Social, Emotional Mental Health (SEMH)

Advice by age 14 to 18

This SEND Index of Harms resource is for CYP with Social, Emotional and Mental Health 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

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


  • Unable to fully comprehend the impact social media can have, identify healthy online role models, fully understand different identities online
  • Depression, low self-esteem and/or low self-efficacy
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • Changing name and hiding identities
  • Changing passcodes, hiding devices. Unable to offer appropriate support to others online, often feeding a problem rather than closing it down
  • CYP are likely to want to develop an online presence like their siblings and peers. However, these CYP may not have sufficient awareness to properly safeguard themselves from a broad range of harms
  • CYP may not understand that online images are often enhanced and altered and therefore develop unrealistic expectations of their own image
  • CYP will be vulnerable to financial abuse
  • CYP may be coerced into actions and activities as a ‘laughing stock’ thereby damaging their dignity and self-worth
  • CYP may be lured into extremist groups in order to develop a sense of belonging
  • CYP may be drawn into committing criminal acts without realising that they are offending
  • CYP may be ‘dared’ into harmful and unsafe actions in order to prove themselves
  • CYP may engage in offensive and unpleasant behaviour without appreciating the permanence of these actions and the reputational damage which arises from this
  • CYP may not be able to access routes to employment which have a complex online recruitment process
  • CYP may be drawn towards harmful content that endorses pre-existing feelings of low self-esteem. This content may encourage self-harm, criminal activity, sexual abuse and gang-related activity
  • The persistent normalisation of abuse throughout a CYP’s life may cause them to seek the ‘familiar’ and continue engagement in abusive content either as victim or as perpetrator

Possible responses

  • Role-play scenarios
  • Life stories, where appropriate
  • Learning about sexting and predators
  • Sessions on self-esteem
  • Learning about online behaviours
  • Parental/carer advice and workshops
  • Mentor-buddy system with trusted, screened peers to act as responsible guides
  • Activities to enable young people to understand images could be enhanced and altered
  • Incorporate online safety into financial management lessons
  • Develop PSHE lessons focusing on self-worth and understanding how others perceive you
  • Activities focused on extremism combined with close vigilance and clarity on reporting processes
  • PSHE lessons to include a focus on online bias
  • Activities focused on online application processes and work with local employers to reduce barriers to application and recruitment
  • Highly skilled counselling services which develop CYP’s sense of self-worth


SWGfL – So You Got Naked Online
Safer Internet Day 2020 resources

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.

Likely Harm: Relationships, consent and behaviours leading to harm


  • CYP may struggle to understand the impact of technology, healthy and unhealthy relationships and when technology use becomes coercive or controlling
  • Depression and low self-esteem may lead to desire to please, leading to manipulation online
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • CYP may develop new identities, or manipulate technology to hide behaviours
  • CYP will be deceived into believing that they are in loving, romantic relationships online and be vulnerable to sexual exploitation
  • CYP may misinterpret peers being friendly online with peers being attracted to them
  • CYP may have a distorted perception of relationships and have difficulty forming positive relationships with others

Possible responses

  • Learning about online behaviours, online relationships
  • Sessions exploring true friendship, desire for romantic relationship, provocative online content
  • Explain key terminology
  • Support parents/carers to understand nudes and parental controls
  • Focused work on what loving and romantic relationships are really like and what characteristics are typically found in loving relationships – link to relationship and sex education guidance from the Secretary of State
  • Focused work on the difference between friendship and romantic love and what different characteristics are found in each
  • Activities focus on developing CYP’s understanding of positive relationships

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.

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


  • CYP may be unable to fully comprehend the impact of social media and online technologies on their reputation. May be unable to assess potential dangers
  • Depression, low self-esteem and/or low self-efficacy may lead to negative posts with implications for future prospects
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • Hyperactive, volatile behaviour may lead to inappropriate content being shared which may give rise to unethical and legal issues e.g. libel, slander, racism, homophobia, trolling
  • CYP may develop a reputation for naivety which leaves them vulnerable to mockery and manipulation
  • CYP may deliberately contrive a negative online reputation as they believe this will present them as strong and resilient

Possible responses

  • Learning about online behaviours, creating positive impression with society and employers
  • Learning around legal implications for content
  • Focused activities on ‘Self-presentation for Self-preservation’
  • Activities highlighting the appropriate language to use on the internet
  • Workshops on ‘How to Build a Reputation’ informing CYP of how to appear strong without causing offence

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.

