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3.31 Online Safety


A summary of this chapter is available: click here to view the fact sheet.


Safer Children in a Digital World: The Report of the Byron Review (DCSF, 2008)

Child Exploitation On-Line Protection

Advice for Parents and Carers on Cyberbullying

Child Online Safety: a Practical Guide for Parents and Carers whose Children are using Social Media

Coram Children’s Legal Centre - LawStuff is run by Coram Children's Legal Centre and gives free legal information to young people on a range of different issues. See Children's Rights in the Digital Worrld in particular.

Social Media as a Catalyst and Trigger for Youth Violence (Catch 22)


In April 2019, the above link was added to Social Media as a Catalyst and Trigger for Youth Violence (Catch 22).


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose
  3. Aims
  4. Definition
  5. Legislation
  6. Categories of Risk
  7. Minimising Risk
  8. Procedures for Reporting Concerns

    Appendix 1: Online Safety Policy

    Appendix 2: Flow Chart for Responding to Online Safety Incidents in Organisations

    Appendix 3: Indicators of Risk of Sexual Exploitation via Digital and Interactive Technology

    Appendix 4: How to Work Safely with Information and Communication Technology

    Appendix 5: Guidance for Practitioners to Minimise the Risk of Misconduct Allegations related to Digital and Interactive Technology

    Appendix 6: Acceptable Use Policy

    Appendix 7: Online Safety Quick Self-Audit for Manager

1. Introduction

The continual growth and widespread use of the Internet, mobile phone and gaming technology has significantly enhanced our ability to communicate, share information, images, be entertained, and learn. There are enormous benefits to using digital media, which has revolutionised children's lives. It is important to recognise that digital technology is integral to the lives of children and young people in today's society.

Many of these technologies are used as powerful tools for teaching and learning in schools and other educational settings. Within school children are protected in the online environment, but the boundaries of school now reach far beyond the school gate. Children and young people can access the internet in many public areas such as libraries and through free public WiFi connections, as well as the connection they have at home. Children are increasingly accessing the internet through their mobile phones which can make parental control of content and contact very challenging. With growing numbers of children having uncontrolled access to the internet, it is important to ensure that they have safe and positive online experiences.

However, there are risks to all of us who use the internet and digital technology. Just as there are risks in the real world there are risks online. We have a responsibility, therefore, as part of the wider duty of care, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people and help them develop the skills to look after themselves both in and out of school. We also have a responsibility to take action against those who harm children and young people via digital technology.

Much work has already been done in our schools with staff, pupils and parents/carers to raise awareness of the risks associated with using digital technology. This work has also been extended to Children's Services and many partner agencies who work with children and young people. The challenge is to roll this out to the wider community whilst keeping abreast of new technological developments. This can be very challenging when the majority of children and young people often have more experience and confidence in using such technologies than their parents or other responsible adults. However it is the behaviour that some children and young people engage in online that can put them at risk.

This procedure is about safeguarding children and young people in a digital generation. However, due to the vulnerability of some adult practitioners to being cyberbullied and the exponential use of social media, guidance is provided for practitioners to be able to safeguard themselves online.

Appendix 4: How to Work Safely with Information and Communication Technology, Appendix 5: Guidance for Practitioners to Minimise the Risk of Misconduct Allegations related to Digital and Interactive Technology and Appendix 6: Acceptable Use Policy, provide guidance to practitioners to better be able to safeguard themselves. See also Allegations against Persons who work with Children (including Staff, Carers and Volunteers) Procedure.

2. Purpose

The effects of abuse suffered by children and young people via digital technology are the same as that which occurs via personal contact. Indeed, some physical and sexual abuse may occur as a result of initial contact online via digital technology. However, the impact may be more severe in some cases as the abuse can take place in the home, where a child or young person should feel safe. Therefore it is the responsibility of all practitioners to ensure they know what to do if they suspect a child or young person is involved, or at risk of involvement, either as a victim or perpetrator, of abuse online or via digital technology. The purpose of this procedure is, therefore, to provide guidance to all those working with children, young people and their families in Sheffield.

3. Aims

The aims of this procedure are as follows:

  • To define the different types of digital technology and the risks they present to children and young people;
  • To provide guidance to practitioners regarding the safeguards that should be in place to protect children and young people using digital technology, whatever the setting;
  • To provide information about some risk indicators in relation to the internet and digital technology;
  • To provide guidance to practitioners as to what action they should take if they are concerned about a child or young person related to digital and interactive technology, and provide information about legislation;
  • To provide guidance to practitioners about how to minimise risk for themselves, so that they do not inadvertently leave themselves open to allegations of practitioner misconduct from children and young people, or their parents / carers.

4. Definition

Children, young people and adults use and expertise in digital and interactive technology vary considerably. For those practitioners who may have less experience of digital technology the following definitions may be of help.

