The Government’s Action Plan for Online Safety, notes that “it is now almost impossible to imagine a world without the internet or to imagine a future where the internet has less of a role in our lives than it does today.”
It is important that we acknowledge the central role of the internet in all of our lives and that we support children and young people to take advantage of all of the unprecedented opportunities to learn, discover, create and communicate that new technologies provide.
However, while they are often confident and competent users of new technologies, children and young people may be less aware of the inherent risks involved. It is important to support and encourage children to develop safe and responsible online behaviours.
Children First operates on the premise that it is the responsibility of everyone in society to keep children and young people safe from harm. Children First National Guidance outlines that all organisations working with children and young people are required to create a culture of safety that promotes the welfare of children and young people availing of their services. This responsibility includes keeping children safe from harm online.
The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of the internet in our everyday lives. At the same time there are risks associated with the online world.
As a result of the pandemic, children have been spending more time at home and may not have as much contact with friends, family and services as before. This highlights the importance of keeping in touch with others online.
- Children and young people may have increased their online activity and expanded the ways in which they use the internet. They may join online communities or start using new video-calling platforms. Children and young people may also seek support from online services and may have direct contact with professionals/volunteers and others in their support network.
- While all this can bring benefits to children’s mental health and well-being, it may expose them to risk online.
- In this context, it is important to remember that we all have a role and responsibility to protect and keep children and young people safe from harm
The Covid 19 pandemic has meant that many organisations that work with children have had to change the way they operate on a day to day basis. Some organisations rely on providing remote or online contact. Whatever the circumstances may be, you need to consider what updates your organisation can make to your policies and procedures to continue to ensure children are kept safe, if you have not already done so. These updates should be communicated to children and parents who use your service. Although the method by which you deliver your services may have changed, the key principles of your organisation’s child safeguarding policies and procedures remain the same.
Please see Be Safe Online, which is the Government's campaign to highlight ways to help you stay safe online particularly during the Covid 19 pandemic.