There is no doubt that computers and the internet are a major part of a many of people’s professional and personal lives and especially our children and young people.
We have seen a rapid advancement in the development of computers shrinking the size into smartphones increasing the storage capacity and the emergence ‘webcam’ technology. We have also seen the rapid development of better computer communicating systems and platforms as well as a massive growth in software programs availability
Although the internet has brought many benefits to us all including our children and young people and is becoming an increasing part of our culture, offering many positive social and educational benefits with children and young people doing their schoolwork online, playing games and networking with their friends, the internet does also present risks of abuse and exploitation.
Online abuse and exploitation
Children and young people have for many years faced a variety of abuse from a range of sources, from within the family, from strangers, from professionals who are employed to care for them and from their peers. When we think of child abuse we tend to think of abuse committed in the form of ‘contact’ offences against the child, that is some form of physical contact or proximity aspect is present. However, in recent years we have seen the emergence and proliferation of forms of online or internet abuse
Online or internet abuse includes (not an exhaustive list):
- Posting or sending sexually explicit images
- Taking part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
- Pressuring or forcing / threatening child or young person to pose for sexually explicit images
- Threatening to send on / post sexually explicit images unless they take part in other sexual activity.
- Getting involved in sexual conversations by text or online.
- Sending threatening or abusive text messages
- The setting up of hate sites or groups about a particular child
- Encouraging the child or young person to self-harm
- Creating a fake account to cause problems for the child / young person
- Grooming a child or young person for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation
So what can we do to protect our children?
There are a number of agencies and organisations who offer help and advice to professionals, parents and cares and young people themselves, including:
NSPCC – Online safety
Helpful advice and tools that can be used to help keep children safe whenever and wherever they go online.
Professionals Online Safety Helpline
0844 381 4772 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The UK Safer Internet Centre has been funded by the European Commission to provide a Helpline for professionals who work with children and young people in the UK, specifically tackling the area of e-safety. The Helpline provide support with all aspects of digital and online issues such as social networking sites, cyber-bullying, sexting, online gaming and child protection online. The Helpline aims to resolve issues professionals face about themselves, such as protecting professional identity and reputation, as well as young people in relation to online safety.
Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. The Helpline can be emailed at any time, and these will be responded to during their normal working hours. Find out more by visiting the Helpline section of the UK Safer Internet Centre’s website
ThinkUKnow is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection ( CEOP) Command’s education programme which provides resources, training and support for professionals who work directly with children and young people, parents and cares and children and young people themselves.
Sexting in schools and colleges
The UKCCIS Education Group has produced advice for schools and colleges on responding to incidents of ‘sexting.’ The advice aims to support them in tackling the range of issues which these incidents present including responding to disclosures, handling devices and imagery, risk assessing situations and involving other agencies. The advice also contains information about preventative education, working with parents and reporting imagery to providers.
This advice is non-statutory and should be read alongside the Department for Education’s Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance and non-statutory Searching, Screening and Confiscation advice for schools.