4.1 Digital and Interactive Technology

The term digital (data carrying signals carrying electronic or optical pulses) and interactive (a message relates to other previous message/s and the relationship between them) technology covers a range of electronic tools. These are constantly being upgraded and their use more widespread.

It currently includes:

  • The Internet which is a global system of inter-connected computers which can access the World Wide Web (often shortened to the Web). The World Wide Web is a system of inter-linked documents accessed via the Internet. Web pages can contain text, images, and videos and other media and can be linked to other website's or pages;
  • Mobile phones are used for voice or data communication. As well for sending and receiving voice and text communication, a mobile phone can be used for emails, accessing the Internet, applications, gaming, Bluetooth (can send data via wireless technology), camera with video and sending and receiving photos and videos. Most phones now have Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities and social networking sites are including location based software;
  • Online gaming (using networked computers or via the internet) and video game consoles (using wireless technology). Popular online games such as Minecraft, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto are played using game consoles including Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox Live and Sony Playstation;
  • Wireless technology which enables access to the Internet via computers, particularly laptops, tablets and mobile phones;
  • Broadband access which allows Internet access via desk top computers, and mobile technology such as laptops, tablets, and gaming devices;
  • Webcams are video capturing devices which allow images to be communicated in real time to computers or computer networks across the internet. They are built in to laptops, tablets and mobile phones but they can also be free standing.

4.2 Online Safety

This is the generic term that refers to raising awareness about how children, young people and adults can protect themselves whilst using digital technology and online environments, and also interventions that can reduce the level of risk for children and young people.

Good practice around data security as well as safety is essential to protect online privacy, to minimise risks of loss of information and to comply with the law. See Information Commissioner's Office website.

4.3 Cyberbullying

  • Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using digital or interactive technology. Research from the University of York shows that there is a difference in the profile of cyberbullies compared to other bullies, as noted below;
  • Due to the nature of digital technology not being based on personal contact, cyberbullying breaks down the imbalance of power;
  • Adults working with children and young people are vulnerable to being bullied;
  • Adults are more likely to be targets of cyberbullies than those under 18;
  • It may be used as a form of revenge;
  • Bystanders become accessories to the bullying, e.g. through 'liking' and laughing at the messages and / or texts, and through distribution;
  • There is less understanding of its consequences;
  • Mobile phones are the most common tool for cyberbullies;
  • Cyberbullying is greater outside than inside school, but its origins and consequences may be in school;
  • Age and gender are not significant;
  • Cyberbullying via chat rooms, emails, and Instant Messaging Service (IMS) has less impact on victims than other forms.

5. Legislation

Groups should be aware of the legislative framework under which this Online Safety Policy template and guidance has been produced. It is important to note that in general terms an action that is illegal if committed offline is also illegal if committed online. It is recommended that legal advice is sought in the event of an online issue or situation.

The Serious Crime Act 2015

An offence of sexual communication with a child has been introduced. This applies to an adult who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age.

The Act also amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16 having communicated with them on just one occasion (previously it was on at least two occasions).

Computer Misuse Act 1990

This Act makes it an offence to:

  • Erase or amend data or programs without authority;
  • Obtain unauthorised access to a computer;
  • "Eavesdrop" on a computer;
  • Make unauthorised use of computer time or facilities;
  • Maliciously corrupt or erase data or programs;
  • Deny access to authorised users.

Data Protection Act 1998

This protects the rights and privacy of individual's data. To comply with the law, information about individuals must be collected and used fairly, stored safely and securely and not disclosed to any third party unlawfully. The Act states that person data must be:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed;
  • Processed for limited purposes;
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • Accurate;
  • Not kept longer than necessary;
  • Processed in accordance with the data subject's rights;
  • Secure;
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act gives individuals the right to request information held by public authorities. All public authorities and companies wholly owned by public authorities have obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. When responding to requests, they have to follow a number of set procedures.

Communications Act 2003

Sending by means of the Internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the Internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent: there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.

Malicious Communications Act 1988

It is an offence to send an indecent, offensive, or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

It is an offence for any person to intentionally and without lawful authority intercept any communication. Monitoring or keeping a record of any form of electronic communications is permitted, in order to:

  • Establish the facts;
  • Ascertain compliance with regulatory or self-regulatory practices or procedures;
  • Demonstrate standards, which are or ought to be achieved by persons using the system;
  • Investigate or detect unauthorised use of the communications system;
  • Prevent or detect crime or in the interests of national security;
  • Ensure the effective operation of the system;
  • Monitoring but not recording is also permissible in order to:
    • Ascertain whether the communication is business or personal;
    • Protect or support help line staff.
  • The school reserves the right to monitor its systems and communications in line with its rights under this act.

Trade Marks Act 1994

This provides protection for Registered Trade Marks, which can be any symbol (words, shapes or images) that are associated with a particular set of goods or services. Registered Trade Marks must not be used without permission. This can also arise from using a Mark that is confusingly similar to an existing Mark.

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

It is an offence to copy all, or a substantial part of a copyright work. There are, however, certain limited user permissions, such as fair dealing, which means under certain circumstances permission is not needed to copy small amounts for non-commercial research or private study. The Act also provides for Moral Rights, whereby authors can sue if their name is not included in a work they wrote, or if the work has been amended in such a way as to impugn their reputation. Copyright covers materials in print and electronic form, and includes words, images, and sounds, moving images, TV broadcasts and other media (e.g. YouTube).

Telecommunications Act 1984

It is an offence to send a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. It is also an offence to send a message that is intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another that the sender knows to be false.

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

This defines a criminal offence of intentional harassment, which covers all forms of harassment, including sexual. A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, they:

  • Use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour; or
  • Display any writing, sign or other visible representation, which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006

This Act makes it a criminal offence to threaten people because of their faith, or to stir up religious hatred by displaying, publishing or distributing written material which is threatening. Other laws already protect people from threats based on their race, nationality or ethnic background.

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

A person must not pursue a course of conduct, which amounts to harassment of another, and which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other. A person whose course of conduct causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him is guilty of an offence if he knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause the other so to fear on each of those occasions.

Protection of Children Act 1978

It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children in the United Kingdom. A child for these purposes is a anyone under the age of 18. Viewing an indecent image of a child on your computer means that you have made a digital image. An image of a child also covers pseudo-photographs (digitally collated or otherwise). A person convicted of such an offence may face up to 10 years in prison.

Sexual Offences Act 2003

The offence of grooming is committed if you are over 18 and have communicated with a child under 16 at least once (previously twice) (including by phone or using the Internet) it is an offence to meet them or travel to meet them anywhere in the world with the intention of committing a sexual offence. Causing a child under 16 to watch a sexual act is illegal, including looking at images such as videos, photos or webcams, for your own gratification. It is also an offence for a person in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with any person under 18, with whom they are in a position of trust. (Typically, teachers, social workers, health professionals, connexions staff fall in this category of trust). Any sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13 commits the offence of rape.

Public Order Act 1986

This Act makes it a criminal offence to stir up racial hatred by displaying, publishing or distributing written material which is threatening. Like the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 it also makes the possession of inflammatory material with a view of releasing it a criminal offence.

Obscene Publications Act 1959 and 1964

Publishing an "obscene" article is a criminal offence. Publishing includes electronic transmission.

Human Rights Act 1998

This does not deal with any particular issue specifically or any discrete subject area within the law. It is a type of "higher law", affecting all other laws. In the context of work with young people, human rights to be aware of include:

  • The right to a fair trial;
  • The right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence;
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • Freedom of expression;
  • Freedom of assembly;
  • Prohibition of discrimination;
  • The right to education.

These rights are not absolute. The school is obliged to respect these rights and freedoms, balancing them against those rights, duties and obligations, which arise from other relevant legislation.

The Education and Inspections Act 2006

Empowers school Headteachers, to such extent as is reasonable, to regulate the behaviour of students / pupils when they are off the school site and empowers members of staff to impose disciplinary penalties for inappropriate behaviour.

Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

From 1 July 2015 all schools, registered early years childcare providers and registered later years childcare providers are subject to a duty under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, in the exercise of their functions, to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. See also Children Vulnerable to or from Extremism Procedure.

6. Categories of Risk

Safer Children in a Digital World: The Report of the Byron Review (DCSF, 2008) highlighted the following categories of risk to children and young people.

6.1 Content

This includes illegal or inappropriate content of Internet website's, games, e-mails, mobile phones or other communication. This may include inappropriately accessing material that is of a sexual or violent nature including child abuse or adult pornography, online gaming; extremist website's which include animal rights activists, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism or right wing extremism; website's promoting gangs and weapons; and health issues such as pro-suicide or eating disorder website's. Offences may be committed in accessing and distributing the material on such sites.

6.2 Conduct

Issues related to conduct include anti-social or illegal behaviour such as illegal downloading of music or video files, hacking into systems and profiles.

One issue of concern is self-taken sexually explicit images. These are taken via webcam or by mobile phone camera and then distributed. Whilst some young people may think such images are solely for their 'boyfriend/girlfriend' for example, these can be widely circulated via the Internet or mobile phones.

It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18.

See Young people who Post Self-Taken Indecent Images - Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO).

Where young people are voluntarily sending/sharing sexual images or content with one another the police may use the ‘outcome 21’ recording code to record that a crime has been committed but that it is not considered to be in the public interest to take criminal action against the people involved. This reduces stigma and distress for children and helps to minimise the long term impact of the situation.

6.3 Contact

One of the main concerns relating to contact is the risk of physical and / or sexual abuse, and the resulting psychological trauma suffered as a result of meeting someone through an online initiation. Children and young people can be groomed online by both adults and other young people for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Grooming can take place online in environments such as virtual worlds, social networks, online gaming, chatrooms, private messaging services etc. A list of Risk Indicators via digital and interactive technology is available.

