Together with SWGfL, we have launched today a first of its kind – the Inclusive Digital Safety hub. An online platform to help keep more than 2 million children and young people experiencing vulnerabilities, stay safe online.
Launched by the Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, MP, the digital platform will equip and empower professionals, parents and carers to have meaningful conversations about online life with the children and young people in their care. The targeted resources and guidance have been specifically designed for adults supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), in minority groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, and those who have care experience.
The Inclusive Digital Safety platform is the first of its kind and was created jointly with SWGfL to provide dedicated resources, tools and insights for parents, carers and educational professionals who are supporting children and young people in the UK that are more susceptible to online risks.
The educational online hub will house both created and curated content for parents, carers and professionals and has been specifically designed for children and young people with SEND, those currently or previously in care, and children in minority groups, in particular LGBTQ+.
The hub will also house an online forum, initially moderated, that will enable professionals to share their situation and obtain feedback and comments from their peers. It will initially be supported by SWGfL specialists to ensure any questions are responded to when its first launched.
The impact of Covid-19 has meant both Internet Matters and SWGfL have experienced a huge increase in demand, with greater numbers of both parents and professionals seeking resources and support*. Of the calls that the UK Safer Internet Centre Helpline manages from those working with SEND children, a significant proportion relates to sexting incidents.
In response, SWGfL has created a bespoke version of its ‘So You Got Naked Online…’ resource specifically for SEND children for the hub. The aim is to provide accessible information to help support children and young people with experiencing vulnerabilities in the event that they have shared intimate images.
And, with the risk of schools going into local lockdowns, there has never been a more important time to provide professionals surrounding the children and young people with evidence-based, usable advice and insight.
It comes following our Vulnerable Children in a Digital World report, that revealed it is possible to predict online risks that different groups of vulnerable children may face online. This includes pressure to send intimate images, greater experience of cyberbullying and cyber scams, as well as repeated exposure to content promoting self-harm, anorexia and suicide.
More than two million children are considered to be the most ‘vulnerable’ in England – including those with physical or mental health needs. These children face becoming ‘lost in digital space’ if the right support is not given, as found in our Vulnerable Children in a Digital World report.
Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, MP, said: “We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to go online, which means it has to be the safest place for everybody.
It’s important every child can enjoy the internet safely and having adults understand what risks different children may encounter is the first step to ensuring risks do not turn into harms.
I’m delighted to launch this innovative hub and would encourage parents and professionals working with children to explore the advice on the Inclusive Digital Safety Hub.”
David Wright, Director of UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “The internet has transformed how young people learn, socialise and communicate – but sadly it also brings new dangers, such as online grooming, cyberbullying and peer pressure. These risks are even more prevalent for vulnerable children.
We know offline vulnerabilities allow us to predict the online risks children face. Prediction allows for intervention and prevention, but only if responsible adults have the tools to do this. This is why we’ve partnered with Internet Matters. We wanted to create the first-ever online hub to provide adults with the digital education skills to intervene, preventing risk from becoming harmful to vulnerable children.”
Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, said: “We know that the single most important factor in keeping children and young people safe online is for them to have conversations with the trusted adults around them.
This is even more important for young people most at risk of harm, so equipping the rainbow of adults around vulnerable young people with the evidence, resources and tools they need to have meaningful conversations is a vital part of enabling all young people to enjoy the benefits of connected technology.
Having those conversations early enough can help lower the risks of serious online harms later on. This way, we can help ensure that every child can benefit from connected technology safely. I’m delighted that in partnership with SWGfL we’ve been able to offer this hub to parents and professionals.”
*Data from Internet Matters parental tracker from May 2020 indicates that parents of vulnerable young people report they experiencing significantly more harm than non-vulnerable children in the lockdown. Whilst time online has increased by 20% for vulnerable CYP, contact with strangers is up 40%, sexting is up 25% and gambling a huge 83%.
Empowering parents, carers, and professionals with tailored advice and insight to make meaningful interventions in the lives of children and young people most likely to experience online risks, this advice hub is the first of its kind.
This is a space where professionals can share and support each other to keep children and young people safe from harm and thriving online. If you are a professional working with children and young people, living with SEND, an LGBTQ+ child or young person or a child or young person who is care-experienced, then this forum is for you.
See articles and resources to help children stay safe online.