Back to school online safety guides

Supporting children’s online safety at school
As children head back to school with new devices, elements of online learning and new challenges, it’s important to give them the tools they need to make positive choices online. See our advice and guidance below for how you can help your child make the most of their school year.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos gives practical advice on how to help teens self-regulate their device use.
Display video transcript
during the teenage years I think for a
lot of young people the phone becomes
kind of ubiquitous with being able to
socialize and as a consequence they're
there on it a lot of the time so I think
the really important thing at this point
is to understand how this usage is
affecting them physiologically as well
so for example we know that the blue
light from phones and tablets can really
disrupt sleep patterns and that
increasingly their sleep is becoming
worse and worse in fact we think this is
because of technology so have a
discussion with your child around why
it's important to turn the phone off
after a certain time the other thing of
course is getting them to understand how
their usage of tech is affecting things
like learning if you're trying to read
something and it's constantly coming up
with you know little pings telling you
someone's trying to contact you or
sending you information that memory
cycle is constantly being disrupted the
other thing that's really important for
this age group is getting them to
self-regulate when it comes to the
online world the metric for success of
any platform is how long someone spends
on it and as a consequence they're set
up to be enticing starting to speak to
them in a way that you completely
understand that text an important part
of their life but letting them control
the tech rather than having the tech
control them and empowering them to do
so is key the other thing that's going
on during the the teen years is the idea
that kids form their identity we know
that it's very validating that when they
post something online they get likes
getting to think about why those likes
are so important the more they're able
to challenge these sort of overriding
themes that they're they're faced with
at this age the better chance they have
of developing that resilience it'll kind
of help them deal with it more
effectively so I think the first point
for this group is get them to think
critically and regulate their own usage
online speak to them about making sure
that what comes into their consciousness
comes from a correct source and very
critically that they're able to
challenge it
secondly you need to ensure that they're
aware of the impact of their usage of
phones an attack in general and how that
affects them not just in terms of their
mental health but their cognitive and
physical health as well and sure you
talk about how it can disrupt sleep if
they're on their tech late at night
likewise with learning and memory speak
to them about it how it can disrupt
memory even it feels that you're saying
this stuff over and over again don't
worry about it the broken record
technique is actually really useful in
getting young people to kind of embed
what you're trying to say third point
here is speaking about balance balance
in how much they're working and how much
they're relaxing balance and how much
time they're spending online and offline
encourage those face-to-face
interactions encourage them to move and
to get out so that they have more
balance in their lives overall

Digital safety at a glance for parents

Learn what children do at primary and secondary with free printable guides for parents.

Guides to support children going back to school

Whether your child is partway through primary school or just starting secondary school, keeping on top of their online safety is important. Our guides below can help them start the year on the right foot whether they’re in the classroom or completing school work online.

Discovering digital at Primary

Support your primary-aged child as they head back to school. In primary school, children start using more technology, so it’s important to support them on their digital journey as they experience many digital firsts.

See our guide for practical tips to help them develop good online safety habits that they can build on in the future.

Jenny Burret, Director of Education and Strategy at Wishford Schools, gives advice on what children learn about the online world as they return to school.

Moving to secondary school

An animated smartphone with a happy face and text that reads 'Big School, Small Screen'.

If your child is making the switch from primary to secondary school, it’s important to understand what additional challenges they may face online. See our guide for how to support them in this new journey.

Headteacher Mr Burton gives insight into what parents should prepare their children for as they start secondary school.

Navigating Secondary School

Although teens are the most confident online, they are likely to experience more online issues as they get older. Explore our guide below to find out what these are and how you can support children as they start the new school year.

Mark Bentley from London Grid for Learning gives advice on what schools are doing to build on children’s knowledge of online safety.

What can I expect from my child's school?

From safeguarding to online safety policies, here's what you can expect from your child's school when it comes to their digital safety.

Safeguarding in schools

All schools across the UK have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils. You can explore the official guidance that schools follow below:

Summary of guidance

While specifics and wording might change, general guidance explains that:

  • All children deserve a safe environment in which they can learn, this includes offline and online.
  • All school staff have a role to play in safeguarding children. If any staff member has a concern about a child they should act on it immediately.
  • All schools should have a designated staff member in charge of safeguarding (called Designated Safeguard Lead in England, Designated Child Protection Lead in Scotland, Designated Safeguarding Person in Wales or Designated Safeguarding Officer in Northern Ireland). They are appointed from the senior leadership team and who will take lead responsibility of safeguarding and child protection (including online safety).
  • This staff member will often be the best point of contact for parents who have concerns about their child’s online safety at school.

Online safety requirements for schools

Each country in the UK has their own curriculum guidance on online safety. Generally, the outcomes will be similar across nations. However, language and depth of the guidance will change.


