It was great to be part of Online Safety Day 2020 and hear all about the latest news and developments regarding online safety. The day brought together leading professionals from SWGfL, Childnet International, Internet Matters and Facebook to share their own guidance for the new academic year.
The afternoon began by focusing on the question, “What do educational professionals say about online safety in terms of Covid-19?”, and answers received from a few in different establishments. Do view the short movie clip here, which outlines some of the challenges that schools have faced and how they have managed to overcome them: https://swgfl.org.uk/events/online-safety-day-2020/. Mr Cotton from Our Lady Immaculate School, who have also been awarded an Online Safety Mark, shared a poem, ‘The Silent Classroom’, which he wrote just as we went into the national lockdown. This has to be listened to as it is hugely heartfelt and thought-provoking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHt4suiEkB0.
Andy Phippen, Professor of Digital Rights at the Bournemouth University and a Visiting Professor at the University of Suffolk, referred to the outcomes of a recent practitioners’ survey. 100 practitioners were asked about the changes that have taken place within the last ten years and the impact of the COVID lockdown. The results revealed that most practitioners do not believe online safety is less of a concern than it was ten years ago. Social media and app use by ever younger children were the main concerns. Reference was also made to the rise of self-produced video content and ‘keeping up’. Practitioners expect to see greater regulation and tougher technical controls. There was a desire for more effective and diverse resources and a shared responsibility across stakeholders. Lockdown has resulted in changes in practice. There is the need to stay in touch with vulnerable young people. The use of online platforms for delivery also brings about new challenges. The vast majority of practitioners believe young people are more at risk during lockdown; ‘they’re online more’; ‘that is what is being reported in the media’.
A request was also sent out to all local authorities. The foci were the volume of safeguarding disclosures weekly from January to June and the volume of disclosures relating to online abuse during that time. A number of key findings were discovered. Contrary to media reporting, there was on average a 25% reduction in safeguarding disclosures since lockdown. Only four local authorities had an increase in disclosures. Whilst we might assume that this is due to schools closing (which they did not), school disclosures only make up approximately 20% of all disclosures. The vast majority of local authorities held no accessible data on online abuse disclosures, stating that ‘we have no statutory expectation from the Department for Education to hold this information’ (https://www.cambridgecybercrime.uk/COVID/COVIDbriefing-13.pdf). Andy discussed some of the implications that this has; either there is no more risk during lockdown or abuse and harm are not being disclosed – borne out in much other research. But how might we know given the data recorded? He stressed that the 360 Degree Safe tool enables us to say ‘we know’, rather than, ‘we think’. We do not have this confidence around disclosures, hence why we need organisations, like SWGfL/UK Safer Internet Centre (UK SIC), lobbying for change.
Next up was David Miles, Facebook’s Safety Policy Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. David discussed online safety, referencing ‘A Guide to Facebook’s Family of Apps for Schools’, which was put together with input from SWGfL, UK Safer Internet Centre and Childnet International (https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/a-guide-to-facebook-s-family-of-apps-for-schools/).
David Wright, a Director at SWGfL and the UK Safer Internet Centre, highlighted the latest resources that they have created in order to support schools during the lockdown period. These include ‘Safe remote learning’, ‘Video conferencing guidance’, ‘Reopening of schools: Online safety considerations’, ‘Online tutoring’ and ‘Safer blended learning’ (https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/safe-remote-learning/, https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/video-conferencing-for-kids-safeguarding-and-privacy-overview/m, https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/online-safety-considerations-for-reopening-of-schools/, https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/online-tutoring/ and https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/safer-blended-learning/). David emphasised the effects that this time has had on children’s online presence and gave professionals several ways in which they might develop their online safety for the new academic year. Mention was again made to the 360 Degree Safe self-review tool, along with Project Evolve, a ground-breaking digital toolkit to guide professionals in their delivery of online safety responsibilities within the wider curriculum. Do take a look at some of the following material and tools on their website: ‘Covid-19: Expectations and effects on children online’, ‘360 Degree Safe’, ‘Project Evolve’, ‘Whisper’ and ‘360 Early Years’ (https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/covid-19-expectations-and-effects-on-children-online/, https://swgfl.org.uk/products/360-degree-safe/, https://projectevolve.co.uk/, https://swgfl.org.uk/services/whisper/ and https://360earlyyears.org.uk/).
Carolyn Bunting of Internet Matters then spoke about the essential work that they do relating to online safety and their Connecting Safely Online Hub, which offers support to parents/carers and young people with additional learning needs. It is well worth exploring their homepage and Connecting Safely Online Hub to find out more (https://www.internetmatters.org/ and https://www.internetmatters.org/connecting-safely-online/).
Afterwards, Will Gardener from Childnet International took to the helm to promote Safer Internet Day 2021 (which he did very well!), and highlight a variety of resources that their organisation provides, such as their PSHE toolkits and Digital Leaders programme (https://www.saferinternetday.org/, https://www.childnet.com/resources, https://www.childnet.com/resources/pshe-toolkit and https://www.childnet.com/our-projects/childnet-digital-leaders-programme).
The afternoon finished with a Q&A session; various attendees put forward some interesting questions via the chat feed, which were then directed towards the most appropriate person/people. All leading professionals responded confidently, sharing the wealth of knowledge and expertise that they have.
Many thanks for a highly informative and thought-provoking training session.