Children and young people can also be groomed and radicalised online with a view to being drawn into extremist and terrorist behaviour. From 1 July 2015 all schools, colleges, registered early years childcare providers and registered later years childcare providers are subject to a duty under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, in the exercise of their functions, to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. See also Children Vulnerable to or from Extremism Procedure.


Cyber bullying is defined as "the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT), particularly mobile phones and the internet, deliberately to upset someone else" (DfE definition).

See Preventing and tackling bullying: What does the law say and what do I have to do? and Advice for headteachers, staff and governing bodies.

Cyberbullying may take the form of hate crime, as an issue of race, disability and / or sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • It differs from other forms of bullying, for example:
    • The bullying can be pervasive as the child or young person can be accessed any time, including in their home and personal space where they would normally feel safe;
    • There is no control over the size of the audience;
    • There is often no closure as it is difficult to know if the problem has been contained or if it will resurface;
    • Bullies often think they are anonymous;
    • Evidence of cyberbullying can be obtained from mobile phones and websites such as social networks.
  • It may be used as a form of revenge and is sometimes used to 'get even' when the victim can become the perpetrator. Bystanders can become accessories to the bullying, e.g. through laughing at the messages and / or texts, through distribution or contributing to the messages;
  • Mobile phones, social networks and online gaming are some examples of where victimisation takes place. Cyberbullying is greater outside than inside school, but its origins and consequences may be in school;
  • Trolling is when disrespectful, abusive and bullying comments are deliberately left on a webpage or social networking profile so that the reader is made to feel bullied, sad or threatened.

Adults working with children and young people are also vulnerable to being cyberbullied and are particularly susceptible to risks from social networking.

It should be noted that the bullies and the bystanders may be committing an offence. See Section 5, Legislation.

6.4 Commerce

The fourth category of risk to children and young people is through commercial exploitation. This may take place through online gambling, or financial scams, for example. Advertisers use information from IM directory of users to target SPIM (SPAM through Instant Messenger). Social networks also have targeted advertising in user profiles.

Currently, one of the most significant trends is that of convergence, both in terms of technology and behaviour. Types of on-line environments mentioned above, such as social networking, online gaming, instant messaging and photo sharing are merging to form larger social sites. This presents new kinds of risks to children as their information is available in one area and they will be more accessible as these environments increasingly incorporate instant messaging which facilitates one to one contact.

It should be noted that in all of the above categories, offences may be committed when accessing certain website's, and downloading the information contained within them. Further offences may be committed if such material is also distributed to others, whether harm was intended or otherwise.

7. Minimising Risk

One of the most important messages that we should ensure children and young people understand in relation to using digital technology is that they should not give out personal information, particularly their name, address or school, mobile phone numbers to anyone they do not know or trust. This particularly includes social networking and online gaming sites. If they have been asked for such information, they should always check with their parent or other trusted adult before providing such details. It is also important that they understand why they must take a parent or trusted adult with them if they meet someone face to face who they have only previously met on-line

Educating children and young people to behave responsibly and safely online is the responsibility of parents or carers, schools and colleges and all those working with them when using computers, for example youth clubs, residential children's homes, home education service etc. Firewalls and filtering software alone will not protect them; we need to supervise their activities and give advice and guidance to ensure they have a safe online experience.

See UK Safer Internet website and CEOP, thinkUknow website.

7.1 Supporting Parents to Safeguard their Children

We need to ensure that those who care for children are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how to keep them safe and what to do if things go wrong.

Often parents do not use these environments and therefore lack confidence in supervising their children's online activities. It is important that we support parents by raising awareness of the benefits, risks and dangers to help them understand more about what their children are doing online. We need to offer practical advice and guidance on how to keep their family safe online and what to do if things go wrong.

See thinkUknow website.

7.2 Adhering to Acceptable Use Policies in all Establishments

There is a requirement to ensure that children, young people and staff use the internet and related technologies appropriately and safely. The implementation of an Online Safety policy and acceptable use policies for young people and staff should provide a structure to safe E-safety practice. These may be built into existing safeguarding policies and practice but they should clearly identify ways in which these technologies can and cannot be used and the procedures and support strategies for misuse. See Appendix 1: Online Safety Policy for an exemplar Policy and Appendix 5: Guidance for Practitioners to Minimise the Risk of Misconduct Allegations related to Digital and Interactive Technology.

See also Appendix 2: Flow Chart for Responding to Online Safety Incidents in Organisations.

7.3 Firewalls

While there is no guaranteed method of protecting users when on line, there are some software solutions that can filter or block content. The majority of schools obtain their Internet feed from the Regional Broadband Consortium, e.g. Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning which provides a level of filtering agreed with local authorities and schools. There is the facility for schools to choose their own filtering requirements from within the general provision.

In other settings, where the Internet feed is not filtered, then individual machines can have specific filtering software applied. This needs to be undertaken with the agreement of senior management.

