As we gear up for Safer Internet Day, Kathryn Tremlett from the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) offers advice on what to do if a young person comes to you with an online safety concern.
Last year a survey of teachers involved in Safer Internet Day found that 46% were aware of disclosures about potential online safeguarding issues, as a result of the activities delivered on the day. It’s positive that young people speak up about online worries and it’s important that schools are prepared for this.
However if you’re a professional working with young people it can be daunting when you’re approached by a child concerned about online behaviour. Sometimes it can be difficult to relate, especially when it’s about technology you may not know a lot about. That’s when the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) comes in.
POSH was set up in 2011 to provide support to all professionals working with children and young people. We work with teachers, social workers, doctors, police, coaches, foster carers, youth workers and many more.
The helpline provides free, independent, expert advice on all aspects of digital and online issues, such as: bullying, gaming, sexting, fraud, and grooming to name just a few. Maybe you’re worried about a young person who’s constantly glued to their device. Perhaps someone’s made a false allegation about your organisation, or a new age restricted game is raising some concerns.
Whether you need support or just someone to talk an incident through with, the Professionals Online Safety Helpline is open Monday to Friday, between 10am-4pm.
Tel: 0344 381 4772 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What to do
If a young person discloses a problem to you, here are our top tips:
Let them talk – The young person has come to you, give them the space to share what they want to in their way and listen. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt because you know what’s going on, prompt if necessary but let them do most of the talking.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep – The last thing a young person disclosing needs is promises about confidentiality which cannot be upheld. Make sure they know that you may need to talk to other people about the issue to help protect them from anything further happening.
Don’t be shocked by what they tell you – If there’s one sure way to put a young person off seeking help it’s making them feel embarrassed or ashamed about why they’re asking for help. Times change and some of the things young people do today may make us cringe sometimes, but the inherent behaviour is the same as it was when we were their age.
Trust your gut - If you have concerns, act now. Speak to the child, get support from their school and if you think they are at risk, contact the police. The National Crime Agency’s CEOP command has lots of advice at thinkuknow.co.uk
Remember your Duty of Care – All members of the children’s workforce have a responsibility to provide a duty of care for any young person they work with. Even if you’re not 100% sure whether other agencies need to be involved to help protect a young person, talk to your designated safeguarding officer. They may be better placed to help work out the next course of action
Remember aftercare – All too often we hear about incidents where an issue has been resolved but following on from this a young person and/ or professional continues to struggle with the emotional trauma. They may not know where to go for help and pointing them in the right direction for emotional support is just as important as dealing with the incident itself.
Make the call
If you are concerned a young person is in immediate danger, call 999