Communication and Interaction (C&I)

Advice for professionals working with SEND aged 11 to 14

This SEND Index of Harms resource is for children and young people (CYP) with Communication and Interaction need. It is broken down by the strands from the Education for a Connected World Framework.

Self-image and identity

This strand explores the differences between online and offline identity beginning with self-awareness, shaping online identities and media influence in propagating stereotypes. It identifies effective routes for reporting and support and explores the impact of online technologies on self-image and behaviour. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Impact of technology on self-image and identity


  • Unable to understand negative/positive language about someone else therefore at risk to self and others online
  • Fixation on games or social networking sites can lead to compulsive internet use, leading to limiting in-person interactions
  • Unable to relate to and manage a positive identity of others online
  • Unable to recognise and assess social norms and expectations, e.g. profile pictures (ASC can misinterpret body language/signals)
  • CYP may be vulnerable to manipulation and engage in harmful actions online in order to appease and please others
  • CYP may be easily coerced and threatened by believing the online presence able to physically contact them
  • CYP may see the internet as an authoritative and authentic source without any critical faculty

Possible responses

  • Support from key adults especially to help identify dangers and consequences of visiting inappropriate websites
  • Learning about online behaviours and criminal online activity and content
  • Talking mats
  • Social stories and stories about online safety
  • Stories and information scripts
  • Parental/carer support around filtering and monitoring and implementing an internet safety plan at home
  • Activities to develop CYP’s sense of self-worth and the capacity to report any encouragement to self-harm
  • Activities to develop reassurance around reporting threats
  • Focused lessons on developing a critical interpretation of the internet

Online relationships

This strand explores how technology shapes communication styles and identifies strategies for positive relationships in online communities. It offers opportunities to discuss relationships, respecting, giving and denying consent and behaviours that may lead to harm and how positive online interaction can empower and amplify voice. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Relationships, consent and behaviours leading to harm


  • Inability to interpret social cues correctly online. Difficulties taking part in online conversations
  • Struggle to understand inappropriate content, which is difficult to explain to them, but they may copy this, leading to potential legal consequences/harmful behaviours
  • Lack appropriate social conversational skills online and have a literal use and interpretation of language
  • Vulnerable to being coerced into harmful behaviour – not able to understand what they may be asked to do online is the wrong choice – will follow a lead and think that’s OK
  • Lack of understanding of online terminology such as ‘sexting’, ‘trolling’, ‘harassment’, ‘stalking’, etc
  • No understanding of legal accountabilities
  • This may lead to CYP being coerced into sharing materials amongst their peers without realising its content could be harmful or hurtful
  • CYP’s desperation to belong may drive them to copy digitally altered images believing them to be real and consequently harm themselves trying to alter their physical appearance
  • CYP may be mocked by former friends for enjoying immature content.

Possible responses

  • Storybooks, social stories, story sacks, comic strip conversations
  • Video guides – online gaming, watching videos for young learners
  • CBT
  • Lego therapy sessions
  • Play therapy programme
  • Art therapy sessions
  • ELSA support on online relationships
  • Talking mats
  • Teach anxiety coping mechanisms
  • Focused activities on the ‘unreal’ nature of altered images and the potential harms caused by trying to copy them
  • Build peer groups of CYP with similar appropriate tastes and buddy systems with peers who value the tastes of other CYP

Online reputation

This strand explores the concept of reputation and how others may use online information to make judgements. It offers opportunities to develop strategies to manage personal digital content effectively and capitalise on technology’s capacity to create effective positive profiles. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Others may use your online reputation to make judgements about you


  • Limited vocabulary for age may lead to difficulty in accessing information and inappropriate sharing of content
  • Difficulty in understanding abstract concepts and applying prior learning may lead to potential risks of sharing inappropriate content online
  • CYP may be attracted to engaging personalities with strong online reputations
  • CYP may be indifferent to their online reputation causing them to offend others, thereby placing them at risk

Possible responses

  • Discussion, visuals around social boundaries
  • ELSA support sessions around social boundaries – Yes/No, Do/Don’t
  • ELSA support around emotions and worries/anxiety
  • CBT
  • Lego therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Reviewing real-life/news stories
  • Support with anger management – appropriate responses
  • Choice guidance – through games
  • Guidance around getting naked or viewing inappropriate sexual content online
  • Comic strip conversations
  • CYP to be encouraged to share their ideas about who they admire and why. Adults might challenge this and open discourse into who we admire and why
  • Clear guidance and instruction on acceptable and non-acceptable online behaviour

Online bullying

This strand explores bullying and other online aggression and how technology impacts those issues. It offers strategies for effective reporting and intervention and considers how bullying and other aggressive behaviour relates to legislation. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Bullying and aggression can harm others


