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How to address sexting in schools

Sexting
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

“Sexting…(is) common among teenagers in most schools. From time to time we hear about issues with sexting and recently a student reported that she had been asked for images by someone who had sent her images of himself. I’ve also heard about anonymous groups which seem to be popping up on social media and asking for images.” – A head teacher at a Dorset school

Just how common is sexting?

An article in Sec Ed emphasised a 2016 NSPCC/Office of the Children’s Commissioner England study which stated that 13% of boys and girls had taken topless pictures of themselves and 3% had taken fully naked pictures. Of the children who had taken sexual images, 55% had shared them with their peers. 31% of this group had shared such images with someone that they did not know.

Furthermore, The Times carried out an investigation of 50 schools and found that tens of thousands of children shared sexual imagery online over the last three years. It also revealed that more than a third of sexting cases involved children aged 12 and 13.

So, what can teachers do to tackle this ‘sexting crisis’?

How to respond to and manage sexting incidents

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) published guidance in 2016 to help teachers and schools manage incidents of sexting by students under 18 years of age. “Sexting in schools and colleges: Responding to incidents and safeguarding young people” highlights the steps that need to be taken if sexting happens in your school:

1. Disclosures

A student who is affected by a sexting incident may inform a class teacher, the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) at the school or any other member of the staff. School policies must outline the protocols for such disclosures. These should follow the normal child protection policies. A student who is the subject of sexual imagery is likely to be distressed, especially if the image has been circulated widely and/or if they don’t know who has shared it or where it has ended up.

Depending on the evidence and the initial review meeting the school may decide the best course of action – whether to involve the police or any other agencies.

2. Handling devices and imagery

Teachers have significant powers to seize and search an electronic device if there is a good reason for doing so. If they believe that a device contains indecent images, that device can be examined and confiscated.

When it comes to viewing such imagery, teachers should not view it unless there is a clear reason to do so. This decision must be based on the professional judgment of the DSL and must be in accordance with the child protection policies and procedures. However, there are exceptional cases when such imagery may be viewed:

  • If viewing the imagery is the only way to decide whether to involve other agencies
  • To report the image to a website or app or a suitable reporting agency to have it taken down
  • To support the aggrieved student or their parents to prepare a report
  • The student has presented such imagery directly to the staff or if it has been found on the school network

3. Assessing the risks and deciding on a response

There are various reasons for students to engage in sexting: romantic exploration, coercion or boosting self-confidence. If a decision is made not to refer to the police or any other agencies, the DSL should assess the risks by considering key questions and then deciding on the appropriate response. Some of them are:

  • Why was such an image shared?
  • Was the student under pressure to produce such an image?
  • Across which platforms has the image been shared?
  • Was it shared with the knowledge of the concerned student?
  • Does the student fully understand consent?

4. Involving parents

The decision to involve parents must be taken at an early stage unless it puts the students at risk. The decision not to involve parents should be made in conjunction with other agencies. The responsibility then lies with such agencies as to when they deem it appropriate to inform parents. DSLs may either work with students to decide on the best approach or support them in informing their parents themselves.

5. Preventative education programmes

The Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance states that schools should ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities. Therefore, teachers could develop lesson plans and classroom activities to teach students about sexting.

This would help students develop skills, qualities, and knowledge to help them avoid such risks. Such initiatives by teachers also help in maintaining open lines of communication should they encounter such problems.

At Securus we identify and prevent thousands of online risks to students every day. Get in touch with us today to safeguard them and monitor their digital footprint!

How can schools prevent and respond to race and faith targeted bullying?

Race and faith targeted bullying
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

We focus so much of our time and effort on teaching our children to respect their roots, their heritage, their lineage or their faith. However, when they become victims of bullying related to race and faith, you often find yourself wondering how to help your child not to feel left out or bullied because of the way they look, their culture or their nationality.

As teachers and parents, it is natural to become increasingly concerned about rising levels of bullying incidents. To help combat this, here are some key actions that schools can take, both to prevent and respond to race and faith targeted bullying.

  • Send out an email to all students and parents to remind them of the school ethos and values and remind them too, that the school challenges all forms of bullying and abuse. That email must stress that any reports of racist behaviour will be taken seriously even via social media platforms.
  • Ensure that your anti-bullying policy and cyber safety policies include race and faith targeted bullying This can be posted on your school website so that it is readily available to all members of the school community.
  • Encourage students to be vigilant about bullying, prejudice and abuse, and to report any concerns.
  • During tutor time, in assemblies and through the curriculum, take time to ensure that all students feel that they are all equally cherished, respected and valued. Reassure them that if they have any worries about bullying or abuse, they can speak to teachers and support staff.
  • All members of the school community should be informed that any offensive language or comments will be strictly dealt with.
  • If you are unsure how to handle such situations, then it is important that your school seeks advice. Here are some organisations that may be able to offer additional support: ChildLineSupports, Tell MAMA, crimestoppers-uk.org, org and victimsupport.

