Communication and Interaction (C&I)

Advice for professionals working with SEND aged 14 to 18

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 challenge and reject what is being said online and unable to read emotions and see if their own actions affect someone else
  • Want and need to be liked and not see that they are being manipulated and may be obsessive in requiring more from others
  • Language can be interpreted literally (ASC) therefore difficulties in using internet and social media for positive social promotion, e.g. career
  • Fixation on games or social networking sites can lead to compulsive internet use, leading to limiting in-person interactions
  • CYP may want to develop an online presence like their siblings and peers
  • CYP will be extremely vulnerable to financial abuse due to the ease of online payment methods
  • CYP may be goaded into actions and activities as a ‘laughing stock’ thereby possibly damaging their dignity and self-worth
  • CYP may be lured into extremist groups in order to develop a sense of belonging
  • CYP may lack the critical skills to identify propaganda and therefore may be easily manipulated by extremist groups
  • CYP may be ‘dared’ into harmful and unsafe actions in order to prove themselves
  • The lack of age-appropriate online material for people with learning disabilities may lead to CYP relying on immature content which hinders their development and maturation processes
  • CYP’s naivety and literality may lead them to believe everything they encounter online as it is presented as an authoritative source

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
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Parental/carer support around filtering and monitoring and implementing an internet safety plan at home
  • Mentor-buddy system with trusted, screened peers to act as responsible guides
  • Incorporate online safety into financial management lessons
  • Develop PSHE lessons focusing on self-worth and understanding how others perceive you
  • Activities focused on developing critical faculty of CYP

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 conversation
  • 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
  • Inability to see others people’s point of view – harmful obsessive behaviours – persistent requests and cannot read cues to stop
  • Lack of understanding of online terminology such as ‘sexting’, ‘trolling’, ‘consent’, ‘harassment’, ‘stalking’, etc
  • Lack of understanding of how sexual behaviours online may be harmful
  • CYP may be deceived into believing that they are in loving, romantic relationships and be vulnerable to sexual exploitation
  • CYP may suffer repeated rejection through attempts to find partners via online dating thus damaging their self-esteem and confidence
  • CYP may misinterpret peers being friendly online with peers being attracted to them
  • CYP may become obsessive about others online resulting in offending behaviour

Possible responses

  • CBT
  • Art therapy sessions
  • ELSA support on online relationships
  • Real-life stories
  • Talking mats
  • Teach anxiety coping mechanisms
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused work on what loving and romantic relationships are really like and what characteristics are typically found in loving relationships
  • Activities focused on developing a strong sense of selfhood and self-valuation
  • Focused work on the difference between friendship and romantic love
  • Unequivocal instruction on acceptable behaviour in online contexts

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


  • Difficulty in understanding abstract concepts and applying prior learning may lead to potential risks of sharing inappropriate content online
  • Obsessive behaviours (ASC) can influence understanding of ethical and legal issues risking exposure to radicalisation
  • CYP may develop a reputation for naivety which leaves them vulnerable to mockery and manipulation
  • CYP may unwittingly insult and upset peers because they do not have a command of the specific language used online and in social media
  • CYP may not understand the far-reaching and permanent effect of online reputation and therefore damage employment prospects, relationships, membership of groups

Possible responses

  • Clear choice explanations – red/green routes
  • Guidance around getting naked or viewing inappropriate sexual content online
  • Life stories, news articles – cause/consequence
  • Guidance on seeking support – how to get help
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Activities highlighting what insults and manipulations exist on the internet
  • Activities highlighting the appropriate language to use on the internet
  • CYP can describe the far-reaching and permanent effect of their online activity

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


  • Difficulty with receptive and expressive language
  • 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
  • Unable to identify manipulation and bullying behaviours
  • Unable to identify online bullying behaviours through individual and group contact
  • Unable to work cooperatively with others to challenge and prevent bullying recurring
  • CYP may be lured to locations in order to be attacked
  • CYP may not realise the damage they are causing to others because they regard their online activity as banter and teasing
  • CYP may be mocked and bullied as they become exposed attempting to adhere to social norms

Possible responses

  • Teaching about anxiety management strategies
  • Learning around online safety and reporting of bullying
  • Use STAR toolkit
  • Social stories
  • Stories and news reports – discussion around cause and effect
  • Legal accountability – understanding and facts
  • Work on emotions
  • Emojis – understanding and relevant activities
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Activities focused on the dangers of meeting people in the real world who you only know online
  • Focus on appropriate language and friendliness
  • Buddy system to help CYP navigate through social complexity

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 understand, analyse and evaluate digital personality information and this may affect the type of information received
  • Literal understanding may create confusion around ‘persuasive design’
  • Unable to identify when content is being manipulated politically or socially. Poor social understanding creates vulnerability
  • CYP may be susceptible to online financial fraud
  • CYP may not adequately protect their online identity
  • CYP may be harmed by seeing themselves as ‘unliked’ compared to others without understanding these are artificially generated ‘likes’ and may not appreciate that bots are not real people
  • CYP may not understand the concept of fake news and be disempowered by this

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
  • Use finance lessons to emphasise online risks
  • Encourage CYP to provide appropriate information in online arenas
  • Devise learning modules or units which enable CYP to demonstrate competence in this area
  • Focused activities showing how some online activity is computer generated
  • Intensive and frequent activities focusing on critical analysis of information sources

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 explain and understand the benefits and risks of using online sources to self-diagnose and self-medicate
  • Unable to understand the dangers from potential online harms – information processed literally rather than fact or opinion
  • Obsessive traits increase risk of exposure to online gambling and debts (potentially leading to anxiety/self-harm)
  • CYP may self-diagnose incorrectly and not address significant health issues appropriately
  • CYP may develop unhealthy expectations of themselves influenced by body images that are portrayed online
  • CYP may be tricked into joining lifestyle groups which are a front for abusers
  • CYP may become obsessive about some lifestyle options and engage in them unhealthily

Possible responses

  • Discussions around online safety and reporting of inappropriate behaviour/content
  • Use toolkit internet bullying activities
  • Role play
  • Stories and news reports – discussion around cause and effect
  • Work on emotions
  • Emojis – understanding and relevant activities
  • Understanding the law – guidance
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused activities on being ‘Proud of Me’ and information on how body image can impact on health and well-being
  • Vigilance and monitoring. In-school monitoring and filtering in line with any requirements
  • Develop buddy system to provide peer support in the degree of involvement with lifestyle options

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
  • May be vulnerable to exploitation around data security breaches through obsessive drives/behaviours
  • High-functioning ability to crack codes leaves open to exploitation
  • CYP may be prone to sharing private information and therefore open to identity theft
  • CYP may not remember to turn off webcams thereby allowing access to private spaces at unguarded times
  • CYP may become highly skilled in the areas of coding and encryption and be induced to act illegally by others or compelled to act illegally because of the challenge

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
  • Frequent reminders of the need to maintain privacy
  • Develop a range of ‘good habits’ which include closing down cameras
  • Clear guidance on the dangers of illegal activity and what activity is deemed illegal
  • Focused activities on the impact of actions on others

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 compared to age-related peers make it difficult for the CYP to understand copyright theft and online legal/illegal permissions
  • CYP may not be able to protect content they produce and be exploited for commercial gain
  • CYP may not recognise the distress and damage caused by copyright breach

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
  • Activities focused on showing CYP how to claim and secure their own work
  • Activities focused on exploring the distress and damage caused by copyright breach

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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