By Will Gardner, CEO, Childnet International & Dan Furness, CIS Head of Safeguarding & Well-being
Students should feel they can go to their teachers or counsellors whenever an online safety issue arises. When students know you care about the issues affecting them online and can guide them with up-to-date and engaging online safety education, the space for discussion and support begins to take shape.
How a school responds to disclosures, reports and online safety incidents more broadly is important, as it can impact the likelihood of students choosing to disclose at school, as well as the broader culture of the school. Any response should avoid victim-blaming, take issues raised seriously, and take a safeguarding approach to all students involved.
Each February, many schools globally celebrate Safer Internet Day, working together for a better, safer internet. The day is an excellent opportunity for schools to access a wide range of free resources from the Safer Internet Centre, participate in a global conversation about internet safety, and empower students to take control of their online lives positively and safely.
Whether it’s an introduction or a reminder, the day gets students talking about the online safety issues they experience and encourages them to share their concerns and learn how to navigate the issues.
In 2023, 46% of teachers participating in Safer Internet Day said the day led to disclosures about potential online safeguarding issues.
Such an increase highlights the potential for these discussions to help give students the courage and the words to come forward and seek help for online harms that are happening to them. Preparing for an increase in disclosures is important, and this can involve staff training and being clear about local and online support services.
For a deeper understanding of current online harms and technology, and guidance on how to respond to these, CIS members can join the CIS Deep Dive Virtual Workshop in Online Harms and Technology: A Whole School Approach in May. In the workshop, we'll also discuss some of the risks posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how to respond to them.
Ways to inspire change
Here are some practical ways you and your school can help make the internet a great and safe place for your students.
Participate in Safer Internet Day on 6 February
Celebrations and learning on 6 February will be guided by the theme ‘Inspiring change? Making a difference, managing influence, and navigating change online’.
The theme was chosen in consultation with young people by the UK Safer Internet Centre. It covers:
- Young people’s perspective on new and emerging technology
- Using the internet to make change for the better
- The changes young people want to see online
- The things that can influence and change the way young people think, feel and act online and offline
To help schools participate in a global conversation about online safety, there's a range of free educational resources and films for schools to use worldwide. The resources are tailored for ages 3–18 and include activities such as interactive stories, worksheets, group discussions, and assemblies, with options for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Additional Learning Needs (ALN).
Find out which Safer Internet Centres Committee is responsible for organizing Safer Internet Day in your country.
Online safety for more than just one day
Safer Internet Day is a great springboard for online safety lessons throughout the year.
It helps you get a feeling for what your students are interested in, what concerns they may have about online safety and the issues they want to learn more about.
Once you get an idea of what your students are most interested in, you can start to build this into future lessons and learning.
Here are some examples from Childnet:
When we talk to young people about the online risks they see online, misinformation and ‘fake news’ is a topic we often hear mentioned. That is why we created ReelLife. It encourages young people to think about the posts they may share, the messages they may receive, as well as the content they may see on social media.
Use either the gamified version with advice and top tips or explore a printable version with suggested classroom activities.
Moving on up
The Moving on Up Toolkit is for adults helping young people aged 10-13 with the online aspects of moving schools. It includes advice around issues such as managing friend requests, getting their first phone and the pressure to fit in.
Each topic includes a short video and advice tailored for use with 10-13 year-olds.
Personal and Social Education toolkits
Myth vs Reality, Childnet’s PSHE Toolkit for 11-14-year-olds explores the topics of online pornography, healthy relationships and body image, each topic supported by short film content.
Through discussion and activities, this toolkit not only challenges young people to reflect on their own experiences and their own behaviour, it helps them unpick the truth from the online myths but also ensures they know who to go to and how to get support when/if aspects of their online life worries them.
This toolkit is an extension of Childnet’s practical PSHE toolkit ‘Crossing the Line,’ which aims to generate discussions amongst young people aged 11-14 about their experiences online.
Participation in Safer Internet Day gets bigger each year with schools in over 180 countries in 2023 using the free resources to kickstart conversations with students and embed the message that those conversations are encouraged throughout the year.
We hope you get involved too!
- Want to talk about it? Making space for conversations about life online
- Learning from young people: How schools and universities can protect students from peer-on-peer abuse
- All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online
- Five tips for finding trustworthy information online
- Realities and solutions to promote online safety, navigate Edtech and protect data
- Safer Internet Day: An opportunity to talk about online safety in schools
- Can schools transfer child protection data and information to a student’s new school?
- Data protection and privacy implications of online and remote learning