Likely Harm: Bullying and aggression can harm others


  • CYP may display; withdrawal, non-expression, depression, phobic anxiety, paranoia, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, psychosomatic symptoms such as; headaches, abdominal pain, sleep deprivation
  • School refusal, deterioration in personal drive and aspirations
  • Able to sophisticatedly encourage, rather than discourage bullying
  • Potentially process/manage/respond badly to harmful behaviours
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • CYP may be lured to locations in order to be attacked
  • CYP may not realise the harm they are causing to others because they regard their online activity as banter and teasing
  • CYP may not understand that certain forms of bullying, including online activities, are criminal acts or the impact that these acts have on others

Possible responses

  • Anger management counselling
  • Self-soothe techniques
  • Positive self-image
  • ELSA support intervention
  • Therapeutic sessions
  • Parent/carer support
  • Activities focused on the dangers of meeting people in the real world who you only know online
  • Workshops focusing on the illegality of certain forms of bullying and why these activities are illegal

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

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


  • Difficulties with interpersonal relationships could confuse opinions. Lack of social understanding may lead to vulnerability online
  • Withdrawing or isolation and anti-authoritative behaviour could lead a CYP to become manipulated or vulnerable
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • Low self-esteem or resilience may lead to reliance on false information
  • 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 they may not appreciate that bots are not real people
  • CYP may not understand the importance of curating online information about themselves

Possible responses

  • Learning about online behaviours
  • Use finance lessons to emphasise online risks
  • Encourage CYP to provide appropriate information in online arenas
  • Focused activities showing how some online activity is computer generated
  • Focused activities informing CYP of the financial threats they may encounter
  • Workshops on managing information in order to promote a positive online persona

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

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


  • CYP may display impulsivity, hyperactivity, anxiety, low mood that may affect ability to regulate safe use of technology
  • Low expectations, aspirations, self-esteem, poor attachment with key adults may leave CYP more vulnerable to exploitation online (e.g. payment for apps/laws, sexual content/alcohol/drugs/gambling)
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • CYP with self-harming behaviours may be more vulnerable to content related to suicide/self-harm/eating disorders
  • Anxiety/poor self-esteem may lead to diagnosing self-online
  • CYP may use inappropriate online content to 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 drawn into lifestyle groups which are not beneficial to them or may be a route for abusers to connect with them
  • CYP may not identify characteristics of potentially harmful groups because they have been desensitised to signs through their experiences

Possible responses

  • Learning about online behaviours
  • Guidance on mental health, wellbeing and self-harm
  • Monitor health closely and advise CYP to always seek medical advice
  • Focused activities about appropriate online health advice
  • Focused activities on being ‘Proud of Me’ and information on how body image can impact on health and well-being
  • Focused activities on learning to say ‘No’ and ‘No More’
  • Provide CYP with clear guidance about the characteristics of potentially harmful groups

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.

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


  • Short term memory, hyperactivity, impulsivity make it difficult to find my phone, remote access, data deletion, strong password retention
  • Low self-esteem, poor attachment, fear, trauma can make it difficult to trust key adults and whistle blow on unsafe practice
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • Low self-esteem, anxiety, poor self-efficacy lead to vulnerability in dark web, deep web, anonymous access services
  • 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 be coerced into sharing information about other people or organisations without their permission.

Possible responses

  • Learning about privacy and security
  • Guidance about mental health, wellbeing and self-harm
  • Frequent reminders of the need to maintain privacy
  • Develop a range of ‘good habits’ which include closing down cameras
  • Activities focused on ensuring that CYP understand that they must not share information without permission

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

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


  • SEMH difficulties (hyperactivity, attachment, impulsivity, low self-esteem) make it difficult to understand copyright theft and online legal/illegal permissions
  • Adversity gives rise to possible over-reliance upon technology, leading to increased risk of grooming, online attention and corresponding trauma
  • CYP may advertise that they have obtained material illegally in order to gain status and kudos
  • CYP may not have the confidence to generate their own content and therefore plagiarise

Possible responses

  • Learning about the law and accountability
  • Provide clear instruction around rules and laws and actions to take if necessary
  • Buddy system to develop CYP’s confidence and to encourage CYP to share their own ideas with their peers

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

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 gudience to support parents & professionals working with children and young people experiencing vulnerabilities

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