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Virtual School and Online Safety

Many of us have lives that are currently being played out online...

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... - including our education, our social lives, shopping, entertainment and news and information. We are spending an ever-increasing amount of time on line and, whilst the digital world brings huge benefits and rewards, it also brings some risks too. 

We want our youngsters to build up digital resilience, to understand the risk and to know what to do if they are concerned or how to get help when they need it. The best way to go about this is through talking to our youngsters about their online lives - what are they getting up to online? Talk about the kinds of things they are spending time on, the people they are talking to, the games they are playing, and really get to know their online habits. Then discuss the risks and ways to respond to that risk. Our youngsters also need to know that if they make a mistake, they can recover from it. They need to know that they won’t be judged, that they have your support. 

Going about these discussions needn’t be onerous and there are a number of organisations out there that offer free resources to parents to help them with this important area. Thinkuknow offer a range of Online Safety Home Activity Packs for all age groups (both Primary and Secondary) that have a selection of short conversation starters, practical tips and fun tasks to do as a family on subjects such as 1) Viewing Videos Online; 2): Cyber Security; 3) Social Media; 4) Sharing Images; 5) Live Streaming; 6) Online Gaming

These packs can be found HERE  

Parent Zone also provide guidance on digital resilience, including understanding risk, knowing what to do to seek help, learning from experience, and recovering when things go wrong under this LINK 

It is important that when things do go wrong, our youngsters know how to report concerns and where to get help. Many apps and games will have a Report button – make sure they are aware of these and encourage them to report when something goes wrong.

Empowering young people with knowledge of how to access further support and report concerns is key to ensuring their online safety:

1. Trusted friends: Sharing concerns with friends can make them feel better and less alone. If a friend tells them about a problem they are having online, they should encourage them to speak to an adult, or report it to one of the helplines.

2. Trusted adults: Encourage them to identify trusted people in their lives who would be able to support them if they were worried about something which happened online. Telling a trusted adult is a good step to getting the help and support you need. They may feel scared or not know how to tell their parents or family. Seeking advice from a teacher or youth worker may help them decide how to start this conversation with a parent/carer and what steps to take next. School has a Safeguarding team – ask to speak to one of them. Link to safeguarding team here

3. Helplines: They may want to seek advice or tell an adult who is trained to help, but who does not know them personally. There are organisations you can go to for help, including Childline, Childnet, the NSPCC and CEOP. However, if a young person is in immediate danger or being threatened, this should always be reported to the police.

As always, the best results are achieved when home and school work together. Promoting and encouraging digital resilience might just be one of the most important lessons we can teach our youngsters today given this online world we all find ourselves in.

Stay safe,

Norah Buckley

Assistant Head, Safeguarding