Communication and Interaction (C&I)

Advice for professionals working with SEND aged 7 to 11

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 explain what is meant by the word ‘identity’
  • Language level lower than age and unable to explain ways in which someone may change their identity, e.g. gaming
  • Fixation on games or social networking sites can lead to compulsive internet use, leading to limiting in-person interactions
  • CYP with cognitive disability may be easily deceived
  • Parents/Carers may see the development of online skills as progress towards independence and self-reliance thus leaving CYP unsupervised and open to harmful content which they are not subsequently able to report
  • CYP may not be able to identify their emotions and therefore not be fully aware that they are experiencing distress, unhappiness or fear

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
  • Story sacks and comic strip conversations
  • ELSA social interaction and identity support
  • Parental/carer support around filtering and monitoring and implementing an internet safety plan at home
  • Parent/carer workshops focusing online harms and striking a balance between encouraging independence and protecting from harms
  • Targeted and intensive work on identifying emotions

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


  • Unable to read emotions of others online and understand others’ choices – likely to go along with what others ask or say leaving them vulnerable
  • Lack of appropriate social conversational skills online
  • Literal use and interpretation of language
  • CYP may find it difficult to attract and engage online peers because they are not ‘cool’ or skilled at games. This may adversely impact on self-esteem
  • CYP may not appreciate that online content can be shared broadly and used against them

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
  • Create small friendship groups outside of the online world using buddy systems
  • Lessons focusing on the spread of contacts. For example, chain reaction games, domino trails, etc

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
  • Literal understanding of information may lead to misinterpretation of others and their own profile
  • CYP may not be able to discern between a digital person and a real person

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 games
  • Guidance around getting naked or viewing inappropriate sexual content online
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused work on ‘Real People and Toys/Pretend Play’

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


  • Poor self-esteem. Unable to express worries/anxieties – actions such as rocking, stroking, flapping and/or hands over ears
  • Experiences sensory processing difficulties
  • Unable to identify bullying online as words can be taken in a literal sense
  • CYP with ASD may miss social clues and 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 take part in playful joking, teasing and understand the boundaries of acceptable behaviour
  • Unable to recognise danger or communicate concerns to an adult
  • Obsessive behaviours may exacerbate bullying risk
  • CYP may not readily empathise with others and not consider their behaviour towards others as hurtful


Childnet Digiduck

Possible responses

  • Role-play scenarios
  • Social stories
  • Stories about online safety and bullying
  • Work around cause and consequence
  • Teaching about anxiety management strategies
  • Time to talk and/or talking together activities through ELSA Support
  • Make visual go to help cards for CYP who experiences bullying
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused lessons on reporting anything which makes the CYP feel sad, uncomfortable or frightened
  • Focused activities on developing empathy

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


  • Poor organisation and sequencing may confuse access to search engines, processes
  • Literal use and interpretation of language may result in inability to distinguish between opinion and fact causing distress/confusion/repetitive behaviours
  • Unable to manage information online due to lack of empathy, social cues, understanding of visual, written content
  • CYP may not realise that their ‘history’ leaves a trail of their online activity
  • CYP’s rigidity of thought may prevent them from accepting that online information is incorrect or misleading

Possible responses

  • Teach a set of basic online safety rules to CYP with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused activities on the permanence of online activities
  • Focused activities developing flexible thinking around true and false

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 understand the negative impact on anyone, e.g. mood, sleep, body, relationships
  • At risk of significant financial loss through need of in-app purchases to feed needs
  • Potential to become perpetrator through obsessive behaviours, e.g. demanding others to get involved in inappropriate acts online
  • CYP may not be able to discriminate between advertising and advice
  • CYP may develop unhealthy routines related to online use and engage in online activity late into the night thus seriously affecting sleep patterns

Possible responses

  • Requires supervision/trusted adult
  • Skills Builder passport
  • Videos age-related for online safety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Focused activities on persuasion through advertising
  • Parental/carer workshops to promote balanced routines or online activity and ‘real’ homelife

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


  • Able to manipulate systems and internet access without full understanding of dangers
  • May be a target of inappropriate online scamming due to literal understanding
  • CYP’s passwords may be predictable
  • CYP may develop highly sophisticated passwords and protocols locking others out of shared usage

Possible responses

  • Teach a basic set of online safety rules to young person with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Teaching about strategies to manage anxiety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Teach CYP rules for devising strong passwords
  • Activities focused on developing a sense of shared ownership of specified devices

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
  • CYP may have no awareness of ownership or the restrictions on usage of online materials
  • CYP may consider work in the public domain as publicly owned

Possible responses

  • Teach a basic set of online safety rules to young person with ASC, ADHD, ADD
  • Teaching about strategies to manage anxiety
  • Comic strip conversations
  • Activities focused on attributing and praising others’ work

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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