Teaching e-safety in primary schools

How can e-safety be taught more imaginatively to engage but not startle children?

Teaching e-safety in primary schools is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand there is evidence that primary aged girls in particular and some boys, are becoming fearful of the Internet and on the other hand we know that just under two thirds of 10-11 year olds always follow the e-safety advice they have been taught. Many girls only do so because they are scared ‘something bad will happen to me’. The remainder follow the advice intermittently or never.

At a recent parents’ evening a mother passed me a note which read ‘My daughter is too scared to have a mobile phone.’ I decided to look again at the most recent responses of primary school girls to our annual Cybersurvey. There it was again, so many were saying how scared they were. Have they been frightened by scary stories about the dangers of the Internet? The boys on the other hand occasionally mentioned fear, but strongly emphasised problem solving skills and their wish for autonomy. Again and again they included the word’ myself’ in their answers. ‘I found out for myself’ or ‘I sort out problems myself’ or they said they followed the e-safety advice ‘because I want to play and watch things.’

Thinking about what we want for our young people and their online futures, I knew it was not obedience because of fear, or a lackadaisical approach to following e-safety advice displayed by those who said they ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ follow the advice. By the age of 14 those who are not carefully following e-safety advice constitute almost three quarters of all students! Instead I wanted that burgeoning wish for autonomy and digital competence to be encouraged.

This has led to soul searching and workshops, surveys and discussions with teachers, students and parents. How can e-safety be taught more imaginatively to engage but not startle children and how can we get stickiness so that they do not drift away from adherence in the teen years when they need it most? We know that cyberbullying and high risk behaviours peak in the mid-teens.

Furthermore our survey data collected over seven years found that children and young people in vulnerable groups felt their e-safety education was not working for them. They were more likely to take multiple risks online, share explicit images (yes a few even at age 11) and to visit inappropriate sites and those encouraging self-harm, anorexia or gambling. Though small, this worrying group represent the children most in need of support.

The next step was to try to create activities that could be adaptable and used to engage children, excite them, and encourage their wish to take charge of their online lives. When they were asked for their ideas, a fascinating range of suggestions were offered. We could use fiction, drama, art, spot the difference games, debates, quizzes and digi-dilemmas to bring home the messages.

Clearly not all types of activity will suit every child, but getting our messages right and using a wide range of delivery styles we could have a better chance of success. Then there is the structure of the teaching. Going back to good teaching methods with regular re-caps and building step by step on what was learned before, breaking it down into chunks, giving practical demonstrations – all build up knowledge gradually in an age appropriate way. Don’t have a guest in for a day to give sessions on e-safety and then disappear. Think of it like maths! Don’t move on until they fully understand the first step.

One suggestion in my book is to colour code the messages so that any advice on ‘safe searching’ for example is always delivered in the same colour and wall displays or handouts reflect this. Any tools in your armoury for teaching should be harnessed to delivering e-safety. It could arguably be the most important skill the children will take forward into their future lives. Above all it needs to be a partnership with children and young people as we explore the internet and new devices, apps and software together. It cannot work if we simply hand down a set of rigid rules even though that is tempting because it appears to be easier.

  • Use colour to separate the messages for wall displays (Safe search, safe talk, safe posting each take a colour and always remain linked to that colour etc.)
  • Break the information into short digestible chunks
  • Re-cap or test with a quiz or a kinetic activity before moving on
  • Include practical demonstrations with older children helping younger ones
  • Avoid using scare tactics,
  • Emphasise how they can learn to problem-solve or report to an adult, they can take charge of their online lives
  • Use characters and stories adapted from favourite fiction or movies to illustrate situations for pupils to problem-solve. How did the wolf know when Red Riding Hood was going to be at her gran’s? He cracked her password which was weak (RRHood).
  • If you would like to share your tips on engaging pupils on this difficult topic, please use the comments section below

    Written by Adrienne Katz on June 18, 2015 08:42

    IWF report shows huge increase in removal of web pages depicting abuse

    The Internet Watch Foundation has identified and assisted the removal of 137% more webpages depicting child sexual abuse last year, than the year before.

    IWF Logo

  • The global speed at which child sexual abuse imagery is being removed also increased last year, meaning victims’ images which had been identified globally, had a shorter life-span online.

  • There were large percentage increases in child sexual abuse imagery identified in image hosting
    services and cyberlockers*.
  • IWF launches a drive to encourage more online companies to step up and do the right thing regarding child sexual abuse images online.


  • The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) recently launched its trends and analysis on the global picture of child sexual abuse image distribution online. The IWF Annual Report 2014 reveals that its new ability to actively seek out the content, which was given in April 2014, has been effective in identifying of more criminal material than ever before. The IWF is the only Hotline in the world with the ability to do this.

    The IWF is a charity, and self-regulatory body set up in 1996 by the online industry. It is the UK’s Hotline for reporting child sexual abuse imagery online and is funded by 117 companies and organisations (https://www.iwf.org.uk/members/current-members). Due to the increased funding these companies gave the IWF, it recruited more Internet Content Analysts last year, taking the total from four, to 12.

    IWF Report ImageThe IWF takes reports of suspected criminal content from the public, which includes members of the public, police officers and IT professionals.