8. Procedures for Reporting Concerns

If you are concerned that an offence has been committed, or a child or young person is at risk due to their, or another’s, use of digital or interactive technology, the following steps should be taken.

If a worker is concerned that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, a telephone referral must be made as soon as possible to Children’s Social Care: see Local Contacts. For more information see Making a Referral following the Identification of Child Safety and Welfare Concerns.

In an emergency, ring 999 to contact South Yorkshire Police.

If a practitioner believes a child has additional needs or is a child in need, but is not likely to suffer Significant Harm, they should refer them to the Multi-Agency Support Team (MAST). The MAST will undertake An FCAF, refer them to the Interim FCAF Panel / Allocation Panel, and as a result appropriate support services will be put in place for the child and their family, in order to improve their outcomes. See Local Contacts for contact details.

If your concern is about cyberbullying, commercial exploitation, inappropriate or illegal content of website's etc. but you do not think a child or young person is likely to suffer Significant Harm, then you should ring South Yorkshire Police.

You can obtain advice about safeguarding concerns in relation to digital or interactive technology from Sheffield Safeguarding Children Advisory Service.

Online safety help for professionals is available from the UK Safer Internet Helpline Telephone 0844 381 4772

Online help and reporting of sexual exploitation is available through the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Advice, Help and Support Centre.

Appendix 1: Online Safety Policy

  1. Introduction
  2. Benefits of the Internet for Children and Young People
  3. Managing Internet Use in Organisational Settings
  4. Publishing Images and Work on the Internet
  5. Managing other Technologies
  6. Assessing Risk
  7. Handling Online Safety Complaints
  8. Communicating the Contents of this Policy

1. Introduction

Online Safety encompasses Internet technologies and electronic communications such as mobile phones and wireless technology. It highlights the need to educate children and young people about the benefits and risks of using new technology - including computers, mobile phones and online games - and provides safeguards and awareness for users to enable them to control their online experiences.

All partner organisations of Sheffield Safeguarding Partnership for Children and Young People should assess the level of risk associated with the use of digital and interactive technology by children and young people in their care. Each agency needs to take appropriate steps to safeguard children, young people and staff, according to the level of risk identified. Because of the diverse nature of the work of our partner agencies, this will vary in each organisation. This Online Safety Policy provides overarching guidance to all agencies in Sheffield to safeguard children and young people. It can be adapted and used accordingly within each setting. It should also operate in conjunction with other policies including those for Behaviour, Bullying, Curriculum, Data Protection and Security. Model Online Safety Policies for Schools and for Early Years Education Providers are available on the Sheffield Safeguarding Board website.

Online Safety depends on effective practice at a number of levels:

  • Responsible ICT use by all staff, children and young people; encouraged by education and awareness raising and made explicit through published policies;
  • Support and guidance for parents, giving them the knowledge and confidence to be able to supervise their child’s use of digital and interactive technology;
  • Sound implementation of Online Safety policy in both administration and raising awareness, including secure network design and use;
  • Safe and secure broadband from the Yorkshire and Humberside Grid for Learning where applicable, or other firewalls, including the effective management of content filtering;
  • Network standards and specifications.

This policy provides guidance for agencies in relation to these issues. It specifically relates to the use of computers in organisations; it does not cover the use of mobile phones by children and young people. Organisations should have separate guidance in relation to this issue.

Each organisation should appoint an Online Safety coordinator or Lead Officer to take responsibility for this issue within the setting, and liaise with SSCB as necessary. In many cases this will be the Designated Child Protection Lead / Officer, as the roles overlap.

2. Benefits of the Internet for Children and Young People

The purpose of Internet use in organisations is to raise educational standards, to promote achievement of children and young people, to support the professional work of staff and to enhance the organisation’s management information and administration systems.

Internet use is an essential element in 21st century life for education, business and social interaction. It is also part of the statutory curriculum from the age of 5 years. Therefore our organisation has a duty to provide children and young people with quality Internet access and equip them with the skills to be safe whilst using digital and interactive technology.

Benefits of using the Internet include:

  • Access to world-wide educational resources including museums and art galleries;
  • Educational and cultural exchanges between children and young people world-wide;
  • Access to experts in many fields for children and young people and staff;
  • Professional development for staff through access to national developments, educational materials and effective professional practice;
  • Collaboration across support services and professional associations;
  • Improved access to technical support including remote management of;
  • Networks and automatic system updates;
  • Exchange of professional issues and administration data between local, regional and national organisations;
  • Access to learning and communication wherever and whenever convenient.

The organisation’s Internet access will be designed expressly for children and young people’s use and includes filtering appropriate to the age of children and young people.

Children and young people will be taught what Internet use is acceptable and what is not and given clear objectives for Internet use.

Internet access will be planned to enrich and extend learning and personal development activities.

Staff will guide children and young people in on-line activities that will support learning outcomes, which are planned according to their age and maturity.

Children and young people will be educated in the effective use of the Internet in research, including the skills of knowledge location, retrieval and evaluation.

