Guest blog from Steve Shepherd: My year with the UK Safer Internet Centre
In May 2015 Sergeant Steve Shepherd began a year’s secondment at UK Safer Internet Centre working with the South West Grid for Learning.
As a uniformed Police Officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, Steve has brought his skills and knowledge to the organisation by being the law enforcement link in the team. Here he explains a bit more about his year including what he has learnt.
I love the month of May, I always have. For me May is the start of new things. The weather is starting to change for the better, it’s my child’s birthday (oh and the Dog’s), and it just feels like new beginnings and anything is possible.
In May 2015 that new beginning for me was joining the UK Safer Internet Centre. For the previous 21 years I had been a uniformed Police Officer with Devon and Cornwall Police and I was given the opportunity to join this organization on secondment. It is one of those rare opportunities that only comes round once a career and I jumped at the chance to be at the forefront of online safety knowing I had an opportunity to make a real difference in such a fast changing environment.
So what have I done in the last year and more importantly what have I learned? Well, if I was to tell you everything I have done, we would be here until next year, but I wanted to give you a flavour of the work the UK Safer Internet Centre does. It is an amazing place to work at, made up of three charities: SWGfL, whose primary role is the development of educational resources, and the operation of a Helpline dedicated to supporting professionals working with children and young people in the digital world; Childnet, who have developed some great resources around online safety for children and lastly, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF is the Hotline Team, charged with removing child sexual abuse images from the Internet.
I work directly with SWGfL as they are based in Exeter and one of the first things I became involved with was Safer Internet Day as the UK Safer Internet Centre co-ordinate the day in the UK, which is a huge responsibility. This year over 100 countries were involved!
I ended up writing video scripts, being filmed for online safety advice, creating content for the day, producing a Periscope broadcast about online safety at Twitter HQ and supporting the social media content for the day. It really was just an amazing day.
I have also taken up my position in the team as a presenter for the UK wide Online Safety Briefings (www.onlinesafetylive.com). We take it in turns to present a free two hour briefing to professionals around the latest trends and advice within the world of online safety.
I also support the Professionals Online Safety Helpline as the law enforcement link for the team. I am able to provide policing advice when questions are raised as well as talk to other law enforcement organisations both nationally and internationally.
I get to visit lots of schools and educational establishments and deliver direct online safety training to pupils, staff and parents which is very rewarding. I also deliver specialist briefings around online extremism and radicalisation to professionals working with children and young people. In fact I was very lucky to recently attend the Families Against Terrorism and Extremism (FATE) conference in Paris allowing me to work with people from all over Europe in tackling this current online threat.
And last but not least, I support the communications team around our own use of social media.
My son likes to say that Daddy has given up catching ‘bad guys’ and just plays on the internet all day now. In some ways that may be true, but depending on what hat I am wearing I know that myself and the team at the UK Safer Internet Centre make a huge difference in protecting and educating everyone about the online world. I must thank the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police and especially Superintendent Glen Mayhew for supporting not only me but also the amazing work of the UK Safer Internet Centre and allowing me to be at the forefront of the online safety world.
I suppose one of the biggest things I have learnt that there is now no difference in the online and offline world. The boundaries have merged, children especially just see it as part of their everyday lives, for them the internet is now a utility just like water, electricity and gas.
It is an amazing place of infinite possibilities but like all things there is a darker side. And, just like in the real world there are amazing people and organisations like ours trying to keep people safe, and I am very proud to be part of that.