Online Safety : 9 Important Reminders For Teachers

In this blog post Jo Perrin, Safeguarding Adviser at Services For Education will be revisiting principles of online safety for pupils and families and safer working practices for staff.

If you have any concerns or need any advice regarding safeguarding and the topics we are covering, please contact us at hello@servicesforeducation.co.uk and someone will get back to you.

Usually if we were implementing a new way of working in any organisation, we’d spend a long time planning and preparing.

We’d consider all the alternatives out there before committing to using one resource above another and we’d probably make a list of advantages and disadvantages.

That makes sense. 

But in the current unusual situation we haven’t had the time for considerate planning and preparations, we have had to make decisions quickly and our usual processes have been significantly shortened.

We are all working online in ways that we hadn’t really embraced just a few weeks ago – and whilst that brings incredible advantages and allows some consistency of provision, it also brings some new challenges to light.

Now, after a few weeks of settling into our new ways of working, it might be a good time to revisit principles of online safety for children and their families but also with your staff.

There will probably (hopefully!) be nothing here that you haven’t considered at some time in the past – the key is to revisit these messages regularly in order to keep everyone safe.

Here are five online safety considerations for pupils and parents:

1. Revisit online safety messages

Revisit online safety messages you have sent home previously – and stress their heightened importance at the moment.

Think about the messages around content, contact and conduct, for example:

  • What are you looking at?
  • What is the source organisation?
  • Is it trusted/ unbiased?
  • Who are you talking to online?
  • How can you be sure they are who they say they are?
  • Do you know them/ their organisation in real life?
  • Stress that we all have a digital footprint, certain actions are bullying even if not face-to-face.

Make any message “age and stage appropriate” but also include a parallel message for parents.

2. Cover advertising

Explicitly talk about advertising messages online – how companies pay for advertising space and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a great product just that they are prepared to pay.

As our worlds have physically shrunk, our online world is widening – unscrupulous companies and scammers are taking advantage of their new, often digitally naïve, audience.

3. Discuss online “etiquette”

Discuss with parents and pupils ideas about online etiquette – for example taking screenshots of people needs to happen only if the person has consented to this – in the same way we should ask someone in real life if we can take their photo.

4. Check resources

Parents are being bombarded with ideas of how to best homeschool their child – resources sent from school settings, but also the rise in “celebrity teachers”.

Have a look yourself at what some of these brands are giving out (usually for free) and suggest resources that are most in line with the curriculum and messages of your school.

Also, help parents to be realistic in the amount and type of work that can be completed at home.

As a starting point, we have checked all of these online resources for you.

5. Discuss non-educational activities like gaming / films / TV

Children will inevitably be spending more time online than usual – either on gaming consoles, watching videos online or on TV/film streaming services.

It’s useful to have a discussion with parents and children about this – use your website and any other communications you have in place.

For example you could direct parents to spend time with their children looking at the British Board of Film Classification’s children’s website – www.cbbfc.co.uk .

It has activities for children to understand film age ratings and also information for adults around viewing films safely online.

It also never hurts to re-remind parents of how to access parental controls to limit access to certain content on different online platforms.

Always direct them to their Internet Service Provider for more information if they are not sure and remind them they can then regain control by deciding if they want films with certain ratings to be password protected and you can block certain websites completely.

On the other side of the coin, you need to protect yourself in these tricky times.

Perhaps you are going to delivering more content online? You’re certainly going to be communicating a lot more online or even through your own mobile phone etc.

Here are some considerations for you:

6. Video conferencing

If you are delivering “online lessons” what medium are you using?

If using a video conferencing facility (and this isn’t the only possibility as it probably has the highest safeguarding risks), has everyone (staff, pupils, parents) consented to their images being shared?

Is any background neutral (for example no family photos or pictures with particularly strong beliefs or viewpoints shared) and is clothing worn still “professional”?

Who else is in in the household – are they out of view and can’t be heard in the background?

Is someone around at all times whilst you communicate with a child?

7. Professional Accounts

However long this goes on for, reiterate the message that any communication has to go through a school account (especially for emails) – not a personal one, even if a personal one is “easier” to use on a phone etc.

If it’s a phone call – then the home phone number needs to be blocked before making a call (dial 141 before the number).

It seems obvious but when working out of a spare room at home, the distinction between professional life and personal life can easily become blurred.

8. Safeguarding Training

Have you shared safeguarding training with staff recently?

This might not be the time of year you usually do any safeguarding updates but it is really important that staff are reminded of key concepts, signs of abuse and neglect and reporting procedures.

Also have a big focus on the requirements of your staff code of conduct/behaviour policy is vital at this time.  Send it out again, require staff to reply to say they’ve read it and understand it and you might consider some kind of quiz or activity to check understanding.

This isn’t just focussed on classroom based staff so include any cleaning or catering staff still on site and any office staff still answering phones too.

For teaching staff, reminding them of the Teaching Standards’ requirements to uphold public trust in the profession is important, as there is a direct link with their own online behaviour.

If you think your staff could do with an update, we have an online safeguarding course that could be the right solution for this.

9. Check government guidelines

Follow government and local guidance about the safeguarding of children – online safeguarding issues might arise particularly due to the current situation.

For Birmingham the specific guidance to DSLs was updated  at midday 30th March 2020 and can be found here:  www.birmingham.gov.uk/schoolsafeguarding .

Summary

It is a very strange time indeed at the moment – and a good time to revisit that safeguarding piece with particular emphasis on online safety.

There are plenty of resources out there to aid you and your families to understand the risks. You can find some great ones here.

If you’d like any more advice, please do email us at hello@servicesforeducation.co.uk – we are here to help.

In the meantime, these blogs might be of interest:

We are also still running our DSL two day courses and updates online, so if yours is due, sign up now.

Best wishes during this strange time.

About the Author: Jo Perrin

Jo Perrin taught PSHE in schools for over a decade and held the role of Designated Safeguarding Lead and pastoral lead. She currently works as an Education Adviser for Services For Education which allows her to combine her experience in schools with a personal knowledge of child protection and childhood trauma as a foster carer.

In addition, Jo worked as a West Midlands’ Adviser for a national PSHE resource, has delivered a presentation to the Sex Education Forum National Members’ Event and has created a variety of RSE resources as part of her role for Services For Education.

Jo’s advisory experience is not limited to training school staff as she works with non-education based organisations to support them in safeguarding and emotional health and well-being aims and is an affiliated trainer for Mental Health At Work.