Coronavirus School Closures, Social Distancing and how to keep young people safe online while at home
As you know, schools have closed for an indefinite period while the government tries to limit the spread of COVID 19. We are sure you are aware that if children are at home for long periods and feeling isolated, they may turn to social networks to reach out to others. This could lead to an increase in online activity amongst young people. Some families may have safeguards and rules in place to keep their children safe from online harm, so it may be a good idea to revisit them. However, there may also be a risk that while young people are feeling vulnerable, they are exposed to an increasing amount of social media chat and fake news about the issue of COVID 19. They could be at risk of several online dangers, including grooming, exploitation and bullying. All of these issues could impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
The internet is a wonderful resource enabling children and young people to connect, communicate and be creative in several different ways on a range of devices. It is essential that during this period, children and young people are free from harm, grooming or exploitation.
The UK Safer Internet Centre published Safeguarding Advice for Remote Learning and listed a set of safeguarding checks that might inform parents on how to keep young people safe online during this period. The UK Safer Internet Centre can be found at https://saferinternet.org.uk/
What are some of the key issues and risks?
Behaviour: sharing too much information. It is critical young people are aware of the impact they have online as well as on other people, particularly in terms of their digital footprint. Young people can sometimes feel anonymous without understanding the importance of keeping personal information safe and not sharing this with strangers.
Content: age-inappropriate or unreliable content/fake news. While browsing online during this period, young people may come across content that is inappropriate, hurtful or harmful. They can come across this content through social networks, online games, blogs and websites. Many stories are being shared across social networks about COVID 19. Make sure children and young people understand the difference between fake news, an article written from bias and content from a reliable source.
Extremism and radicalisation; when a young person is vulnerable radicalisers from extremist groups could target individuals via several means. You can report online material promoting terrorism or extremism via the Online Tool [www.gov.uk/report-terrorism]. The online tool is for reporting illegal or harmful information, pictures or videos found on the internet. School staff and individuals can make their reports anonymously and report material such as:
- articles, images, speeches or videos that:
- promote terrorism or encourage violence
- content encouraging people to commit acts of terrorism
- websites made by terrorist or extremist organisations
If you have any questions or anxieties regarding this letter, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org