All schools must have regard to the statutory guidance- Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE). Amongst other things KCSIE says:

  • An effective approach to online safety empowers a school to protect and educate the whole school community in their use of technology and establishes mechanisms to identify, intervene in and escalate any incident where appropriate.
  • A whole school approach to online safety will include a clear policy on the use of mobile technology in the school. What that policy looks like is a matter for individual schools. If parents are unsure they should speak to the school.
  • All schools should have an effective child protection policy. It should be easily accessible for parents as it should be published on the schools website or available by other means if necessary.
  • All school staff should undergo safeguarding and child protection training (including online safety) at induction. The training should be regularly updated.
    • School should ensure appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place to protect children from accessing harmful and inappropriate online material whilst on the schools IT systems.
    • UK Safer Internet Centre provides guidance as to what “appropriate” might look like.

Schools should teach children about safeguarding, including online safety.  This should be considered as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum and many schools will utilise PSHE. The PSHE association provide guidance for schools on developing their PSHE curriculum.

Online safety is also covered at all key stages in the national curriculum for computing. It is compulsory in maintained schools and can be used as a benchmark by academies and free schools. Pupils are taught how to keep personal information private, how to use technology safely and respectfully, and where to go for help and support when they have concerns about content or contact on the internet or other online technologies.

Finally, Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) is required teaching in schools. The curriculum covers relationships and behaviour in both online and offline spaces.


Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence outlines how staff can take care of pupils’ health and wellbeing across the curriculum. It states that:

  • “Learning through health and wellbeing promotes confidence, independent thinking and positive attitudes and dispositions. Because of this, it is the responsibility of every teacher to contribute to learning and development in this area.”
  • Children and young people should feel safe and happy as they learn. They should feel hear and respected across the curriculum, whether they’re in the classroom, on the playground or in the wider school community.

It covers relationships, physical wellbeing, social wellbeing and helping children take control of their mental health and wellbeing.

In the Technologies curriculum, teachers must also cover Digital Literacy, which includes:

  • using digital products appropriately
  • managing information responsibly
  • cyber resilience and internet safety.


Wales provides online safety guidance to schools via their Keeping Learners Safe guidance. It states that:

  • Improving children’s digital resilience is vital in education.
  • Hwb from the Welsh Government is a suite of bilingual resources to help support children, parents, teachers and others in Education. It includes resources to teach online safety, cyber resilience and data protection.
  • Schools can use 360 degree safe Cymru to assess their online safety policies and practises.
  • There’s special guidance for livestreaming or online lessons.
  • There are web filtering standards that schools should follow to keep kids safe.

The document also includes additional guidance for schools on nude/semi-nude image sharing and harmful online challenges or hoaxes. Additionally, the document signposts further resources and guidance for school governors.

Wales’ national curriculum also covers online safety through PSE and RSE outcomes, especially those related to relationships and wellbeing.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Education Authority signposts resources to support with online safety in schools or at home. It encourages the use of digital technology across subject areas to improve children’s understanding of tech for different purposes. The guidance also outlines the importance of giving children the opportunity to “understand how to keep safe and display acceptable online behaviour.”

Additionally, the CCEA of Northern Ireland provides guidance on eSafety, including enhancing digital literacy across curriculum areas. They include particular guidance on how to do this with ICT.

Expert guidance for back to school

See advice from experts in education and online safety to help support children’s transition into new school time routines. Learn about the common online safety issues that might come up for kids of all ages and how you can support them.

Back to school top tips

Headteacher Mr Burton offers 5 tips to encourage parents to adopt a collaborative approach to online safety as children return to school.

1. Discuss potential risks online

Have an open and honest conversation with your child about the normal risks of the online world – children may have become slightly skewed when it comes to what’s acceptable to send or say online versus face to face following this surreal and challenging period for us all.

2. Learn about the school's online learning policy

Familiarise yourself with the school’s online learning policy. Schools have now developed these and they should have them on their websites. This might also include information around the websites and apps they might use to support children’s learning across subjects.

3. Get familiar with online learning platforms

Be familiar with the platforms schools use for online learning and how kids submit their work online, whether that’s homework or classwork. There have been instances of some children telling their parents that they have to submit their homework via Fortnite but I can guarantee this will never be the case!

4. Check-in on the back to school routine

Familiarise yourself with what your child’s school day looks like online and off. For example, if homeschooling is in place, know what time they should be logging on for an online lesson and what those lessons ‘look like’ – are they ‘live’? Are they pre-recorded? Are teachers sending examples through with a task for students to complete? Every school will be slightly different, so it’s best to know what it looks like for your child.

5. Work with the school to support children and young people

Work together with the school to be the best support to your child – only by working together can we keep children safe online, which is ultimately the most important thing.

More resources and guides

Was this useful?
Tell us how we can improve it