The internet has brought fantastic opportunities for children, but also significant challenges. Childhood has never been easy, but some issues facing millennials are new to this generation.
In recognition of this NCB is supporting this year’s Safer Internet Day, and across the whole organisation we’re working towards a better internet by influencing legislation, sharing knowledge and empowering young people to manage the risks they encounter.
Tackling bullying online, and in all its forms
We know that bullying can severely affect a child’s mental health, wellbeing and their capacity to learn. With the rise of smartphones and social media, young people tell us they can no longer leave bullying behind at the school gates.
With that in mind, our Anti Bullying Alliance recently submitted our recommendations to the Government on their Internet Strategy green paper, calling for internet service providers and social media companies to be more accountable in keeping children and young people safe online. We want to see a clear response to complaints of cyberbullying, and for complaints of bullying from under 18s to be given priority.
It’s also about equipping children to understand and manage the risks themselves. We’re calling for PSHE to be compulsory in schools and to include general online safety as well as specific teaching about bullying and cyberbullying, so children know what to do and where to turn if they encounter bullying in their own lives.
This can include witnessing bullying as well as experiencing it directly. The Anti Bullying Alliance has been working with the Royal Foundation and the Duke of Cambridge through the Royal Cyberbullying Taskforce to try to empower online bystanders. The campaign is called ‘Stop, Speak, Support’, and was launched in Anti-Bullying Week last November.
Separating fact and fiction
In this digital age, gathering the information children and young people need is a risky business, especially if adults are not prepared to be proactive in talking to them about relationships and sex. The last statutory guidance on RSE was issued in 2000 – so teachers have also been left without up-to-date advice.
This is why it is a triumph that after thirty years of campaigning all schools in England will now be required to provide relationship and sex education. And why that education must be carefully constructed to help children navigate their way through the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age.
This should include opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, so that pupils can recognise advertising techniques, stereotypes and their impact, thus empowering children and young people to make independent choices that are right for them. It should integrates a range of digital contexts within scenarios, examples, case-studies, and resources used in RSE so that learning is relevant to real-life experiences.
No one left behind
At the Council for Disabled Children, we’re also making sure children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are safe and supported online. We know that young people with SEND are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and mistreatment, and this makes a thorough, inclusive and accessible understanding of the dangers of social media even more important.
Our continuing mission to amplify the voices of children and young people will be showcased in our Making Participation Work conference, where disabled young people will take part in several interactive workshops – including one on how using social media can help get their voices heard – giving young people the tools to influence decision-makers directly and make change happen.
What does a safer internet look like to you? Join the conversation on Twitter today with #SID2018 & #ItStartsWithUs