What do children really know about grooming?

Former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon announced that 27 police forces are currently investigating 54 alleged gangs involved in child grooming, in England and Wales - the crackdown on grooming follows the recent convictions of the sex abuse ring in the Oxford area.

Former deputy high court judge and independent crossbencher Lord Elystan-Morgan suggested that law enforcement agencies should be ‘prepared to adopt more robust tactics, including infiltration and surveillance’. Lord Taylor reassuringly stated that ‘the government is determined the system should work, the system needs to work, to protect these vulnerable children.’

Issues of grooming, especially over the internet, are becoming increasingly more of an issue. In 2012 1,145 online abuse cases were reported to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Online sexual abuse is often conducted through instant messenger applications, social networking sites and webcams. In some cases reported, offenders hacked into victims’ accounts and refused to give their accounts back unless the child did what the abuser told them to do; demands then became more frequent, making the child feel trapped in a cycle. The offender may then ask to meet the victims in person, and the cycle will continue to spiral out of control.

Law enforcement authorities have said they rely upon victims reporting these issues, but many children, without being educated on what grooming is, may not realise what is happening at first, they may then feel stuck, helpless and not understand what actions to take.

As more and more children are gaining unsupervised access to the internet (through the assortment of devices which now offer web access), the issue of grooming could potentially escalate, and with no one there to safeguard them, they need to be taught how to safeguard themselves.

Here at E-safety Support we recognise the seriousness of the issue and how important it is that all children who use the internet understand that grooming happens so frequently. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is also an issue to address as well as the worrying reality that grooming is not restricted to strangers, but can also be from someone in a position of trust. Children need to be educated, in school and at home, on what grooming is, how to avoid falling victim to it (both online and offline), and what to do if they ever encounter grooming attempts. Teaching children this information will reinforce understanding and awareness of grooming and inappropriate contact and help them to avoid dangerous situations.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 18, 2013 13:55

School e-safety practice and the Unicef Rights of the Child legislation

I come from a Rights Respecting School, and part of the objectives of this accreditation is to ensure students are au fait with the responsibilities associated with such rights. Internet Safety ties in to numerous sections of the Unicef Rights of the Child legislation which can be used to prompt some useful guidance for conduct around e-safety in schools.

What do schools need to do against the articles of legislation?

Article 13: Freedom of Expression
What schools need to do: Encourage safe practice to share & express views, while reiterating responsibility for the effect this may have on others. Ensuring expressions are shared in safe format, working against cyber bullying.

Article 15: Freedom of Association
What schools need to do: Ensure children are aware of safety and security issues involved with online friendships, chat rooms, virtual worlds games, dangers of alternate realities and paedophilia, what to look for.

Article 16: Right to Privacy
What schools need to do: Ensure children are aware of how to employ privacy settings for online media (particularly social networking), link to cyber bullying.

Article 17: Right to access information & mass media
What schools need to do: Ensure students aware of how to search online safely, danger signs, potential scamming / phishing / virus mails.

Written by Jo Debens on March 25, 2013 14:58

What is ask.fm?

ask.fm is an online question and answer website, which has been in the news recently due to links to cyberbullying and two tragic teen suicides in Ireland. So why is the site so controversial?

Anonymity. It is sad but true that people are far more likely to post negative or abusive comments online if they are able to do so anonymously. Ask.fm allows users to do this, meaning that anyone can say anything they want. As a result you get posts such as “why are you boring and stupid?” (posted onto the profile of a teenage girl), “who would you f**k at our school?” (on the profile of a teenage boy) and “One good reason you should live” (on the profile of a 16 year old girl).

Tip: If your students use ask.fm, recommend that the ability to answer anonymous questions is disabled in their account settings.

Unmoderated content. As you can tell from the questions above, the site is not moderated, so there is no-one sitting in ask.fm’s office with responsibility for removing offending posts. As they state in their terms and conditions “You understand that in using the ask.fm service you may encounter content that may be deemed objectionable, obscene or in poor taste, which content may or may not be identified as having explicit language. The ask.fm service allows for anonymous content which ask.fm does not monitor. You agree to use the ask.fm service at your own risk and that ask.fm shall have no liability to you for content that you may find objectionable, obscene or in poor taste.”

Minimum age. The minimum age to use the site is 13, two years younger than Facebook. This inevitably means that children younger than 13 are using the site. This is the core of the controversy around ask.fm - presenting young teens with the opportunity to post online in an unmoderated environment where they can post anonymously is asking for trouble.

ask.fm is the brainchild of web entrepreneur Mark Terebin, who is based in Latvia. In the face of media criticism of his site, he has denied any responsibility, blaming a lack of “…values in families and schools” for the bullying, suicides and suicide attempts linked to ask.fm. The website, he claims is “…just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen.”

ask.fm lesson

Talk to your students about ask.fm, and ask them if they understand why the site is in the news. Use it as a discussion point on the topic of online safety and cyberbullying, and encourage the students to challenge the way the site works if they think it is wrong, or could be improved. Use the site as a way of exploring issues and asking the questions:


  • Can online comments really make someone suicidal?

  • Why do people post negative comments online?

  • What do they think of Mark Terebin's comments about the site?

  • Should ask.fm be banned from school networks?


ask.fm into policy and practice

The outcome of these discussions could be incorporated into your school e-safety policy, or students could draft recommendations to be emailed to parents who may be concerned about this issue.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on March 25, 2013 14:59


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