3. Managing Internet Use in Organisational Settings

This section provides guidance about how to manage the use of the Internet in the organisation. Children and young people should be provided with guidance in computer rooms.

Authorised Internet Access

The organisation will maintain a current record of all staff and children and young people who are granted Internet access.

All staff must read and sign the ‘Acceptable Use Policy’ or similar before using the organisation’s ICT resource.

Parents / carers will be informed that children and young people will be provided with supervised Internet access.

Parents / carers will be asked to sign and return a consent form for children and young people’s access.

World Wide Web

If staff or children and young people discover unsuitable sites, the URL (address), time, content must be reported to the designated manager or helpdesk within the organisation via the Online Safety coordinator or network manager.

The organisation will ensure that the use of Internet derived materials by children and young people and staff complies with copyright law.

Children and young people should be taught to be critically aware of the materials they are shown and how to validate information before accepting its accuracy.


Children and young people may only use approved e-mail accounts on the organisation system.

Children and young people must immediately tell a member of staff if they receive offensive e-mail.

Children and young people must not reveal personal details of themselves or others in e-mail communication, or arrange to meet anyone without specific permission.

Access to external personal e-mail accounts may be blocked.

E-mails sent to external organisations should be written carefully and authorised before sending, in the same way as a letter written on organisation headed paper.

The forwarding of chain letters is not permitted.

Children, young people and their families should only contact members of staff of organisations using business email addresses or telephone numbers. This includes staff who they knew before becoming service users of the organisation. Any exceptions to this should be discussed with managers within the organisation. This is to safeguard the children, young people, their families and the member of staff from allegations of misconduct.

Social Networking

Organisations should manage/block/filter access to social networking sites as appropriate for children and young people and staff.

Children and young people and staff should be advised never to give out personal details of any kind which may identify them or their location.

Children and young people and staff should be advised to consider whether the photos they upload to any social network are appropriate to be seen in a public space and to control who can access their images.

Children and young people should be advised on security and encouraged to set passwords, deny access to unknown individuals and instructed how to block and report unwanted communications. They should be encouraged to invite known friends only and deny access to others.

Children, young people and their families should not contact members of staff via social networking sites. Staff should not accept them as friends on social networking sites and should be encouraged to review information posted about them on such sites.


The organisation will work in partnership with the Local Authority, Department for Education and their Internet Service Provider to ensure filtering systems are as effective as possible.

Video Conferencing and Video Calls

If the organisation uses video-conferencing/calls the following issues should be considered:

  • IP video-conferencing should use the relevant broadband network to ensure quality of service and security rather than the Internet;
  • Children and young people should not make or answer a video-conference call; this should be undertaken by a member of staff;
  • Children and young people using video-conferencing will be appropriately supervised.

Information System Security

The organisation’s ICT systems capacity and security will be reviewed regularly, by the Head of ICT or agreed contractor.

Virus protection will be installed and updated regularly.

Security strategies should be discussed with the organisation’s senior management team.

Protecting Personal Data

Personal data will be recorded, processed, transferred and made available according to the Data Protection Act 2018.

4. Publishing Images and Work on the Internet

Photographs that include children and young people will be selected carefully and will not enable individuals to be clearly identified.

Children and young people’s full names will not be used anywhere on the organisation’s Web site or Blog, particularly in association with photographs.

Written permission from parents or carers will be obtained before photographs of their children are published on the organisation’s Web site (see The Use of Cameras and Images within Educational Settings).

Work can only be published with the permission of the children, young people and their parents or carers.

Published Content and the Organisation Web Site

The contact details on the organisation’s web site should be the address, e-mail and telephone number. Personal information about staff, including volunteers, children, young people or their families should not be published.

Management should have overall editorial responsibility and ensure that content is accurate and appropriate.

5. Managing other Technologies

Emerging technologies will be examined for educational and developmental benefit and a risk assessment will be carried out before use in the organisation is allowed.

Children and young people should not use mobile phones during time spent with staff from the organisation, without prior agreement from a relevant member of staff, e.g. teacher or key worker.

If children or young people send abusive or inappropriate text messages, this will be dealt with by a relevant member of staff, e.g. a teacher or key worker and may result in action being taken.

Staff will be issued with an organisation phone where contact with children and young people is required. They should not use their personal mobile phone to contact children, young people or their families.

6. Assessing Risk

The organisation will take all reasonable precautions to prevent access to inappropriate material. However, due to the international access available via the Internet, it is not possible to guarantee that unsuitable material will never appear on an organisation’s computer. Neither the organisation nor Sheffield Safeguarding Partnership for Children and Young People can accept liability for the material accessed, or any consequences of Internet access.

Any child, young person or member of staff who inadvertently accesses inappropriate sites or materials should immediately report the incident to the designated Online Safety lead officer and ICT Manager in the organisation.

The organisation should audit ICT use to establish if the Online Safety policy is adequate and that the implementation of the Online Safety policy is appropriate.