  • Frustration/anxiety due to social and communication difficulties
  • Low self-efficacy and social and/or behavioural difficulties arising from low self-esteem, frustration or communication difficulties
  • May experience sensory processing difficulties
  • Unable to express worries/anxieties – actions such as rocking, stroking, flapping and/or hands over ears
  • Unable to see how cruel and unpleasant comments can escalate quickly and unable to understand the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour
  • Vulnerable CYP may become a bully/instigator without realising
  • CYP with ASD may not realise they are being bullied. They may lack skills to stand up for self or communicate what is going on. This may lead to depression and low self-esteem
  • CYP may be coerced into bullying others online on behalf of peers in order to win social favour
  • CYP’s desire to become independent in the online world may prevent them reporting bullying
  • CYP may not know of support mechanisms and groups that can help them

Possible responses

  • Role-play scenarios
  • Social stories
  • Learning about online safety and reporting bullying
  • Explore real-life events and news
  • Teaching about anxiety management strategies
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Legal accountability – understanding and facts
  • Work on emotions
  • Emojis – understanding and relevant activities
  • Emphasise learning on behaving fairly and respectfully to everyone online
  • Focused activities on how to research and identify appropriate support groups

Managing Online Information

This strand explores how online information is found, viewed and interpreted. It offers strategies for effective searching, critical evaluation of data, the recognition of risks and the management of online threats and challenges. It explores how online threats can pose risks to our physical safety as well as online safety. It also covers learning relevant to ethical publishing. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Online information can be found, viewed and interpreted


  • Unable to analyse and evaluate reliability and validity of online information based on content as well as appearance
  • Potential reliance on a reliable source which may cause harm
  • CYP may not realise that they are being influenced and targeted
  • CYP may not understand how cookies can be used to target sales
  • CYP’s literal interpretation of the online world may prevent them recognising that bots exist and information is manipulated

Possible responses

  • Teach a set of basic online safety rules to young person with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Autism and online safety toolkit for secondary CYP
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Show CYP how cookies stored on devices affect searches
  • Factual instruction and demonstration of the use of bots

Health, wellbeing and lifestyle

This strand explores the impact that technology has on health, well-being and lifestyle e.g. mood, sleep, body health and relationships. It also includes understanding negative behaviours and issues amplified and sustained by online technologies and the strategies for dealing with them. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Technology can impact on mood, sleep, body health and relationships


  • Unable to identify online content and/or groups that promote unhealthy coping strategies (e.g. suicide, eating disorders, self-harm)
  • Unable to identify who to talk to keep self-safe online
  • CYP with adolescent onset of neurological conditions such as epilepsy may be adversely affected by prolonged time in front of a screen which may not be easily detected
  • CYP may not be able to critically evaluate lifestyle advice that is unbiased and not sales driven
  • CYP may not be able to report harmful content because they do not recognise it as such
  • CYP may not be able to identify over-use symptoms and therefore not adequately self-regulate

Possible responses

  • Discussions around online safety and reporting of inappropriate behaviours/content
  • Learning about bullying behaviour and how to report
  • Role play
  • Stories and news reports – discussion around cause and effect
  • Work on emotions
  • Emojis – understanding and relevant activities
  • Teaching about strategies to manage anxiety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Monitor closely time spent using a range of devices. Focus activities on enabling CYP to identify and report symptoms
  • Activities focus on showing CYP key words and strategies used in advertising
  • Activities focused on identifying characteristics of harmful content
  • Focused activities on identifying symptoms of over-use and how to self-regulate

Privacy and security

This strand explores how personal online information can be used, stored, processed and shared. It offers both behavioural and technical strategies to limit impact on privacy and protect data and systems against compromise. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Personal information can be stored, used and shared which can lead to harm


  • Lack of understanding of social boundaries may lead to sharing of passwords and secure information reducing their online safety
  • Speech and language difficulties may impede ability to recover a device or account if it gets compromised/hacked
  • Comprehension of legal framework and hacking may be misinterpreted by obsessive behaviours
  • CYP may indiscriminately browse the internet thereby downloading malware
  • CYP may not understand that other people may want to steal and use their identity

Possible responses

  • Teach a basic set of online safety rules to CYP with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Teaching about strategies to manage anxiety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Review settings and set limitations
  • Focused activities informing CYP why others would want to steal their identity

Copyright and ownership

This strand explores the concept of ownership of online content. It explores strategies for protecting personal content and crediting the rights of others as well as addressing potential consequences of illegal access, download and distribution. (Education for a Connected World framework – 2020 edition, UK Council for Internet Safety)

Likely Harm: Potential consequences of illegal access, download and distribution of content


  • Speech and language difficulties make it difficult to understand permission of online information
  • Vulnerable to illegal/legal downloading of online content
  • CYP may be used to obtain content illegally for others
  • CYP may not be able to empathise with other people taking offence if their work is used or plagiarised

Possible responses

  • Teach a basic set of online safety rules to CYP with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Teaching about strategies to manage anxiety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Provide CYP with clear rules and actions to take if they are coerced into obtaining content or mistakenly obtain content illegally
  • Activities focused on how others may feel if their work is used or plagiarised and why this is important

Useful resources

See our list of useful resources for further support.

Inclusive digital safety resources


Professional Online Safety Helpline


Over 13 – Report Harmful Content Professional Online Safety Helpline

Project Envolve



Childnet Star resource



SEND: Communication and Interaction (C&I)


Advice by Age

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