It was time, once again, for the annual South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Online Safety Day. I made sure that I earmarked the day on my calendar so that I could attend their afternoon event, which brought together eight guest speakers, all leading professionals in the field of online safety. SWGfL’s aim was to collaborate with some of the most renowned organisations to help spread valuable awareness around the latest tools, guidance and services to help keep children and young people safe online. The event covered a wide range of online safety topics, many of which have become the leading trends throughout the year. The speakers adeptly pulled together their expertise to provide all the information and guidance we needed to help respond to the challenges surrounding online safety including:
- online sexual harassment in schools (current impact and effects on students);
- new resources, tools and guidance (starting the new school year with the right information);
- UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) helpline data (statistics around online safety and harmful content);
- reporting guidance (promoting and utilising reporting channels in education).
After a formal welcome and introduction provided by Boris Radanovic, Online Safety Officer for UKSIC and working at SWGfL, it was time to hear from Andy Phippen, Professor of Digital Rights at Bournemouth University. Andy has conducted a large amount of grassroots research on issues, such as attitudes towards privacy and data protection, internet safety and contemporary concerns, like sexting, peer abuse and the impact of digital technology on well-being. Andy focused on making use of the evidence base, bringing value bias into safeguarding, LA safeguarding disclosures and specific and urgent action.
Next was Wendy Ghaffar, HMI Specialist Advisor, Cross Remit Safeguarding Social Care Policy at Ofsted, who has also worked for LAs, NSPCC, Nationwide Children’s Research Centre and in social work education and previously conducted much research into parent’s perspectives of the child protection system. She discussed Ofsted’s review into sexual abuse in schools and colleges at length.
Afterwards, Susie Hargreaves, CEO of IWF and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, spoke. Susie is also a member of the NCA CEOP Command Strategic Governance Group, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Child Online Protection Working Group and Broadband Commission Working Group. She introduced the IWF and its members, before analysing the trends and data for 2020. Susie touched upon some of the headlines from 2020, self-generated child sexual abuse, their ‘Prevention’ campaign, social content examples, ‘Report Remove’ in conjunction with NSPCC and shared a couple of movie clips, namely ‘Home Truths’ and ‘Gurls Out Loud’.
It was great to hear from David Wright, Director of UK Safer Internet Centre at SWGfL, again. David has worked extensively in online safety for many years with children, schools and wider agencies. He advises a number of governments and school inspectorates on online safety strategy and policy, particularly with regard to schools and the curriculum. David discussed the Annual Assessment Report 2021, data extracted from the 360 degree safe online safety self-review tool, Schools Online Safety Index 2021, online sexual abuse and harassment, Online Safety Bill, the fantastic Project Evolve, including a short promotional video, plus how to report harmful content.
Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, used her ten minutes to give us a whistle stop tour of three new resources, the lessons learnt from lockdown and what’s coming soon. Carolyn has been at the helm of Internet Matters since its establishment in 2014. Its website and resources have become essential advice for parents/carers and educational professionals when it comes to supporting the digital well-being of young people. She projected a number of links as well, which I will spend some time exploring later this week.
David Miles, Head of Safety for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Facebook, simply chatted to us without referring to any slides; this meant we had to listen very carefully to make sure that we absorbed all the details! David is a member of WePROTECT Global Alliance’s 2021 Global Threat Analysis (GTA) Steering Group, Child Dignity Alliance and European Commission’s Alliance to Better Protect Minors Online.
Carmel Glassbrook, Professionals Online Safety Helpline Lead, followed. Working on the helpline means that she hears from schools, police forces, LAs and youth groups from all four corners of the UK and this provides a unique insight into which online safety issues are affecting both young people and the professionals caring for them. Carmel gave us a little background to the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH), shared some statistics with us, referenced sexual harassment, SEND adaption, their services, their collaboration with others, resources and further support on offer and projected some pointers for further reading.
Finally, Alex Holmes, Deputy CEO at The Diana Award, delivered a short presentation. Alex is the founder of the peer-to-peer support programme entitled ‘Anti-Bullying Ambassadors’. The programme has achieved a phenomenal amount to date; over 35000 young people in 4000 schools across the UK, Ireland, Greece and Miami in the USA, have been trained to empower them to keep themselves and their peers safe and happy. Alex provided further information about The Diana Award, shared some statistics and a short movie clip, before asking us to imagine a school free from bullying and playing a couple more videos. He concluded with a number of ‘top tips’, key finding from the DEMOS Report, a link to practical activities to tackle bullying behaviour in schools and the BIG Anti-Bullying Assembly 2021, scheduled for 4th October.
We were asked to encourage establishments to add the new Report Harmful Content Button to their website before Boris took over to steer a Q&A session. The guest speakers addressed questions raised earlier in the chat feed comprehensively and confidently.
A very worthwhile way to spend a Wednesday afternoon, and it had the added bonus of being FREE to attend!
Many thanks to all involved for enlightening me about the latest online safety developments.