Communication and Interaction (C&I)

Advice for professionals working with SEND aged 4 to 7

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


  • CYP may have difficulties following social norms such as poor eye contact and conversation
  • CYP may have difficulties speaking with adults outside of the family
  • Unable to discuss concerns with key adults
  • May confuse language and misinterpret online information
  • CYP with limited communication skills may not be able to speak up or speak out

Possible responses

  • Visuals clues to aid responses
  • Support from key adults especially to help identify dangers and consequences of visiting inappropriate websites
  • Learning about online behaviours
  • Talking mats
  • Social stories and stories about online safety
  • Story sacks and comic strip conversations
  • ELSA social interaction and identity support
  • Activities focused on assertive communication learning phrases such as ‘No’, ‘I don’t like it’, ‘Go away’, ‘Stop’

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


  • Significant, frequent high levels of anxiety at times of change and transition – interacting with people online may be challenging
  • Some withdrawal from the company of others and limited ability to tolerate social interaction, e.g. solitary play so may be unable to seek appropriate support online
  • Unable to process and use language to explain worries/concerns
  • Significant delay in expressive and receptive language may lead to online vulnerability
  • Distress evident and inability to share as a result of being unable to give the right response and feeling under pressure to agree to something/someone
  • Unable to read others’ and own emotions may lead to vulnerability to predators
  • CYP’s tendency towards literal interpretations may make it difficult for them to discern between virtual and actual presence

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

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


  • Frequent and significant difficulties in following social norm and adult direction
  • No understanding of social boundaries
  • Unable to tolerate social interaction appropriately online
  • Significant delay in communication may hinder online access
  • Frustration and anger around social situations escalating online
  • CYP may not realise the permanence of online content and reputational impact of this

Possible responses

  • Discussion, visuals around social boundaries
  • Puppets – 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
  • Play therapy
  • Support with anger management – appropriate responses
  • Choice guidance – through basic red/green routes – cause consequence
  • Guidance on seeking support – Who can help me? How do I talk with them?
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Activities focusing on ‘Change and Permanence’

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


  • Language is taken literally and unkind words will cause extreme distress
  • CYP may be unable to understand how they make others feel or how others make them feel online
  • Lack understanding and vocabulary to fully understand bullying online
  • Confused about action to take about online bullying
  • Could lead to obsessive, repetitive behaviours (echolalia)
  • CYP may not realise that they are being bullied online
  • Families sharing images and stories about their CYP may be insulted and driven off online media

Possible responses

  • Social stories
  • Stories about online safety and bullying
  • Work around cause and effect
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Time to talk and/or talking together activities through ELSA Support
  • Make visual go to help cards for CYP who experiences bullying
  • Parent/carer workshops to raise awareness and plan responses

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


  • CYP may show little or no sense of danger
  • Communication systems are poor, lack appropriate understanding
  • Literal use and interpretation of language
  • Unable to explain the difference between things that are imaginary and things that are true
  • CYP may see things as ‘black and white’ – could confuse/create anxiety/inappropriate learning

Possible responses

  • Teach a set of basic online safety rules to young person with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Stories
  • Puppets – role play
  • Choices – cause and consequences
  • Communication and interaction activities/reinforcement
  • Comic strip conversations

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


  • Guidance may be received literally and deviating from this may cause obsessive tendencies
  • CYP may become fixated on particular online content as part of a soothing routing and may become over-reliant on IT-based activities
  • CYP with neurological conditions such as epilepsy may be adversely affected by prolonged time in front of a screen
  • CYP may become obsessive about the use of IT and develop unhealthy overuse routines

Possible responses

  • Requires supervision/trusted adult
  • Skills builder passport activities
  • Videos age-related for online safety
  • Teaching The Online Safety rules
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Parent/carer workshops focusing on the stimulatory effect of devices and the need to reduce use of devices before sleep
  • Ensure there is a mix of physical activities built into CYP’s routine

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


  • Unable to recognise what is personal to someone and potentially share the wrong information, e.g. names, contact details
  • CYP’s social naivety may mean they have no sense of privacy and share information indiscriminately

Possible responses

  • Sessions supported with activity packs and videos on new or reinforced learning about sharing images, online gaming, watching videos, social media and live streaming
  • Educate parent/carers on privacy and security
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Clear instruction about what information can and should not be shared

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 for the CYP to understand that everything they write/create/film online belongs to them
  • CYP may be shunned by their peers because they do not recognise ownership
  • CYP’s social naivety may prevent them understanding ownership

Possible responses

  • Basic personal profiles, discussion and understanding of cause and effect
  • Social stories
  • Social interaction games
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Buddy system to help develop recognition of ownership and collaboration

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

Use our list of practical tips to help children have a safer online experience and get the best out of the digital world as they grow.

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