Connecting Safely Online – A new online safety hub to empower young people with SEND

Alongside Youthworks and with support from Facebook today we have launched a first-of-its-kind resource for children with additional learning needs and their parents and carers.

The reason for the Connecting Safely Online Hub

Our Connecting Safely Online hub helps equip both young people with SEND,(special educational needs and disabilities) and their parents and carers with the right tools to stop them ‘falling through the net’ on social media.

This comes as young people with SEND identified areas where they are ‘more vulnerable’ to online risks and needed greater support – especially on social media. It is a vital new resource and is supported by UK’s Safeguarding Minister.

Our report findings of children with SEND

As part of a joint initiative, the online safety joined forces with Youthworks and Facebook to hold a series of workshops with teenagers aged 13 to 17 with additional learning needs and their parents or carers.

The findings of the workshops and extensive consultation with young people throughout the hub creation identified key areas where children with SEND needed greater support on social media. The findings, which have been detailed in The Life Online for Children with SEND report, published today, identified areas where young people with SEND differ from typical children in relation to online safety.

Firstly, many with additional learning needs lack the critical thinking skills, and sometimes the consideration for consequences that young people without additional learning needs have. This can mean they are more trusting of both people they encounter and content they see online. It also meant they had fewer concerns around privacy and were keen to have public profiles. Finally, they are also more open to parents and carers being involved in their online lives and having their devices regularly checked.

Support for parents and carers with children of SEND

While parents or carers of young people with SEND recognised the huge benefits of social media for their children, they also had a series of concerns ranging from their child developing extreme views to fears that their child could be easily manipulated online.

They also highlighted how there is a lack of unambiguous advice on how to help their children safely navigate the online world and guidance on how they can interact together online. As a result, Internet Matters, Youthworks and Facebook are today launching a new hub, which can be found ​here​ for both young people with SEND and their parents or carers.

With a supportive and enabling approach, the tool helps adults and young people explore and learn together in a step by step way. It includes​ tailored advice on how to connect safely online across a range of social platforms.

Industry experts share their thoughts

CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting​ said: “The findings of the report highlighted how online safety isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and society’s most vulnerable young people need tailored support to help them navigate the online world.

Having listened to the experiences of young people with SEND and their parents, carers and teachers we recognised we would need to create something different for these young people.

Social media for young people with additional learning needs is increasingly important and they are more likely to spend time online than their peers – which is why a collaborative approach in preventing any risk, is essential.

Our joint hub aims to help parents, carers and young people with SEND more aware of the risks and provide them with guidance to tackle them head-on to ensure they don’t ‘fall through the net’”.

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:​ “The safety of children online is of the utmost importance. I welcome initiatives like this online safety hub which helps to protect vulnerable children on the web, including support specifically tailored to meet the needs of those with learning difficulties.

The government is working on Online Harms legislation which will introduce a new duty of are on online companies to protect their users from illegal and harmful content.”

Youthworks Director, Adrienne Katz said: “​Our research highlights how important it is to give bespoke advice to young people with SEND, that, as one girl put it: ‘is not patronising’. I was inspired by working with young people throughout this project.

Only by listening to them and their parents, carers and teachers, can we try to create the resources they and their families need to be safe online. This microsite respects young people and allows them the opportunity to explore online safety on their own, or with parents or carers in a way that suits them.”

Head of EMEA Safety at Facebook, David Miles said: “​Working with our partner Internet Matters has been a fantastic experience and we are delighted with the microsite which will help ensure that all children have a safe time online.
We were pleased to support the creation of this resource, which offers tailored advice for SEND young people so that they feel well equipped to connect to their friends and family safely online across a range of social platforms.”

Connecting Safely Online Hub light-bulb

To help support parents, carers, and young people with additional learning needs, we have created this hub to offer tailored advice on how to connect safely online across a range of social platforms.

View site
Life online for children with SEND report light-bulb

This report summarises the findings of the workshops and extensive consultation that we carried out with young people, parents, carers, and teachers to help us to create the Connecting Safely Online hub.

View report

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