Safeguarding Young People Online – Advice for Professionals this Safer Internet Day
It’s not uncommon for us to hear about more disclosures regarding potential online safeguarding issues in the wake of Safer Internet Day. In fact it’s only natural that young people are more willing to open up about problems they’re facing as a result of the activities delivered on the day. Last year 46% of young people aged 8-17 in the UK heard about Safer Internet Day, with 20% of those telling us that they spoke to an adult about something online that had been worrying them.
It’s positive that young people feel confident to speak up about online worries and it’s important that schools are prepared for this.
However, if you’re a professional working with young people it can be daunting when you’re approached by a child concerned about online behaviour. Sometimes it can be difficult to relate, especially when it’s about technology you may not know a lot about. That’s when the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) comes in.
What you can do
If a young person discloses a problem to you, here are our top tips:
Let them talk
The young person 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 by what they tell you
If there’s one sure way to put a young person off seeking help it’s making them feel embarrassed or ashamed about why they’re asking for help. Times change and some of the things young people do today may make us cringe, but the inherent behaviour is the same as it was when we were their age.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
The last thing a young person disclosing 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.
Trust your gut
If you have concerns, act now. Speak to the child, the 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/ officer. They may be better placed to help work out the next course of action.
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 concerned a young person is in immediate danger, call 999.
POSH was set up in 2011 to provide support to all professionals working with children and young people. We work with teachers, social workers, doctors, police, coaches, foster carers, youth workers and many more.
The helpline provides free, independent, expert advice on all aspects of digital and online issues, such as: bullying, gaming, sexting, fraud, and grooming to name just a few. Maybe you’re worried about a young person who’s constantly glued to their device. Perhaps someone’s made a false allegation about your organisation, or a new age restricted game is raising some concerns.
Whether you need support or just someone to talk an incident through with, the Professionals Online Safety Helpline is open Monday to Friday, between 10am-4pm.