Safeguarding for Safer Internet Day from the POSH Helpline

28 Jan 2021 Andy Robinson

In preparation for Safer Internet Day 2021 on February 9th, Carmel from our Professionals online safety helpline gives safeguarding advice to educators who are celebrating the Day either in school or remotely.

2020 was the year that online safety was thrust into the lime-light and rolling in 2021, understanding about online safety feels more important than ever. Industries that previously didn’t “need” online safety, and organisations that never wanted an online presence, have been forced into action. Some have thrived, others still have a lot to learn! With that in mind, I hope Safer Internet Day 2021 will have an even larger reach and feel relevant to whole host of different people.

We often find that with the build up to Safer Internet Day, awareness of online safety issues is heightened and that can lead to more disclosures from young people about incidents that have affected them or their friends. This year, rather than just schools, other organisations and workplaces may be hearing more about online issues that are affecting young people, and the professionals working with them.

It’s really important that we listen to these and act appropriately. With reports of poor mental health on the rise and the pressure almost everyone is under to just stay afloat, one thing we can all do is listen, and give people the space to share. However, it is important we are prepared and know what to do if serious disclosures are made. Here are our top tips;

Let them talk

If someone has come to you, give them the space to share what they want to in their way, and listen. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt because you know what’s going on, prompt if necessary but let them do most of the talking.

Don’t be shocked or make anyone feel ashamed

If there’s one sure way to put anyone off seeking help it’s making them feel embarrassed or ashamed about why they’re asking for help. In this last year nearly everyone will have changed their online habits, and some will have made errors, or been subject to abuse.

Professionals may have messed up a zoom and or shared more than intended, getting to grips with technology you are not used to in such a high pressure and strange context that has been 2020/21 is no easy feat, treat these incidents with compassion and on the basis that this could have happen to ANYONE.

Young people may have got themselves into some sticky situations, including sexting and so on, even if you are shocked- sit on it, respond calmly and try to understand the whole picture. Being shocked generally shuts conversations down.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

The last thing a young person making a disclosure needs is promises about confidentiality which cannot be upheld. Make sure they know that you may need to talk to other people about the issue to help protect them from anything further happening.

Not everything can be fixed, but we can all promise to try our hardest to help and sometimes that is the most reassuring thing to hear.

Trust your gut

If you have concerns, act now. Speak to the child, your organisation’s designated safeguarding lead, and if you think they are at risk, contact the police.

Remember your Duty of Care

All members of the children’s workforce have a responsibility to provide a duty of care for any young person they work with. Even if you’re not 100% sure whether other agencies need to be involved to help protect a young person, talk to your designated safeguarding lead or officer. They may be better placed to help work out the next course of action.

Schools and other organisation also have a duty of care to their staff, it may not be as simple as a safeguarding issue effecting a child, but there are agencies and support charities out there that can help, or help you act.

Remember aftercare

All too often we hear about incidents where an issue has been resolved but following on from this a young person and/or professional continues to struggle with the emotional trauma. They may not know where to go for help and pointing them in the right direction for emotional support is just as important as dealing with the incident itself.

Make the call

If you are unsure of anything or what to do first, call the Professionals Online safety helpline on 0344 381 4772 or email helpline@saferinternet.org.uk

If you are concerned a young person is in immediate danger, call 999.

Advice on what to do if you discover a young person has been groomed.

Download our free educational resources and watch our Safer Internet Day Films.