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23 Oct: What parents need to know about online grooming and sextortion

The NSPCC defines online sexual grooming as “a preparatory stage of sexual abuse. Grooming oc- curs when a known or unknown adult, or member of their peer group, uses online technology to communicate with a child or young person with the intention of encouraging or manipulating them to engage in sexual behaviour.” While historically the sexual abuse resulting from grooming took place face-to-face, increasingly this involves the sharing of naked imagery. A recent NSPCC survey of other 40000 children and young people showed that, on average, nearly one child in every class had been sent a naked or semi-naked image by an adult, including those in primary school. Around half of these children and young people had sent a naked or semi-naked picture to an adult. Of particular concern is the rise of young people livestreaming, i.e. broadcasting themselves or their friends live over the internet. Many platforms in- clude…

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09 Oct: Addiction by design

Designers of social media and other apps are using deliberate strategies to keep users on their platform as long as possible. A leading technology designer who has designed some of these features himself has described these features as “behavioural cocaine”. The Dis- rupted Childhood report from the 5Rights Foundation states that “It is unreasonable to design services to be compulsive and then reprimand children for being preoccupied with their services.” Young people and their parents need to un- derstand that far from being a free, personal choice, many technology engineers are de- signing platforms that deliberately suck them in to spending more time on those platforms and that this can have unhealthy consequenc- es for themselves and their friends. It is clear that some young people are strug- gling with increased anxiety and depression, video game or social media addiction, loss of sleep and other issues resulting from use of…

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06 Aug: Unseen launches app to report modern slavery

The UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline, which is operated by Unseen, was established in the autumn of 2016. New figures show dramatic increases in contacts to the Helpline during the first six months of 2018 (Jan-June) compared to the same period in 2017: More than double the number of potential victims indicated: from over 1,500 in 2017, to more than 4,100 in 2018. 80% increase in calls and online reports: over 1,500 in 2017, to more than 2,700 in 2018. Double the number of modern slavery cases: from over 450 in 2017, to more than 920 in 2018. 83% increase in referrals and signposts to law enforcement and other agencies: from over 870 in 2017, to more than 1590 in 2018. The National Crime Agency estimates that there are tens of thousands of people being held in modern slavery in the UK, trapped in situations such as forced labour, domestic servitude…

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03 Jul: Know the signs – County Lines (Urban gangs couriering drugs and money into local communities)

Police have today launched a campaign to raise awareness of County Lines and how the public can help spot the signs of such criminal activity ongoing in their community. County Lines is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines. The gangs are likely to exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and they will often use coercion. This is a national trend and there are criminal gangs using the County Lines operating model across Devon and Cornwall. Signs to look out for: A young person’s involvement in county lines often leaves signs, below are some of the indicators of county lines involvement and exploitation: • A child or young person going missing from school or home or significant changes in emotional well-being • A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour…

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03 May: Effects of technology on mental health

There are a growing number of studies providing evidence that while internet use can and does have benefits for young people, there are some circumstances and some young people that can have negative mental health impacts from internet use. The SWGfL report Young People, Internet Use and Wellbeing: A report series screen time has reported that increased number of hours of internet use is linked with a higher chance of seeing upsetting content, receiving abusive comments or sending abuse to others and are more likely to go online because they are lonely. The Children’s Commissioner report Life in ’Likes’ has indicated that children aged 8-12 who are using social media already have concerns about whether they are pretty or cool, and about how many likes their pictures were getting. The Young Minds Safety Net: Cyberbullying’s impact on young people’s mental health report identified cyberbullying as the single biggest risk factor…

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03 May: Think You Understand Me?

Childline has launched a campaign to encourage young people to speak out and seek help for race and faith based bullying. The campaign #UnderstandMe includes a short video; information on what young people can do if they have been stereotyped or discriminated against; a link to message boards to talk to other young people who have had similar experiences; and information on how to contact Childline counsellors for help and support.  More information: childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/your-rights/understand-me 

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03 May: Be Internet Legends (Online safety resource – KS2)

ParentZone have worked with Google to provide a free scheme of work for KS2  – ‘Be Internet Legends’. Teachers can order one pack each but more than one pack per school can be ordered. The lesson plans are accredited by the PSHE Association and these are accompanied by stickers and a poster. The scheme consists of five pillars to be Sharp, Alert, Secure, Kind and Brave. The children are also encouraged to share information with parents and carers. Schools can also request an assembly from the Google Internet Legends team by ticking a box on the order form. More information: parentzone.org.uk/legendshome 

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03 May: Dealing with online bullying incidents in schools

The latest parent’s edition of our online safety newsletter gives advice to parents and carers about what actions they should take if they are concerned their child is being bullied. Bullying is the second most common issue that Dorset Safer Schools Communities Team (SSCT) are contacted about by schools and parents, and online bullying is an increasingly large part of this work. For schools the main reference document is Preventing and tackling bullying: Advice for headteachers, staff and governing bodies, which was last updated in July 2017.  The document is clear that every school must have measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying. It indicates school responsibilities and when incidents should be reported to the police. It is also clear that schools should discipline pupils for bullying outside schools, including for online bullying rather than telling parents to contact police. If the school is aware of an incident…

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03 May: My child is being bullied online

Schools and the police receive many reports from parents and carers that their child is being bullied online. If your child reports this to you, you need to consider the best way of supporting your child. Online bullying can take many forms: it can be sending of mean or unpleasant messages either individually, in group chat, or posts on social media, or excluding someone from groups; it could also include threats to harm someone or editing of photos to make it look like someone has shared a nude image of themselves. It can happen on messaging apps, social media, gaming networks or any platform where people can communicate. The person or people responsible can be someone known or someone unknown. Sometimes anonymous accounts will be set up purely to bully someone else; sometimes someone will access someone else’s account in order to cause trouble for the person. Most bullying behaviour…

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03 May: Fortnite: Battle Royale

The chances are if you have a child that likes gaming, they will have asked to play the new craze Fornite: Battle Royale. This is a spin-off from the game Fortnite that is available for PC/Mac, Xbox/Playstation and iOS (Apple tablets and phones) but not yet for Android. Fortnite: Battle Royale is a 100-player last person standing shooter rated PEGI 12 for violence. Players are dropped into a game map and have to shoot the other players to win the game. During the game, players can collect and unlock weapons, build structures to hide or defend themselves and try to avoid the storm that damages all players outside the safe zone. During the game, the land available is reduced so survivors are forced closer together. The last survivor is the winner. Players can play solo, duos or in squads of four and it can be played across different platforms. While…

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21 Mar: Save the Class of 2018

Over 200 schoolchildren are lost to suicide every year in the UK. 1 But we don’t talk about suicide in schoolchildren – and the number of children in this level of emotional distress. Statistics (in England and Wales) were only released for the 10-14 age group for the first time in 2015. Suicides by children under 10 are not included in official statistics. While there have been moves to prioritise the emotional health and mental wellbeing of children in schools, far fewer people are talking about suicide prevention. The stigma, silence and misconceptions around suicide mean that it is often not part of our normal conversation, and there is insufficient action to make suicide prevention training a priority for all who work with children and young people. Schoolchildren spend the majority of their waking hours at school: teachers and school staff have the opportunity to recognise the signs that a student might be at risk of…