The digital world offers a wide range of opportunities for children and young people in terms of their development, communication, education and entertainment. However, there are risks associated with the online world, and for a variety of reasons young people can be more vulnerable to these risks than adults. These include peer pressure, under-development of future time perspective etc. There are many protective factors that work to keep young people safe in the digital world. A key element is the role of the family – particularly parents and carers. The RSCP provides a separate information page for parents and carers on the topic of e-safety. It is known that the support and engagement of parents, carers and other family members provides the best opportunity for keeping young people safe online. Not all families do or are able to offer that support, but where they do it is clear that children have the best chance of managing risk.
Professionals have a duty of care, and as practitioners working with children and young people, you should encourage them to embrace the benefits of technology, ensure that children are able to make informed decisions and understand how to keep safe. Whether you work with parents or children there is guidance available to help you to recognise the eSafety issues and plan for the safe use of these technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, games consoles and the internet.
All children and young people are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of risks when they go on-line including cyber bullying, accessing pornography, child sexual exploitation, and other forms of exploitation. There are certain groups though that are especially vulnerable including those in care, those that are experiencing mental health issues, those already victims of sexual abuse or exploitation and those not in education or employment. This is due to fewer protective factors that would normally exist within a family environment, or in school etc. Peer pressure becomes more dominant. Also, children and young people that have already suffered abuse or traumatic experiences may not have the ability to understand risks and to recognise the consequences of on-line behaviour.
The digital world allows access to sex in many different ways through pornography, sexting, or engagement with sexual games. For young people to be able to manage the enticements or threats of online sexual content they need an understand healthy sexual relationships, an awareness of boundaries and some personal self-control. This poses a challenge to all adults who work with children and young people, particularly those in the identified vulnerable groups.
Privacy and security are not always high on the priority list for children and young people when using the internet. Age-appropriate blocks and filters need to be applied and discussions take place to ensure children and young people understand the risks associated with sharing personal information. One particular risk to be aware of is baited pages – which are private profiles set up on social media that can only be accessed by invitation. These pages are targeting children and young people with a requirement for the person to submit naked pictures of themselves or peers. The young person is then exploited when these images are shared.
Key learning points are to recognise that those already vulnerable are even more vulnerable to risk in the online world. Supportive relationships whether within the family, or with those adults working with children and young people, are likely to be more effective in keeping safe than technical restrictions and training of professionals in this ever changing area is a priority.
If indecent images of a child or young person are shared on-line one of the most important things to take action on is to get the images taken down as soon as possible. This will help safeguard the child and limit any on-going impact, particularly emotionally or on their mental health, or risk of further abuse. Below are the steps that should be taken.
All concerns relating to on-line exploitation of children and young people should be reported to the specialist police agency – Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command. Reports can be made by the child or young person (either about themselves or someone else they are worried about – such as a friend), a parent/carer, or a professional working with children and young people. As a professional, CEOP will be able to advise you on what action should be taken to keep the child safe and can take action to remove any explicit or indecent images which have been posted on-line.
Sharing sexual images of a child is illegal and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) takes reports from professionals and the general public which they act upon to remove any offensive and explicit content. Professionals should report themselves and encourage parents/carers to do so. Not only can they help in supporting the child, ensuring the images are removed or distorted, they will also refer to the Police to stop further criminal activity. Check out the RSCP guide for professionals on youth produced sexual imagery (‘sexting’).
Most social media sites have a facility where a report can be made to them relating to abuse, such as indecent content, trolling etc. Childnet have produced a useful page with links to the main sites reporting process.
To learn more about e-safety, please visit our other pages:
- Lessons from Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) on eSafety;
- Staying Safe On-Line – information for children and young people on e-safety; and
- e-Safety – Keeping your child safe on-line – information for parents and carers.
You may also find it useful to attend a RSCP Course on eSafety. See our Training Programme for more information.
Useful documents and guidance:
- eSafety Leaflet for Young People (PDF 3.5MB)
- eSafety Leaflet for Parents and Carers (PDF 1.2MB)
- Ask.FM Online Safety Guidance
- NCA Guidance on Sexting in Schools, January 2017
- StopitNow website
- LSCB Resource Directory – E-Safety & Peer-on-Peer Abuse (PDF 484KB)
- LSCB MA Guidance for Professionals on Responding to Youth Produced Sexual Imagery (PDF 1MB)
- Redbridge LSCB Social Media App Guide (PDF 3MB)
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children ages. Resources include Play Like Share, an education pack for working with 8-10 year olds to help them stay safe from sexual abuse and exploitation whilst on-line. CEOP also provide a website for children aged 11 – 18 that has information on online safety and relationships – The internet, relationships & you. The free resource – The internet, relationships & you: toolkit for 11-18s can be accessed via a free sign up.
- CEOP Safety Centre
This is a place where you can report abuse on the Internet or any inappropriate or potentially illegal activity with or towards a child online.
Childnet International is a non-profit organisation working with others to “help make the Internet a great and safe place for children”.
- NSPCC – helpline for concerns about on-line bullying.
- UK Safer Internet Centre – professionals on-line safety helpline – call 0808 800 5000 or e-mail email@example.com
- The Cybersmile Foundation
Cyberbullying charity providing advice and support to anyone being affected by cyberbullying issues.
- Family Services Directory
The Family Services Directory aims to provide information on all services in Redbridge for children, young people, families and practitioners.
- Think U Know
The CEOP Centre’s online safety centre, where you will find advice and tips for children, adults and professionals of all ages.
- Ineqe – sign up for free regular updates, guides and videos to add to your knowledge and effectiveness of safeguarding children in a digital era.
- “I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch”: The impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children, NSPCC, 2016
- How safe are our children? NSPCC, 2015
- Experiences of 11-16 year olds on social networking sites: A survey of young people’s online experiences and coping strategies, NSPCC, 2014
- Younger children and social networking sites: a blind spot, NSPCC, 2013
- Sexting: an exploration of practices and attitudes and influences, NSPCC, 2012
- Real life story of a young person who had their nude image shared – short film on Vimeo (1.5 minutes)