Strangers online… or are they?

It’s crucial to have open, honest chats with young people about the people they meet online.

E-safety Training Child Game
A common message given to young people is: don’t speak to strangers online. This is primarily a safeguarding message; we recognise that strangers might pose risks and we want to protect our children from these.

But, what is a stranger to someone online?

The way that we interact with people online has changed, and for young people, a lot of this is due to online social gaming.


What is social gaming?

When I played games when I was younger, I’d either play by myself or have someone physically sitting next to me with a games controller. Nowadays, however, due to the speed of the Internet, we can play with others online and see what they’re doing in real-time; we call this social gaming. We can also chat to them via text or voice, adding to the experience and the immersion. We can choose to play games with our friends, but more and more games are encouraging players to play against people they don’t know… people we would refer to as ‘strangers’.

Why we need to change our terminology

Imagine the scenario: a child is playing an online game with a friend, and that friend invites one of his friends to play. Within a minute or two, the child may not perceive the new person as a stranger; they’ve become a new friend or acquaintance. It happened quickly, and as they were introduced by their friend, they’re more likely to be immediately trusted. We know that when people are online their behaviour changes and, in this scenario, due to the physical distance between players, the child would be more likely to engage in riskier behaviour (engaging with the ‘stranger’) than they would do in real life as their defences are lower.

We, therefore, may be better talking to children about ‘new people’ or ‘new players’ they meet online, rather than ‘strangers’.

The risks

It’s important that young people are made aware of the risks that meeting new people online can bring:

  • They may not be who they say they are and may be good at hiding their true identity;
  • They may be attempting to groom or harm by using emotional and/or persuasive strategies – this could involve trying to make video-chat arrangements;
  • They may be trying to arrange to meet in real-life;
  • They may be trying to find people online to bully.
  • Supporting young people

    It’s crucial to have open, honest chats with young people about the people they meet online. Our key messages to them should include:

  • The importance of thinking before acting, and approaching new people with a level of scepticism, even if they’re friends of friends;
  • The knowledge that it’s easy to pretend to be someone else online;
  • The importance of blocking and/or reporting anyone online who’s pretending to be someone else;
  • The importance of speaking to trusted adults about people online who are frightening them or asking them to do things which make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Further links:
    The Breck Foundation - (a story of someone who was groomed through gaming)

    Written by Matt Lovegrove on October 25, 2018 11:42

    Have your say: Mobile phones in schools

    To ban or not ban mobile phones in schools - the debate continues

    Mobile Phone LearningBack in June, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, supported schools who ban mobile phones, stating that their use in the classroom was "dubious" and that technology was to blame for "low-level disruption". This appeared to be supported by an LSE study which indicated that the banning of smartphones in schools boosted results. You can read more in our previous blog.

    These comments and findings would suggest that a ban would be a positive action, although this is only seemingly supported in principle by the DfE.

    In a recent speech at the Confederation of Schools Trusts conference, Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, made reference to the recent ban in France. In his speech he stated that he believes "that kids in schools should not be on their phones", adding "I strongly support schools that ban phones. But when people asked me if I was going to follow the example of France and impose a national ban – I said no".

    This leaves schools with the option to make the decision based on their own school experiences.

    As reported in the Telegraph recently, schools are taking a number of different actions, from banning phones from school premises, having children hand in phones on arrival at school, "invisibility" polices and so on, supported by acceptable usage polices from both the students and parents.

    However, taking a different approach is as school in Folkestone. Just last week, Kent Online reported that Folkestone School for Girls is not banning phones as they find them to be "valuable learning resources". The headteacher added "We do not have an endless list of dos and don'ts and trust and respect our girls to make informed and intelligent decisions about their own behaviour"


    Have your say: Should mobile phones be banned in schools?

    Do you think a ban would be beneficial in your school, or do you think that allowing children to have them in school can be useful for learning? Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts and experiences, or simply answer the question, should mobile phones be banned in schools.

    You can now also take part on our mobile phone survey - all responses are anonymous. Click here to complete the short questionnaire

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on November 09, 2018 09:57

    Terror coverage makes young people anxious

    New report reveals what kids think about war and terrorism


    BBC News CoverageA new report reveals how much children worry about war and terrorism and why – and if they don’t worry why not? It also looks at what solutions children have for making the world a safer place to grow up in.

    The CHILDWISE What Kids Think About…War and Terrorism report interviewed a representative sample of 1,557 children aged between 7 and 16.

    “This report takes a step back and allows children and teenagers’ words to speak for themselves, in turn allowing us to understand their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on the subject of war and terrorism,” says Dr Helena Dare Edwards, CHILDWISE researcher.

    “It’s not often that adults hear what kids think about subjects like war and terrorism. But these matters affect them so they have a right to a voice,” says Helena.

    As reported by the BBC, the report claims that "Media coverage of terror attacks and extremism can leave young people anxious and with an exaggerated fear of becoming victims", adding that "terrorism was seen as a bigger worry than issues such as bullying, racism, cruelty to children or worries about getting a job."

    Dr Reza Gholami, a leading academic in this area and a senior lecturer in sociology of education at the University of Birmingham, wrote an independent foreword to the report. “The findings should act as a wake-up call,” he says.

    “This report by CHILDWISE has immediate and long-term value to policy makers, the public sector, including educators, third sector and civil society organisations and, of course, the general public,” adds Dr Gholami.

    Previous research by CHILDWISE has shown war and terrorism are top concerns among children. This latest report expands on this finding.

    “The focus of the report rests on children’s own words, with their responses complemented by analysis and interpretive commentary to illustrate difference across age and gender and to highlight both majority and minority viewpoints and everything in between,” says Helena Dare Edwards.



    For a range of anti-radicalisation and PREVENT resources including teaching materials, parents guides and staff training, join our Safeguarding Essentials service.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on October 11, 2018 11:02


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