Computers within the organisation should not be available to anyone outside of normal working hours, e.g. if a school or youth club is used in the evenings or at weekends. The computer room should be locked in such circumstances. It should also not be available to those who do not normally require to use such equipment e.g. caretakers, maintenance personal etc.

7. Handling Online Safety Complaints

Complaints of Internet misuse will be dealt with by the line manager as per the organisation’s code of conduct.

Any complaint about staff misuse must be referred to a manager. This may either be the complainant’s line manager, or the manager of the member of staff about who the complaint is being made. This may invoke the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board Allegations against Staff, Volunteers or Carers Protocol.

Children and young people and parents / carers will be informed of the complaints procedure.

Discussions will be held with South Yorkshire Police to establish procedures for handling potentially illegal issues. They can be contacted on 0114 220 2020.

8. Communicating the Contents of this Policy

Children and Young People

Rules for Internet access will be posted in all networked rooms and classrooms.

Children and young people and staff will be informed that Internet use will be monitored.


All staff will be given a copy of this policy, its importance explained and asked to sign the acceptable use policy for staff.

Staff should be made aware that Internet traffic can be monitored and traced to the individual user. Discretion and professional conduct is essential.

Parents / Carers

Parents / carers’ attention will be drawn to this Online Safety Policy in newsletters, the organisation brochure and on the organisation’s web site.

Appendix 2: Flow Chart for Responding to Online Safety Incidents in Organisations

Click here to view Appendix 2: Flow Chart for Responding to Online Safety Incidents in Organisations.

Appendix 3: Indicators of Risk of Sexual Exploitation via Digital and Interactive Technology

At Risk

  • Spending increasing amount of time on social networking sites (e.g. Facebook chat and image sharing applications);
  • Unexplained increased mobile phone credits or new mobile phone;
  • New contacts with people out of city;
  • Spending increasing amounts of time with on line friends and less time with friends from school or neighbourhood;
  • Going on line during the night;
  • Being secretive. Using mobile phone for accessing social networks;
  • Unwilling to share /show on line contacts;
  • Concern that a young person’s online friendship has developed into an off line relationship;
  • Concern that inappropriate images of a young person are being circulated via the internet.
  • Arranging to meet people they have met on line;
  • Concern that a young person is having an online relationship;
  • Concern that a young person is being coerced to provide images or to perform sexual acts via webcam;
  • Sharing of inappropriate images amongst friends.
  • Concerned that a young person is being bribed by someone for their inappropriate on line activity;
  • Concern that a young person is selling images via the internet for money;
  • Concern that a young person is being drawn into providing increasingly provocative/sexualised images in exchange for payment;
  • Negotiating a price for sexual activity/images;
  • Concern that a young person is selling sexual services via the internet.

Appendix 4: How to Work Safely with Information and Communication Technology

ICT offers a range of benefits for teaching, learning and social networking, but all computers and devices need to be used with care. This material looks at the health and safety issues involved in using computers in general, in classrooms and other venues where children use computers.

Computers and peripherals such as printers are electrical equipment, so there are some general points to consider:

  • Ensure that all electrical installations are carried out by a qualified electrician;
  • All equipment must be of a reliable standard and should be checked annually by qualified electricians;
  • Ensure that no cabling is trailing on the floor;
  • Ensure that seating is suitable for the size of children using it;
  • Ensure that benching is sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the hardware and additional equipment stored on it;
  • Follow health and safety guidance regarding the height, position and distance of monitors and keyboards from children when working;
  • If you are using a data projector, make sure that all leads are safely located, and that children don’t walk around the back of working areas which have cables;
  • If you are using an interactive whiteboard, ensure that all children can reach it without standing on anything;
  • If using data projectors or interactive whiteboards, ensure that children never look directly into the beam of the projector. If presenting to a class or other setting and entering the beam, children should not look towards the audience for more than a few seconds, and ideally should keep their backs to the beam at all times;
  • Children should be supervised at all times during the operation of data projectors or interactive whiteboards. Ensure that they never look directly into the beam of the projector, and if presenting to a class or other setting entering the beam, children should not look towards the audience for more than a few seconds. Ideally they should keep their backs to the beam at all times;
  • If you are working with programmable toys such as floor turtles, create a clearly defined working area; use markers or seating to define the work space to ensure that children do not accidentally fall over equipment.

Working safely in the ICT suite

Children should be aware of rules for using computers. Ideally, they will be involved in devising these rules and may make posters explaining why the rules are necessary.

  • Fire exits must be kept clear at all times; do not allow them to be blocked by equipment or pupils’ bags;
  • If children are going to be seated for extended periods, ensure that good-quality seating is provided which supports the back;
  • Seating should be height-adjustable so that monitors and keyboards are correctly positioned and children do not have to look up or down at the monitor for prolonged periods;
  • Check to see if there is too much reflected light on monitor screens, making it difficult for children to see;
  • Ensure that children can see displays adequately;
  • Make sure that children have room to make notes or use textbooks alongside the computer;
  • Ensure that the room temperature does not get too warm because computers are kept switched on for prolonged periods;
  • Ensure that there is enough fresh air circulating; installing a fan simply moves the warm, stale air about without renewing it.

