Safer Internet Day 2023 – Advice for Professionals from the POSH helpline

06 Feb 2023 UK SIC

For Safer Internet Day (February 7th 2023) the Professionals Online Safety Helpline has provided some appropriate safeguarding advice and considerations to professionals working with children or young people.

This Safer Internet Day, we are encouraging young people to talk about their online experiences. While it is great to discuss what they like and dislike about going online, it is important to be aware that this can also encourage disclosures around larger concerns that may need an appropriate response.

Disclosures can be varied but they may relate to any online harm they have experienced or witnessed including people they may be in contact with or concerns around themselves or a friend. As well, professionals need to be aware of how and where disclosures can occur to ensure their safeguarding approaches are robust enough in terms of handling and response. Take a look below at some points outlined by the Professionals Online Safety Helpline for Safer Internet Day:

Remain calm

If a child is making a disclosure, it is important to recognise that they trust and feel comfortable with you. It is therefore crucial that you remain calm, and do not overreact. Responding in this way could shut down conversation and prevent the child form disclosing in future.

Talk online and in-person

If a disclosure has been made in an online setting, if where possible, this should be followed up face-to-face. Some children may be more comfortable to initially talk online but it’s helpful to also see the child so you can assess any risks more thoroughly.

Seek help

If you need help, ask. If a child is telling you something serious and you are not 100% on how to respond, it is ok to acknowledge that they have told you something important but that you are going to have to double check first how best you can support them.

Give them space and time

Don’t ask leading questions or try to guess where the conversation is leading, it is better for young people to feel they have the space and time to say what they need to say.

Acknowledge and believe

Most importantly, it is vital that young people feel believed. What they are telling you might fall out the realms of your reality, but if they have chosen to tell you something that is important to them, believe them and acknowledge their courage to tell.

As a professional it is important to recognise the impact on your own wellbeing when handling disclosures. Take some time to reflect on the situation. It may be that you learn something new about yourself and the way you work, which will help you manage future disclosures.

If you notice that you need some support to talk through any issues, reach out to your management team. For external help, you can always access the Professionals Online Safety Helpline for support with any online safety issue or the Education support helpline.

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