E Safety

Untitled Document


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Indicators
  3. Protection and Action to be Taken
  4. Issues
  5. Further Information


1. Definition

‘Internet Abuse’ relates to four main areas of abuse to children:

  • Abusive images of children (although these are not confined to the Internet);
  • A child or young person being groomed for the purpose of Sexual Abuse;
  • Exposure to pornographic or other offensive material via the Internet; and
  • The use of the internet, and in particular social media, to engage children in extremist ideologies.

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 has become more widespread through the Internet being available using text, photos and video. The internet can be accessed on mobile phones, laptops, computers, tablets, webcams, cameras and games consoles.

Social networking sites are often used by perpetrators as an easy way to access children and young people for sexual abuse. In addition radical and extremist groups may use social networking to attract children and young people into rigid and narrow ideologies that are intolerant of diversity: this is similar to the grooming process and exploits the same vulnerabilities. The groups concerned include those linked to extreme Islamist, or Far Right/Neo Nazi ideologies, Irish Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups, extremist Animal Rights groups and others who justify political, religious, sexist or racist violence.

Internet abuse may also include cyber-bullying. This is when a child is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child using the Internet and/or mobile devices. It is essentially behaviour between children, although it is possible for one victim to be bullied by many perpetrators. In any case of severe bullying it may be appropriate to consider the behaviour as child abuse by another young person.

E-Safety is the generic term that refers to raising awareness about how children, young people and adults can protect themselves when using digital technology and in the online environment, and examples of interventions that can reduce the level of risk for children and young people.


2. Indicators

Often these issues come to light through accidental discovery of images on a computer or other device and can seem to emerge ‘out of the blue’ from an otherwise trusted and non-suspicious individual. This in itself can make accepting the fact of the abuse difficult for those who know and may have trusted that individual. The initial indicators of abuse are likely to be changes in behaviour and mood of the victim. Clearly such changes can also be attributed to many innocent events in a child’s life and cannot be regarded as diagnostic. However changes to a child’s circle of friends or a noticeable change in attitude towards the use of computer or phone could have their origin in abusive behaviour. Similarly a change in their friends or not wanting to be alone with a particular person may be a sign that something is upsetting them.

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.


3. Protection and Action to be Taken

Children can access the internet in many different ways, using a variety of devices including mobile phones, games consoles, laptops and desk top computers. The internet is an integral part of our lives and children need to learn how to use it safely.

The home should set up a set of internet rules, which should set clear boundaries and what is expected of the child whilst in the home. These could include:

  • Time limits;
  • The type of sites or specific sites that the young person is permitted or not permitted to use;
  • Agreement to explain or show carers what they are doing online at any time;
  • Any behaviour that is unacceptable e.g. bullying, gossiping;
  • If the young person accesses social networking sites, agreement to share who their online 'friends' are, ensure privacy settings are appropriately set and establish the type of activity that is acceptable;
  • The need to tell someone if inappropriate content is accessed or they are upset by anyone while online;
  • The need to ask before carrying out certain activities e.g. setting up an account on a games site, joining a social networking site.

These rules should be reviewed and if necessary revised at regular intervals.

Encouraging Safe Use of the Internet

Staff need to be aware that children who have experienced past trauma or have low self-esteem can be more vulnerable to the dangers associated with the internet.

The staffs’ role in helping children to learn how to use the Internet safely is extremely important and they must ask for support and/or further training if they lack confidence or knowledge in this area.

If staff have any concerns about children's online activities they should report it to the home’s manager and the child’s social worker.

Computers with Internet access must be located in a publicly accessible area. Children should not, in most cases, be allowed to access the Internet in a bedroom or similar private area although the age of the child should be taken into consideration.

Staff need to be aware that most mainstream Social Networking sites impose a minimum age limit of 13 on their membership. This includes Facebook, Youtube states that their site is not intended for under 13 year olds to view and that members must be over 18 or have parental/guardian consent to add content to the site. It is therefore inappropriate for children under 13 years old to use social networking sites which are also used by adults.

Prohibiting young people from using social networking sites in the home will not necessarily prevent them from accessing them elsewhere. A more effective way of helping to keep children safe when using social networking sites is to:

  • Ensure young people set their privacy settings appropriately;
  • Pay attention to what information the young person is posting; and
  • Encourage young people to share their social networking experiences with an appropriate adult.

Young People who wish to post images of themselves on websites must be made aware of the risks involved. In some cases it may be too risky for children to post images on social networking sites such as Facebook or MSN. This must be assessed by the child's social worker on an individual basis. A similar approach should be taken around the use of webcams.

However, except for very young children, it is effectively impossible to prevent, supervise or monitor online methods of contact. In addition the internet provides an easy vehicle for family members and young people to make and maintain contact in secret. This is effectively "unsupervised" contact which could result in significant harm to children, their carers and the placement.

It is therefore essential that any issues around contact are identified in the care plan and the risk assessment. Carers and young people must be informed of these issues and a strategy for supporting the young person, if family members should attempt to make contact in this way, should be agreed. The young person also needs to understand why this type of contact could be harmful as the key to dealing with these issues is maintaining good communication between the young person and the adults around them.

Where there are concerns about a child being groomed, exposed to pornographic material or contacted by someone inappropriately, via the Internet or other ICT tools like a mobile phone, referrals should be made to the Police and to Children’s social care.

The Serious Crime Act (2015) has introduced an offence of sexual communication with a child. 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 under16 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).

Due to the nature of this type of abuse and the possibility of the destruction of evidence, the referrer should first discuss their concerns with the Police and Children’s social care before raising the matter with the family. This will enable a joint decision to be made about informing the family and ensuring that the child’s welfare is safeguarded.

All such reports should be taken seriously. Most referrals will warrant a Strategy Discussion to determine the course of further investigation or enquiry. Intervention should be continually under review if further evidence comes to light.

Where there are concerns in relation to a child’s exposure to extremist materials, the child’s school may be able to provide advice and support: all schools are required to identify a Prevent Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who is the lead for safeguarding in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism.

Suspected online terrorist material can be reported through www.gov.uk/report-terrorism. Content of concern can also be reported directly to social media platforms – see Safety Features on Social Networks.


4. Issues

When communicating via the internet, young people tend to become less wary and talk about things far more openly than they might when communicating face to face.

Both male and female adults and some young people may use the internet to harm children. Some do this by looking at, taking and/or distributing photographs and video images on the internet of children naked, in sexual poses and/or being sexually abused.

Children and young people should be supported to understand that when they use digital technology 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 whom they have only previously met on-line.

Children and young people should be warned about the risks of taking sexually explicit pictures of themselves and sharing them on the internet or by text.


5. Further Information

See UK Safer Internet website and CEOP, ThinkuKnow website.

Behaviour 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 following legislation may apply:

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.

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 and 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 on one occasion (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.

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.

Serious Crime Act 2015

The Act introduces a new offence of sexual communication with a child. This would criminalise an adult who communicates with a child for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, where 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.