Working safely in classrooms and other settings

There are some issues that are more relevant to working on computers in classrooms and other settings:

  • Locate the computers in areas where children can sit and work without distracting or disrupting others in the class;
  • Ensure that procedures for connecting peripherals (scanners, digital cameras, webcams, control technology equipment and monitoring equipment), adhere to school and local authority health and safety guidelines;
  • Ensure that additional equipment is situated where it will not cause a hazard such as trailing cables;
  • If you are using laptops, ensure that they are located on firm desks or tables;
  • Ensure that all electrical equipment is located away from water supplies, and that children have a sound knowledge of electrical safety;
  • Ensure that children don’t take drinks to tables if they are working with electrical equipment such as cameras, videos, laptops, computers or data logging equipment.

If you have a number of portable computers in the classroom or other setting, you may want to set up a procedure to be followed when they are to be moved. For example, you could stipulate that only a small group of children should move at a time, or designate specific children to be responsible for laptops.

Appendix 5: Guidance for Practitioners to Minimise the Risk of Misconduct Allegations related to Digital and Interactive Technology

All agencies will have their own professional codes of conduct, which this guidance does not intend to replace. It is guidance that relates specifically to helping professionals put safeguards in place to minimise the risk of any allegations of professional misconduct related to the use of digital technology and social media (e.g. Social networks such Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, online gaming, etc.)

This guidance relates to all children up to the age of 18, whether or not they, or their families, are current or former pupils,students/service users. It is appreciated that you may have personal friends or the children of friends who are under the age of 18. But at all times you should ensure that you treat all those under the age of 18 with the respect they deserve, whoever the child or young person is.

You should always be mindful not to put yourself in a situation that may comprise you or be misinterpreted either by the child or young person, their friend, parent or carer, or any other person. This includes both personal and professional situations. It should be remembered that careless and inappropriate action in a personal setting, whether intended or not, could have significant implications for your professional life.

There are few professionals who have allegations of professional misconduct related to digital technology or social media made against them. However, the impact of either an allegation or cyberbullying can be significant, both personally and professionally. Taking a few steps to be pro-active in minimising any risk to yourself, whilst you may think it unnecessary, is worth taking to avoid future complications.

Remember: as a professional working with children and young people, or their families, you may be vulnerable to have an allegation made against you or being the victim of cyberbullying. Sometimes this is a result of communication or a situation being misconstrued. Other times this may be an act of revenge taken against you for an incident that has resulted through your professional practice. It may also be that someone, through having complex needs of their own, may develop an unhealthy interest in you as a person.

Therefore the following steps are recommended to all professionals, and trainees who are or will be working with children, young people or their families.

Ten Steps to Minimise Professional Risk

  1. You should fully appreciate that the onus is upon you and not the child or young person to distance yourself from any potentially inappropriate situation;
  2. Review all content about yourself on social networking sites, such as FaceBook, Twitter etc. Particularly consider removing any personal information or photographs which could be manipulated and used against you;
  3. Do not give personal information such as email addresses or mobile telephone numbers including pin numbers (Blackberry phones) to anyone who is, or has been, a pupil, student/service user or is a member of their family;
  4. If you wish to keep in contact with any child or young person under the age of 18, or their family, who has been a user of your service, ensure that you only use work emails or telephone numbers to communicate with them and that your Manager is aware of the contact;
  5. If there is any incident, related to this guidance, which involves a child, young person or their family, that causes you concern, report it immediately to your Line manager. Document it as soon as possible, according to your workplace procedures;
  6. Ensure you adhere rigidly to the Online Safety policy and Staff Acceptable Use Policy of your workplace. If you breach any part of the AUP, report it immediately as per your workplace procedures;
  7. Do not access any illegal or inappropriate websites on your personal computer/laptop or mobile phone. This includes illegal or inappropriate images of children, certain other types of pornography or extremist websites. It is illegal to access or download material that promotes or depicts criminal behaviour;
  8. Be very careful when liaising with others online (for example in social networks or using social media). Remember these are not private areas even though you may have privacy settings applied so comments or complaints may be seen by others. Avoid inappropriate communication with individuals under 18, or with who you may be in a position of trust;
  9. Use your common sense and professional judgement and expertise at all times to avoid circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature or which could bring your organisation into disrepute. This relates particularly to social networking sites, social media and mobile phone technology;
  10. Remember, digital technology and social media may be the virtual world, but it has an impact on our real world Online actions can have offline consequences.

Appendix 6: Acceptable Use Policy

Click here to view Appendix 6: Acceptable Use Policy.

Appendix 7: Online Safety Quick Self-Audit for Manager

Click here to view Appendix 7: Online safety Quick Self-Audit for Manager.