comfortable with.
  • Be a digital citizen: report anything you see online, including images and videos, which are offensive, upsetting or inappropriate. Speak to a trusted adult if something worries you.
  • Be a good friend: look out for your friends online and make sure you are only posting images and videos that they would want to go online.
  • Be the change: use the positive power of images and videos to help create a better internet.

Also see top tips for under 11s and 11-18s

How can parents and carers ‘Be the Change’?

  • Be engaged: talk regularly with your children about how they use technology, and find out what their digital life is like, including how they communicate using images and videos. Perhaps you can start off by discussing your favourite emojis?
  • Be curious: technology continually changes, and while you don’t need to be a tech expert, you do need to be curious about the apps and services your children use, how they are used and what safety tools they have available.
  • Be there: the most important thing is to ensure that you are there if something goes wrong. Your child might be very embarrassed to discuss the issue they are facing so reassure them that they can turn to you no matter what.

Also see top tips for parents/carers

Posted in 2017, e-Safety, Parents, Primary Resources, Safer Internet Day, Schools, Secondary Resources, UK Safer Internet Centre | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Updated Kent Guidance for #SID2017 – Using Social Media and Technology in Education Settings

Kent County Council are pleased to announce that the “Using Social Media and Technology in Educational Settings” guidance has been updated.

In today’s modern society, social media is often considered to be an everyday communication tool. For many members of educational setting communities, social media is the most commonly used communication channel; it’s how people stay in touch with friends and family, but also how many people access local and national news or events. Schools, nurseries, playgroups and youth groups are increasingly turning to popular social media tools to increase their engagement with their wider community, for example, to communicate news and events with parents/carers.

The guidance (originally published in 2011-2) has been developed to help educational setting leaders consider their strategic responsibilities and safeguarding approaches when using social media. It should be read in conjunction with the Kent Online Safety Policy Template and the Acceptable Use Policy Templates and guidance.

The core guidance document explores a range of frequently asked questions and contains supporting material to enable leaders to make informed decisions regarding safe and appropriate use of social media and support their staff if they are using social media professionally.

The guidance also contains the following resources:

  • Template letters for parental engagement and awareness
  • Template disclaimers for Social Media sites
  • Tools to help leaders explore potential risks and document their decision making
  • FAQ guides relating to help leaders consider safe use of popular social media websites (Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, YouTube Channels and Twitter accounts).

These documents are all contained within the core guidance but are also available separately for ease of use.

The documents are all available on Kelsi or can be accessed via the links below.

Additional material has been used and developed with thanks to the following organisations:

Kent Educational Settings are encouraged to contact the Education Safeguarding Team if they require further information or have any questions or queries relating to official use of social media.

Posted in 2017, Colleges and sixth forms, e-Safety, Early Years, Education Leaders and Managers, Facebook, Governors, Kent, Policy, Schools, Twitter, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment