Advice from the Professionals Online Safety Helpline – Safer Internet Day 2022
For this year’s Safer Internet Day (taking place on February 8th 2022) the Professionals Online Safety Helpline is giving appropriate safeguarding advice to professionals working with children or young people who are celebrating the event.
2021 was another tough year for educators in the online safety landscape. As the previous couple of years have shown in response to pandemics and lockdowns, online safety has now become a high priority, which in itself has led to increased awareness around what types of harm can affect children and young people online. From what we’ve seen on the helplines in 2021, reports are substantially increasing .
Safer Internet Day inevitably creates more awareness of online safety issues, which can go on to encourage young people to disclose concerns. Disclosures can vary, but can involve the child in question or a friend. As this year’s theme is all about gaming [All fun and games…], disclosures can relate to something they may have experienced online, someone they may be in contact with, or harm they may have been witness to.
As with any safeguarding incident, it’s really important that professionals listen and act appropriately. Gaming is a popular hobby at home for many children and young people and sometimes it may be difficult to notice when something is not right. However, it is important that there is awareness around what could occur when young people are gaming, ensuring we are prepared and know how to respond when serious disclosures are made. Take a look at our top tips for this Safer Internet Day.
Create an open space to talk
If a child feels confident to come to you, then they may feel as though you will understand and be able to help them more than others. Allow them to talk to you in their own time without interrupting. Respect that what they’re trying to tell you is hard and don’t rush them or make them feel they are under pressure. It may be difficult for them to articulate a concern so just be patient.
A disclosure can already carry lots of feelings of embarrassment, but you don’t need to add any more to it. Just understand that you need to fully engage and listen to what is being said in order to get the full picture of what has been going on.
Overreacting and pointing blame will dissolve any feeling of confidence that the student may have in you. Let them know you aren’t there to judge them, only to listen and help in the best way you can.
Don’t make promises of keeping disclosures confidential
Promises of confidentiality can ultimately backfire and result in considerable upset. Disclosures can lead to further investigations and communications with other members of staff and parents. Reiterate that you are trying to help and that sometimes requires taking things further in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
Go with your instinct
If something doesn’t seem right or there’s a concern around a certain student, trust your gut and talk with the designated safeguard lead before it develops further. If there is a further concern over whether the child is in danger, then contact the police.
Remember duty of care
It is essential to remember that all members of the children’s workforce have a responsibility to provide a duty of care for any young person they work with. If you are unsure about how to appropriately respond to a concern, then talk to your designated safeguarding lead or phone the helpline (below) for further information and guidance.
Give gaming a go
To give yourself a better understanding of the world of gaming, it’s good to get involved yourself and see what interactions and encounters occur. You can have great fun in exploring gaming with young people, which can provide great opportunities for starting conversations around staying safe online.
Get the correct support
If the incident in question relates to harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) you can call the new helpline designed to assist professionals with managing these types of incidents https://swgfl.org.uk/harmful-sexual-behaviour-support-service/
If you have a concern that a young person is in immediate danger, call 999.