    Coupled with its new ability to actively search for the images and videos using intelligence-based tactics, it was able to assist with the removal 31,266 URLs of child sexual abuse last year, compared to 13,182 in 2013. A URL can contain one, or many thousand images and videos.



    Global speed of removal
    Less than 0.3% (95 URLs) of the imagery identified last year was hosted in the UK (in 1996, 18% was UK-hosted) and 95% was removed within a day, often within two hours. Last year, most was hosted in North America (56%) and Europe including Russia (41%). The speed at which countries are removing the content has increased.

    After 10 days

    • 91% of URLs are removed within Europe (86% in 2013);
    • 72% of URLs are removed within North America (68% in 2013);
    • 50% of URLs are removed from other locations around the world (44% in 2013)

    When the IWF identifies a child sexual abuse URL hosted in another country, it notifies that country’s hotline, or law enforcement agency. It then repeatedly chases up with that country until the URL is removed.

    Abused services
    Many legitimate online services are abused by those wishing to distribute child sexual abuse imagery.

    • Image hosting services (where users can upload images and make them available via a unique
    URL) were most abused last year (from 5,594 URLs in 2013 to 19,710 URLs in 2014).
    • File host, or cyberlockers (which are online file hosting services, cloud storage services or online
    file storage providers) saw a 299% increase in abuse last year, compared to 2013 (from 1,400 URLs
    in 2013 to 5,582 URLs in 2014).

    IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves, said: “Our ability to actively seek out child sexual abuse imagery created a significant step-change in the effectiveness of the IWF.

    “We have a mission to protect victims of sexual abuse from having their images repeatedly viewed. The more content we can identify and work with others to get removed, the bigger the benefit to those victims.

    “We are also here to help the internet industry from being abused and the online industry in the UK and increasingly, globally, is really stepping up to help us remove this imagery but we know there are many more companies who are either yet to recognise they have an issue, or are being too slow to respond.

    “It is not good enough for those companies to allow the burden of responsibility to fall on a socially responsible few. This year we will ensure they are armed with the knowledge, information and support they need to protect themselves and benefit all internet users and victims of sexual abuse.”

    *A cyberlocker is a file hosting service, cloud storage service or online file storage provider. Cyberlockers are internet hosting services specifically designed to host users’ files.

    To download a copy of the report, visit the IWF website

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on April 30, 2015 11:00

    Internet Safety Film Competition

    Childnet launch the 6th Childnet Film Competition in partnership with PhonepayPlus


    Childnet CompetitionChildnet have launched the 6th Childnet Film Competition to encourage young people to create a short film to educate their peers about staying safe online. Teaming up with the UK regulator, PhonepayPlus, this year’s competition will boast a whole new category and a new upper age limit of 18 years, meaning that even more schools and youth groups can get involved!

    As Becky Nancarrow, Education Projects Officer at Childnet, said "for the last 5 years our film competition has given primary and secondary schools, as well as youth organisations, from across the UK, the challenge of creating a short film about internet safety. This year secondary schools will be able to get even more creative, as they are given the opportunity to illustrate another part of their digital lives through film.”

    This introduction of a 2nd category for secondary age pupils is as a result of Childnet teaming with up with UK premium rate services regulator PhonepayPlus' PhoneBrain competition. The PhoneBrain category aims to help young people understand the costs involved in using premium rate services, like buying apps and entering text or phone competitions without getting charged more than expected.

    As Peter Morton, Head of Communications at PhonepayPlus explained “the PhoneBrain competition aims to engage and educate as many young people as possible in using their phones safely and confidently without stacking up unexpectedly high bills. Last year’s competition saw entries from schools and youth groups from across the country and we are really pleased to be working in partnership with Childnet this year to reach even more people with the competition.”

    Across all three categories Childnet are looking for creative, imaginative films which reflect a positive and inspiring message. The top three films in each category will be invited to a private screening at the BFI in London and the winners will be awarded film kits, including a Canon DSLR and green screen, for their schools.

    Think your school or youth organisation has what it takes? Then here’s how to enter:

    Choose your category and follow the competition brief:


    If you would like to register a group of talented young people you know, then please send an email to film@childnet.com. The closing date for entries is Friday 12th June 2015 at 5pm



    Childnet Competition 2014Winning team from the Primary category 2014:

    “Taking part gave the children a defined goal to aim for and the ability to better understand the needs for vigilance online. In addition, they picked up skills in planning, filming and editing the final entry which are not only valuable, but things they can take forward into other projects at home and school.

    Winning the competition has been such a boost for the school and the children involved…This has turned what was easily a very rewarding experience, into something much more enriching and far-reaching.”

    Winning team from the Secondary category 2014:

    “They enjoyed the opportunity to create something focussed and demonstrate their knowledge of the topic as well as showcasing their technical skills. As a school we have encouraged students to be very conscious of their online presence and the films created this year demonstrated the understanding that the girls have developed. As for winning, the girls had convinced themselves that third place was honourable so to win was fabulous and the big cheque was taken on a tour of the London sights. The whole school is proud of the girls and we’re already encouraging the students to think of ideas for 2015.”

    Written by Childnet International on March 26, 2015 13:43


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