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“Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe. At a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.” – Dr Tanya Byron, Safer Children in a Digital World (2008)

“We believe every child and young person should be protected, educated and empowered to stay safe when using the internet and digital technologies.”

Child abuse in all its forms is increasingly occurring online. The internet and its range of content and services can be accessed through an ever developing variety of devices (including PCs, laptops, mobile/smart phones, tablets, games consoles).

The internet has, in particular, become a significant tool in the distribution of child abuse images.

Internet chat rooms and social networking sites can all be used as a means of contacting children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships. This may include requests to make and transmit indecent images of themselves, or to perform sexual acts live online or to give their mobile phone number and other personal information.

The Serious Crime Act (2015) has introduced an offence of sexual communication with a child. This applies to an adult who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age. The Act also amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16, for the purposes of committing a relevant offence, having communicated with them on just one occasion.

Terms such as e-safety’, ‘online safety’, ‘online safeguarding’, and ‘digital technologies’ refer to all fixed and mobile technologies that adults and children may encounter, now and in the future, which allow them access to content and communications that could raise issues or pose risks to their wellbeing and safety.

Our approach will need to have several strands and will need to focus on work with children and young people, their parents and carers, and the professionals who work with children and young people. A greater challenge will be to raise awareness amongst the general public and the services that they use in both the public and private sector, for example internet cafes, libraries and locations offering wireless connection. It is important that children and young people receive consistent messages about the safe use of ICT and are able to recognise and manage the risks posed in both the real and the virtual world.

Use of technology also poses risks to adults, including those who are using it in their role to support or work with children and young people.

Whether it is using Chat Rooms, Social Networking sites like ‘Facebook’, online games or your mobile, you should take precautions to keep yourself (and your relatives and friends) safe.

There are lots of great websites out there that will provide up to date information for you about; what’s good, what’s not and what you can do about it. For example: If they feel uncomfortable or worried about someone they are chatting to online, they can report this to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

Kayleigh's Love Story

With the support of Kayleigh Haywood’s family, Leicestershire Police has made a film about aspects of the last two weeks of her life.

Kayleigh’s Love Story is as a warning to young people, both girls and boys, about the dangers of speaking to people they don’t know online. The film highlights just how quick and easy it can be for children to be groomed online without them or those around them knowing it is happening. Its purpose is to protect children now and in the future and to stop another family losing a child in this way.

For more information visit https://leics.police.uk/categories/kayleighs-love-story-film

Online bullying or cyber bullying

Children can engage in, or be a target of, bullying using a range of methods including text, phones or social network sites to reach their target. Children may not know who’s bullying them online, or it may be an extension of offline peer bullying. Cyber bullying can happen at any time or anywhere, a child can be bullied when they are alone in their bedroom so it feels like there’s no escape.

Mobile phones are also used to capture violent assaults of other children for circulation. This form of bullying is a growing problem in schools and other settings. It should be taken seriously by any practitioner who becomes aware of it. Harassment by use of ICT is a criminal offence and if necessary concerns should be reported to the Police.

For more advice on preventing and responding to cyberbullying visit www.nspcc.org.uk 

Youth produced sexual imagery ‘sexting’

Youth produced sexual imagery also known as ‘sexting’ describes the use of technology to share images ranging from partial nudity to sexual images or videos which young people, or another young person, have created themselves.  Young people are not always aware that sharing these images in this way is illegal. The widespread use of smart phones has made the practice much more common with images being posted on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube.

It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), working in partnership with a wide range of schools, local authorities, polices forces and organisations including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, DfE and teaching unions have published guidance for schools and education establishments in England. S‌exting in Schools and Colleges: responding to incidents and safeguarding young people (2016) UKCCIS – offers practical advice about:

  • Responding to disclosures
  • Handling devices and imagery
  • Risk assessing situations
  • Involving other agencies, including escalation to the Police and Children’s Social Care
  • Recording incidents
  • Involving parents
  • Preventative education

Find out more about the dangers of Sexting and what advice can be given to young people if they have shared something

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them.

Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.

What should I do if I have concerns about online abuse?

If you are concerned about abusive images of children online or that a child is at risk of online abuse (even if no physical contact has occurred) you can find more information in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.

Always discuss your concerns with the senior person in your organisation who is responsible for safeguarding and child protection.

Useful resources for those working with young people

There are a range of resources, both local and national, to raise awareness of online abuse and help practitioners, parents, children and young people keep up to date.

The Government has launched two new documents, which the UK Safer Internet Centre has been involved in developing:

DfE Online Safety Tool

The government has launched a new online tool for schools to give parents advice and tips on preparing their children for adult life. The new online service, called Parent Info, will give parents the information they need to help them navigate the minefield of issues children can now face on everything from spotting the warning signs of self-harm, to having a healthy body image and managing money in a digital world. As well as giving them the confidence and support to speak to their children on such sensitive issues, it will also provide them with pathways for where they can go for more hands on support on specific issues.

Key Principles of Effective Prevention Education

Key principles of effective prevention education – produced by the PSHE Association on behalf of CEOP

Produced in partnership with Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), this report outlines 11 key principles of effective practice in prevention education. These principles will help PSHE education professionals to teach high-quality online safety education as part of their broader PSHE programmes. The principles are based on a literature review of research into common elements of successful educational interventions, encompassing hundreds of programmes in the UK and abroad.

More useful resources

There are many more useful resources available around the internet advising how to keep children safe online. The following links are a small selection

  • Internetmatters.org Internet Matters is an independent, not-for-profit organisation to help parents keep their children safe online. Internet Matters believe in maximising children’s potential online, while staying safe.
  • East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) – Essential Online Safety
  • UK Safer Internet Centre provides online safety tips, advice and resources for Children, Parents, Carers, Teachers and Professionals to help children and young people stay safe on the internet.
  • Safenetwork.org.uk
  • kidSMART
  • Guide to Mobile Web Safety – by Carphone Warehouse Carphone Warehouse guide helping to keep kids safe on their mobile phones with Professor Tanya Byron.
  • Anti-Bullying Alliance – is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals, who work together to stop bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. The ABA has published findings in the UK and internationally, on the impact of involvement in school bullying (as a victim, bully, or bully-victim) on mental health throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
  • National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command – works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account.
  • O2 & NSPCC have joined forces to provide expert advice for parents or carers to help keep children safe online. Whether it is setting up parental controls, adjusting privacy settings, understanding social networks or concerns about online gaming. Speak with one of their advisors on 08088 005002
  • South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) E-safety Resources
  • Childnet.com and Know it All – The childnet International website gives internet safety advice and links for young people, parents, teachers and other organisations. Their award winning suite of ‘Know It All’ resources have been designed to help educate about the safe and positive use of the internet
  • Think you know – provides resources, training and support for professionals who work directly with children and young people. Their films, learning activities and other resources are developed in response to intelligence from child protection experts within the CEOP Command.
  • Getsafeonline.org – provides expert advice for parents regarding their children’s online safety.
  • Digizen
  • Digiduck’s Big Decision A story of friendship and responsibility online.
  • Stop it Now! UK and Ireland is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign. It is run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. We support adults to play their part in prevention through providing sound information, educating members of the public, training those who work with children and families and running our freephone confidential. Stop it Now! have produced a film to deter people from viewing and sharing sexual images of children.

When should I report to the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) ?

CEOP help children stay safe online. Has someone acted inappropriately towards you online, or to a child or young person you know? It may be sexual chat, being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or someone being insistent on meeting up. You can report it to us below.

Remember if you need immediate help call 999

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Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

The Internet Watch Foundation is the UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content especially;

  • Child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world
  • Criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK
  • Non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK

Reports are confidential and can be made anonymously by clicking here

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