E Safety

Untitled Document

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Correspondence, Communication and Social Network Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Sexting: Advice for Parents, NSPCC

Child Safety Online - A Practical Guide for Parents and Carers whose Children are using Social Media.


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Indicators
  3. Encouraging Safe Use of the Internet
  4. Issues
  5. Further Information


1. Definition

'Internet Abuse' relates to four main areas of abuse to children:

  • Sharing and production of abusive images of children (although these are not confined to the internet);
  • A child or young person being groomed online 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 or to promote gang related violence.

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 devices. These are constantly being upgraded and their use has become more widespread as the internet can be accessed easily on mobile phones, laptops, computers, tablets, and games consoles.

Social networking sites may be used by perpetrators as an easy way to access children and young people and groom them 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.

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. In the case of online bullying 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.

Sexting is a term used when a person shares describe sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages. They can be sent using mobiles, tablets, smartphones, laptops - any device that allows you to share media and messages.

Sexting can be seen as harmless, but creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A young person is breaking the law if they:

  • Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend;
  • Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age;
  • Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.

However, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action is not in the public interest (see College of Policing - Briefing note: Police action in response to youth produced sexual imagery (‘Sexting’)).


2. Indicators

Often concerns can come to light through the 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 in children are likely to be changes in behaviour and mood. 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 seek help or advice.


3. Encouraging Safe Use of the Internet

Children can access the internet in many different ways, using a variety of devices including mobile phones, games consoles, laptops, tablets 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 draw up a set of internet rules, which should set clear boundaries and expectations for children 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;
  • Explanations of behaviour that is unacceptable e.g. bullying, gossiping;
  • If the young person accesses social networking sites, information on how to ensure that privacy settings are appropriately set and discussion around staying safe online;
  • What to do if inappropriate content is accessed or they are upset by anyone while online.

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

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 role of staff 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 a child’s online activities they should report it to the home's manager and their social worker.

Staff need to be aware that most mainstream Social Networking sites impose a minimum age limit of 13 on their membership. This includes Facebook. It is therefore not appropriate 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 is not realistic. 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. A similar approach should be taken around the use of webcams.

The use of social media / electronic communication as a way of maintaining contact with family and friends should be outlined in the child’s Care Plan. Staff should support young people to use social media and electronic communication safely and offer advice on what a young person should do if they receive a message which is inappropriate or upsetting.

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) 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:

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.

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.

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.