UK Safer Internet Centre Helpline Annual Report – Highlights

01 Dec 2020 Andy Robinson

What the annual report covers

The data is taken from 2019 and, while the data set is a year old, the helpline continues to see similar themes in 2020.

The helpline is available to anyone working with children and young people in the UK, however, throughout this article and the report, it talks mostly about teachers. That is because 67% of cases come from schools and teachers.

 This is due to the fact that it is easier for the helpline to promote itself to schools. Children spend the majority of their time in schools, so it makes sense that this is where they would seek support. The helpline also hears from a plethora of other organisations as you can see from this useful graphic.

Additionally, over the last year the helpline has heard from an increasing number of “other organisations” in relation to moving their services online. Most recently a church contacted us about hosting holy communion over zoom.

The UKSIC helpline annual report highlights

Gender disparity

Girls were more likely to be victims of peer on peer abuse, we see this presenting as cyber bullying and sexting.

  • 100% of sexting cases from secondary schools involved a female victim.
  • Whereas cases identified as “inappropriate use” were predominantly perpetrated by male students (70%)

It’s interesting to see in this report that there are gendered issues facing the professionals too. The report finds that female (teachers specifically) are more likely to deal with and contact the helpline with complex cases that have a larger emotional burden.

Male teachers do of course contact the helpline with these types of cases also, but as you will see in the report this is only a fraction in comparison.

  • Female teachers were also more likely to be the target of abuse in forms of complaints online from parents (40% as opposed to 20% targeted at males).
  • Male professionals were almost as likely as females to be victims of online harassment (20% male, 23% female, 57% mixed gender victims), with accusations of abuse and pedophilia often playing a part in the bullying of male staff.

The helpline also deals with meme pages very frequently. The report finds all school staff are targeted on these pages, but when they also include a potential allegation of abuse, its men that are the subject.

This kind of remark is often flippant, but can cause serious concern for schools and teachers. Allegations of this nature, however jokey, ought to be investigated as potential whistle blowing, this is necessary but it takes time and a toll on the staff involved. 

Vulnerabilities 

  • The report confirms what we have seen on the helpline for some time, and that is a real lack of provision for young people with SEND, and the professionals working with them.

SEND is a massive catch-all term and children within that have varying abilities. We consistently hear that resources which are available are pitched far too low. A lot of resources out there will be “how to search the internet” and very basic steps.

Many young autistic people are some of this country’s genius’; they do not need to be told how to use a computer and in fact could likely teach us a thing or two.  Whereas other children will need a lot more support in understanding basic functions, but may have a better grasp on the social questions and so on.  Professionals are coming to us exasperated, just trying to find something that could help. 

  • One thing we typically hear on the helpline is around sexting, students who have difficulty with social and emotional learning, may not comprehend that relentlessly sending naked selfies is A) against the law and B) Not always well received.

In this last year we have completed some work to fill this gap and you can check out the full suite of resource here, if you missed it, the SEND adapted version of ‘So You Got Naked Online’. We appreciate there’s still a long way to go, but this is a welcome resource that addresses a common problem.

Impact and future

The level of abuse directed at teachers and the children’s workforce was also noted overall.

In this graphic* you can see there is an almost even split of cases impacting professionals or young people. From the report, it showed that working with children makes you more vulnerable to abuse online, specifically.

Bullying by students should not be regarded as an occupational hazard for teachers although, unfortunately, research suggests that this is increasingly becoming the case (Busby, 2019; Department for Education, 2014; The Key, 2016; NASUWT, 2018).

The full report can be found here: