Why we must all work proactively to safeguard children online

Recent Ofcom data has revealed an increase in device use amongst young people. Almost half of ten year olds now own a mobile phone, whilst a quarter of 3-4 year olds have their own device. As the number of children accessing online content increases, so does the risk of digital danger.

These statistics demonstrate a pressing need to protect young people online. Yet, there is often confusion as to who is responsible. Here, Smoothwall’s online safety expert, Adele Abbiss, explains why an holistic, multi-agency approach is key.

Being proactive about online safety

While many of us look to social media platforms to ensure the digital safeguarding of users, this must be a shared responsibility. Social media sites, governmental organisations, schools, teachers, and parents must all take measures to promote digital wellbeing.

Social media platforms must do more than removing harmful content. Mechanisms must be put in place to prevent dangerous content being uploaded full stop. Meanwhile, the new independent regulator, Ofcom, must hold to account the firms that fail to do so.

Children also need to be educated proactively at home by parents, within the community, and in schools on what constitutes harmful content. They must understand how to practice digital wellbeing, and how to navigate the internet safely.

Moreover, schools need to invest in quality digital safeguarding technology. Effective school web filtering helps to block children from accessing dangerous and harmful content. Digital monitoring solutions can then work to identify vulnerable users who may otherwise slip through the net.

It’s a collaborative and proactive approach. Ensuring harmful online content is prevented, young people are equipped to navigate the internet safely, and measures are in place for those who may slip through the net.

Digital Safeguarding

With many of the early warning signs that a student is at risk displayed through online activity, it’s also vital that digital safeguarding in schools is in place and effective. School web filtering should be agile. It must ensure new and emerging threats are blocked from students in real-time, rather than relying on block lists that can quickly become out of date.

Meanwhile, effective digital monitoring software should enable schools to assess a user’s online behaviour – identifying any potential risks, before they become real life incidents. These should then be escalated to the relevant designated safeguard lead (DSL), allowing the child to be provided with the necessary support.

Implementing digital monitoring software that only captures behaviour deemed a potential risk means schools can prevent invasion of privacy and avoid a ‘blanket approach’ to monitoring.

For anyone involved in digital safeguarding young people, it is crucially important to take this approach when it comes to online safety. Overly focusing on one element as offering a singular solution – for example, the role of social media companies – risks delivering an ineffective safeguarding solution that can put young people at risk.

For further in-depth information about the role of digital monitoring download our free whitepaper below.

 

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