Cognition and Learning (C&L)

Advice for professionals working with SEND aged 7 to 11

This SEND Index of Harms resource is for children and young people (CYP) with Cognition and Learning 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 limited capacity to undertake sequencing, visual and/or auditory perception, coordination, or short term working memory or difficulties with attention and concentration span can lead to poor motivation and resistance to learning
  • Difficulties in the acquisition of reading, writing, oral or number skills will limit understanding of identity. CYP may be unable to decipher ‘self-identity’ or  to spot false identity, consequently they may not share potential risks with key adults
  • Unable to identify and critically evaluate online content relating to other groups or unable to recognise inappropriate representations
  • CYP with cognitive disability may be easily deceived online and may not be as adept or skilled as peers during online games and therefore suffer diminished self-esteem

Possible responses

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


  • Poor language and communication skills will inhibit ability to understand risk and share privately online. This can promote vulnerability to harm
  • Emoji’s may be confusing and used inappropriately causing confusion leading to frustration and impulsive outbursts
  • 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

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 CYP using nude selfies – online resource for parents or led workshops
  • ELSA support programme
  • Create small friendship groups outside of the online world using buddy systems involving engaged and sensitive peers

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


  • CYP may not be able to comprehend how information is put on the internet can be seen differently by others. This can lead to confrontation or emotional crisis within the school or home environments
  • CYP knowledge and understanding of how to safely search online and may lead to access to inappropriate content that lead at time to anger or emotional crisis
  • CYP may not be able to discern between a digital person and a real person

Possible responses

  • Specific teaching of how information may be perceived differently
  • Specific teaching of how to use the internet safely linked to video resources ‘ThinkUKnow’
  • Use SEND specific support resources to reinforce safe use of internet
  • Anger management sessions/counselling
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy sessions
  • 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


  • CYP may appear anxious, unexplained headaches, physical symptoms.They may present withdrawal and isolating behaviours
  • CYP limited emotional and/or cognitive development may mean they do not comprehend how their online actions may make others feel
  • CYP limited vocabulary or communication skills/ abilities may mean that they cannot describe ways people can be bullied through a range of media (e.g. image, video, text, chat)
  • CYP may not understand how and when they can block abusive users
  • CYP may have limited understanding of the the ways they can share and report concerns about abuse
  • CYP may not appreciate that their online activity is perceived by others as bullying

Possible responses

  • Focused discussions about what bullying looks like and how to identify it e.g. name calling and threatening images
  • Specific teaching of how and when to block “friends” on social networking sites, including gaming groups
  • Promotion of effective ways to share concerns and report abuse. This includes developing CYP confidence and access to talk to a responsible adult to help them handle the situation
  • Buddy system and activities designed to enable CYP to reflect on their actions

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


  • Limited vocabulary will limit ability to search online
  • Unable to distinguish between fake and real news – may create angst and upset
  • Limited cognition means CYP are unable to make choices about trustworthy/untrustworthy sources
  • CYP may not realise that their ‘history’ leaves a trail of their online activity

Possible responses

  • Teach CYP with SpLD clear rules that they can follow relating to online safety
  • Make effective use of stories, puppets and role plays to develop CYP understanding and empathy to online safety scenarios and allow them to model and refine their possible responses
  • Choices – make use of cause and consequences activities to develop understanding of cause and effect
  • Use visuals to support teaching about voice activated software Key words/language explained
  • Focused activities on the permanence of online activities

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 able to recognise features of persuasive design (how to keep users engaged) which may lead to  negative impact on mood, sleep, health and /or relationships Lack of understanding leads to inabilities to follow age restrictions
  • CYP may receive pressure to watch or do something online that makes me feel uncomfortable
  • CYP may not be able to discriminate between advertising and advice

Possible responses

  • Focused teaching about appropriate screen time limits and behaviours, including clear explanation of what is a safe environments to go online
  • They should use language and supporting materials appropriate to CYP communication needs and stages of development (not necessarily linked to age)
  • Focused activities on persuasion through advertising

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


  • CYP unable to deal with concepts that help keep information secure such as passwords. CYP passwords may be predictable
  • Unaware of the age restrictions of digital consent and the impact this may have
  • Potential issues in understanding the concept of consent

Possible responses

  • Identify a trusted adult to work with the CYP to model appropriate privacy related behaviours such as:
    – checking privacy settings
    – implementing appropriate monitoring of internet connections  (Keeping CYP Safe in Education Requirement)
  • Effective use of visual prompts to support and promote the development of understanding of key vocabulary and concepts
  • Appropriate revisions to the language used in teaching and class/homework to take account of CYP communication and language needs
  • Teach CYP rules for devising strong passwords

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


  • Poor cognition/ short term memory difficulties make it difficult to understand permission of online information
  • CYP with have no awareness of ownership or the restrictions on usage of online materials

Possible responses

  • Focused teaching about ownership using personal information in profiles
  • Use of social stories to exemplify and guide CYP to develop understanding of ownership
  • Use of social interaction games to develop communications skills and promote concept of ownership of information
  • 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: Cognition and Learning (C&L)

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.

Making the internet safer and more inclusive

Together with SWGfL we've created this hub to provide online safety advice and guidance to support parents & professionals working with children and young people experiencing vulnerabilities.

Let us know what you think of the hub. Take a short survey