For children growing up now, the internet is a fact of life and children’s lives will be increasingly ‘web based’, whether on their personal computers, games consoles, mobile telephones, at home or at school. While the benefits it can offer with regards to education and learning are immeasurable, it can also pose risks and possible harm for young people. Howard House Care Ltd believes that safe care and responsible internet should not be ‘self-taught’ but rather that staff, teachers and other professionals work together in ensuring that young people stay safe online.
Children residing at Howard House, Tile Sheds and/or attending Howard House School are particularly vulnerable. Young people may be at risk from contact from friends or family members, when it might not be in their best interests to be conducted – there is a risk that revealing their care status could make them particularly exposed to inappropriate behaviour or grooming, or online bullying.
Click here to read our E-Safety Duty of Care statement.
Most young people would consider the internet a central part of their life as pupils, as consumers and above all else as they communicate, whether amongst their immediate friends, their school or as part of a much large social group. Unfortunately, what a person may say or do online is not necessarily the same as what they would say to someone’s face. By sitting at a personal computer they are detached from people they are communicating with and the internet can often be used negatively.
The fact that harmful messages or contact can take place at any time and within the home also means that for many people who may be at risk online there is no respite or refuge.
Personal information should never be given out or displayed online – age, gender, address, telephone numbers, passwords and PIN numbers. Only use trusted secure websites to purchase goods online.
‘Friends’ you make online are strangers – people whom you have never met personally and all that is known about them is what they choose to tell.
It is a known fact that young people meet people they have befriended on the internet. If a young person is known to have befriended a person on the internet and wants to meet that person offline, then it must be fully supervised by a carer in a public place or venue. Record and report to the named e-safety officer.
As the internet changes, the basic principles of what young people go online for and the basic principles of staying safe remain unchanged. For the vast majority of children participating in online allows them to:
Most people will be aware of ‘chat rooms’ – this is a site where large numbers of people can communicate simultaneously, in a form of online conference.
Chat rooms can be ‘standalone’ or they can be part of a wider site. (Chat rooms or forums are found on sites for football supporters, music or bands).
Users are able to talk, swap information such as music files or images, build friendships and create virtual environments.
Safe Chat & Messaging
Instant messaging, or IM is a form of simultaneous ‘chat’ – unlike chat rooms, where users are able to speak to strangers in a shared space, instant messaging takes place between people who possess each other’s email addresses and so create ‘buddy lists’; as a user receives more emails, they can increase the size of their buddy network and, with the default settings on all IM providers, it is extremely easy to add new addresses to chat network. The most popular IM systems are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Vibr, Kik, and Snapchat.
Usernames can be traded and young people may not discriminate as to who they add to their contacts on these apps. This can lead them to allowing people into their networks who may be looking to harm, bully or inappropriately contact vulnerable young people.
Bullying – Instant Messaging can be used to bully and intimidate. Threats, name-calling, offensive or altered images can be shared very quickly and easily across friend networks.
Personal contact – Apps like, whatsapp, facebook messenger, Kik and Snapchat enable users to communicate directly through microphones or webcams. They also allow for very fast and easy-to-use photograph and file sharing. The implications are that young people could risk compromising themselves by sending images, or having screen images “captured” and that by sharing images, even with friends, they no longer have control over them.
Staff must be aware that ex- residents may attempt to ‘add’ them as a friend, and it is important to consider the fact that the ex –resident may already be in contact with current residents
The line between Social Networking and Instant messaging is becoming more blurred each year with Apps such as,Instagram - photography blogging app implementing changes to keep up with competitors like Snapchat and giving added functionality of Instant Messaging and self destructing messages and photos.
Staff at Howard House must ensure that their own privacy settings on social networking sites restrict their personal information ‘status’ and photographs as advised by the Howard House E-Safety Officer.
Young people residing at Howard House should also check the privacy settings of the site they are using to ensure that their contact details are hidden.
Bullying- SNS allow bullies the opportunity to rapidly disseminate threats, intimidating messages, images and accusations across a very large number of people in a short space of time.
Control – Social Net working lets users create, potentially, constantly growing networks of friends, through connecting with mutual friends or with people who share the same interests. This can mean that posts, photographs and shared messages can be seen and read by people outside your friends list..
For many young people, on line and console gaming is the most popular way of spending their free time, combining both opportunity to play games whilst interacting with other gamers, either within their own friends’ network or across the world. On line gaming takes two forms either through web based games or through games consoles.
one of the main issues concerning on line gaming, is the amount of time that players spend on-line. As many consoles and personal computers can be kept in bedrooms, and so effectively unsupervised, there is a risk that time spent gaming could encroach on school work and socialising and participating in physical activities.
Many games now are aimed at an adult market, with strong language sexual content, violence or references to substance misuse and criminal activity. Games are given age ratings, similar to DVD’s and residential staff should ensure that young people at Howard House are not exposed to content unsuitable for their age group and abilities. All consoles have parental controls, which can be password set to limit the time spent playing, the types of game played and the on line contact list of the user.
The increase of internet enabled phones, combined with the fact that virtually all phones now have cameras and video, has created a number of concerns:
Internet access – it is possible now for young people to have instant, unsupervised access to the internet from their mobile handset.
Photographs and videos – the rise of the camera phones has led to new trends, namely ‘happy slapping’ where incidents of violence and abuse are recorded and then broadcasted and ‘sexting’, where users will record and send indecent images or sexually explicit text messages. Just as images are shared online are beyond their owners control once sent, so too are those taken and shared from a mobile phone.
Bullying – mobile phones have long been away of intimidating, threatening or harassing people. The fact that ‘pay-as-you-go’ SIM cards are now so cheap and freely available means it is possible for the bully to remain anonymous.
Howard House sees the area of E-Safety as a child protection issue and not one that is solely evident in ICT. All staff and young people have a duty to be aware of their own and others E-Safety at all times. This policy should be read in line with the E-safety flowchart for recording and reporting E-Safety incidents.
E-Safety is not limited to Howard House premises, or equipment, neither is it limited to equipment owned by the home. Any incident that happens will be reported in line with the flow cart for recording and reporting E-Safety incidents. Incidents from outside the home that are disclosed or observed by staff will be dealt with in line with child protection procedures. All our young people will undertake an educational workshop on the subject of e safety and safe selfies.