Organisations that work with children and young people must take a proactive approach to protecting them from cyber bullying and online risk, instead of only reacting once an incident occurs.
It is imperative that these issues are discussed early and often, and procedures are firmly in place to safeguard students and staff.
One of the most important messages that we should ensure children and young people understand in relation to using digital technology is that they should not give out personal information, particularly their name, address or school, to anyone they do not know or trust.
This particularly includes social networking and online gaming sites. If they have been asked for such information, they should always check with their parent or other trusted adult before providing such details. It is also important that they understand why they must take a parent or trusted adult with them if they meet someone face to face who they have only previously met online.
Educating children and young people to this effect is the responsibility of all those working with them when using computers, whether that be in schools, youth clubs, residential children’s homes, home education service etc. Firewalls and filtering software alone will not protect them, we need to give advice and guidance to ensure they have a safe online experience.
We need to ensure that those who care for children are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how to keep them safe and what to do if things go wrong. Often parents do not use these environments and therefore lack confidence in supervising their children’s online activities.
It is important that we support parents by raising awareness of the benefits, risks and dangers to help them understand more about what their children are doing online. We need to offer practical advice and guidance on how to keep their family safe online.