Online platforms and applications provide valuable tools and opportunities for learning and communication for children and young people, in the organisations where they spend time and at home. However, they also present challenges that require mindful and appropriate risk management strategies in order to reduce the risk of harm, such as cyber bullying and online grooming.
Reducing the risk of harm to children and young people in the physical and online environments that they engage with is ever more important as the Australian Federal Police deal with about 1000 reports of child exploitation material each month (SMH, 2019). It is also a requirement for organisations that work or engage with children and young people under the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
Cyber-bullying is similar to other forms of bullying; however, it occurs through the use of the Internet, email or mobile phones. It can be more damaging than other forms of bullying for the following reasons:
- It can be difficult to escape;
- It can occur 24/7, and even while the child is at home;
- Harmful and hurtful information can either be sent to or posted where other children can view the information instantaneously;
- Because the bully is hidden by the computer or phone, they often act in more extreme ways; and
- Sometimes it can be difficult to identify who the bully is as they use false names and accounts.
The internet, social media and smart phones are used by child sex offenders to groom children with the intent of later facilitating sexual contact by:
- accessing information about them and their families;
- obtaining photos; and
- developing ‘friendships’ with children.
These offenders could either be strangers or someone the child already knows.
10 child safeguarding tips to keep children and young people safe online
- Integrate online safety across all levels of your organisation in a way that is appropriate to your organisational size and complexity.
- Think about how, and whether your staff or volunteers need to contact children and young people electronically. If so, make sure guidelines around this interaction are included in your code of conduct and communicated clearly to all stakeholders.
- Make sure children and young people know who to go to in your organisation if they feel unsafe or need to report a concern.
- Discuss openly the risks associated with the internet and social media on a regular basis.
- Be familiar with the programs and applications that children and young people are using online.
- Teach them how to ‘block’ and ‘report’ unwanted users and inappropriate content.
- Ensure they know how to make their details and photos private.
- Install content-filtering and firewall programs.
- Consider the location of all electronic devices including laptops and tablets and introduce time limits and usage locations.
- When troubles arise, it is not necessarily advised to remove the device in question as this may prevent children and young people from raising their concerns if they feel unsafe.
If you would like to learn more about how to how to strengthen risk management strategies to reduce the risk of harm to children and young people in your organisation, make sure you register for our upcoming webinar Keeping children and young people safe online, which will be delivered by Jordan Foster, Clinical Psychologist, CEO and Founder of ySafe, Australia’s leading provider of cyber safety education.