As more of our lives move online, different opportunities and challenges present themselves. The web is a source of support, information and learning. Unfortunately, it is also a place of grooming, exploitation and bullying. Teachers, Social Workers and other practitioners working with children and young people play a key role in supporting children to learn about how to stay safe online.
Online Safety is not just an IT issue; it is about safeguarding children and young people (and adults) in the digital world as part of our safeguarding responsibilities.
The focus should be on building children and young people's resilience to online risk so they can be safe and confident online. This often requires practitioners, parents and carers to build their own understanding of today's digital world.
The internet can be a great place for children and young people to play, learn and connect, but it can also put them at risk of online abuse.
Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens online. It can happen via any device that is connected to the Internet i.e. computers, iPads, tablets, and mobile phones. It can also happen anywhere online, including:
- social media
- text messages and messaging apps
- online gaming
- live-streaming sites
- online chat rooms.
Section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 inserts a new offence into the Sexual Offences Act 2003, at section 15A, criminalising sexual communication with a child under the age of 16.
This new classification criminalises conduct of an adult who intentionally communicates with a child under the age of 16 (whom the adult does not reasonably hold the belief for them to be aged 16 or over) with the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification if that communication is sexual in nature or its intent is to encourage that child to make a communication that is sexual.
Read the circular on GOV.UK
Situations that will be covered by the offence include talking sexually to a child in an online chatroom, sexually explicit SMS text messages to a child along with inviting a child to communicate sexually (whether the invitation itself is sexual or not).
The new offence is designed to ensure that it does not criminalise ordinary social or educational interactions between children and adults or communications between young people themselves in an ever increasing age of technology and mobile communication and improves the law substantially as prior to this new offence, sexualised communication with children that was text based was not actually a criminal offence on its own unless paired with an actual attempt to meet up with a child.
Any adult caught breaking the law will face up to two years in prison and be automatically placed on the sex offenders register. The law will cover both online and offline communication, including social media, email, and letters.
We live in an age where children live their lives through social media, so it is important that they are educated about how to stay safe online and parents are aware of their children's use of social media, sites and apps.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s campaign is to deter people from viewing child abuse images online. The Stop it now website has resources include information and support to help users of online abuse images cope with difficult emotions and change their behaviour.
Common Sense Media- information on all children’s media
NSPCC- Advice on ‘sexting’
Simplified Social Media Terms and Conditions
NSPCC- Advice regarding Online Porn
UK Safer Internet Centre- Online Safety Advice for Parents & Carers
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre– Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre delivers a multi-agency service dedicated to tackling the exploitation of children
Childnet– Childnet International’s mission is to work in partnership with others around the world to help make the Internet a great and safe place for children.
CEOP thinkuknow– Find the latest information on the sites you like to visit, mobiles and new technology. Find out what is good, what is not and what you can do about it.
Zipit App– Zipit is a free app for you which is designed to provide you with witty images to send in response to a request for explicit images, and advice on how to stay safe – for Android, Apple and BlackBerry smartphones (and iPod touch).
NSPCC Online Safety – The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) provides E-Safety advice and support in a digital world.