Choosing a resource or activity that can help prevent race and faith targeted bullying

You can have a policy to tackle issues relating to bullying, but when it comes to bullying related to race and faith, it can get a bit sensitive. Follow these steps:

  • Ensure that you familiarise yourself with the resource. For instance, if it is a film related to bullying, watch it all the way through.
  • Consider whether the resource may provoke strong reactions in students or if it could lead to conflict. If it does, how will you manage? Also, understand whether you might need additional support either prior to using the resource, during or after the session.
  • Check whether the resource is suitable for the age group.
  • Encourage students to talk to you if they feel uncomfortable during any of the sessions, because bullying related to race and faith need to be tackled delicately.

Not all incidents of bullying due to race, faith and culture need legal intervention. Your first approach should always be to talk openly with your child’s school. Also, don’t forget to ask:

Is your school protected?

A cyber safety solution is an ideal way to secure your school’s networks. Securus is designed to protect pupils and staff on the curriculum network by way of alerting the schools safeguarding team of inappropriate and potentially harmful behaviour.

e-Safety guidelines for schools and teachers

e-safety
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Internet has enabled young people to explore, connect, create and learn in ways never imagined before.  It has, in fact, given us all immense power. It has often been said that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So how can we ensure our children are using this power responsibly? The answer is e-Safety education.

e-Safety is constantly evolving. One company that has been instrumental in safeguarding young people online in the UK is Securus, the leading e-Safety solution for schools and colleges. Securus monitors all computer-based activities, both within and outside of places of learning, and alerts school authorities to anything that suggests a child may be at risk or is breaching acceptable use policies.  Since 2002, more than 3,500 educational establishments have enjoyed the benefits Securus provides, by identifying and preventing thousands of online threats to children every day.

One major concern raised recently by the government is cyberbullying.  A staggering 69% of all school age children report having been bullied, with a large proportion taking the form of cyberbullying.  It is not just the children who suffer, however.  A  guide released by the Department for Education reveals that 21% of teachers have reported derogatory comments posted about them by children on social media sites. Read our blog to delve a bit deeper into cyberbullying.

e-Safety guidelines for teachers

In November 2013, the Guardian published an article, which reported that schools play a very important role in confronting online abuse. A majority of teachers feel that schools should improve their levels of online safety education.

How can schools help keep students safe online?

Quiz –  You could use a quiz to emphasise the importance of using strong passwords for online security. For example: what was your first pet’s name? What is your date of birth? What is your email address? Or, what is your favourite film? After you obtain the answers, tell them that you now have the information to retrieve their passwords. Encourage them to make the connection between these questions and regularly asked security questions online, and teach them techniques to make the information more secure.

School policy –  many schools have embraced e-Safety, but how many of them consider e-Safety education to be mandatory in their schools? Ensure that school networks operate like home networks – they should be open and trusted, but with regular monitoring and honest discussion when breaches are made.  Additionally, teach your pupils how to use online tools effectively for personal use, education and socialising. Also, help them develop critical thinking skills around all aspects of being online.

Involve older students –  peer education is one of the most positive ways to build awareness on e-Safety. Elect a group of older pupils, and provide them with in depth training to enable them to become e-Safety ambassadors who can train students, staff and parents. Here is what  e-Safety advisor specialist, Alan Mackenzie has to say about this approach: “The students were particularly responsive to this approach as the advice was practical, realistic and relevant. There were no mentions of dated social networking sites or advice of the ‘don’t meet online friends’ nature, which often typify the traditional e-Safety one-off assemblies.”

Engage parents –  e-Safety discussions should be part of the school curriculum and not just something spoken about at an annual event. Families should be encouraged to participate, e-Safety is, after all, a shared responsibility.  There should be regular and open communication with families, where parents can be educated on e-Safety, covering such topics as using filters, parental controls and home computer security. To learn more about how to protect children using parental controls, read our blog.

Be positive –   When talking to youngsters about the Internet, show them its positive aspects as well as its dangers. Do not start any discussion on e-Safety in a manner that could scare them and always emphasise using the Internet carefully and responsibly.

The e-Safety tools available today should help us to feel positive about technology. How positive are you?

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