8 December 2017
By Rebecca Avery

Online Safety Alert - Social Media Concern: Information for Kent Schools

The following advice has been written by the Kent Education Safeguarding Team with approval from the Kent Police POLIT team. A version of this post has already been sent via email to Designated Safeguarding Leads registered with the Education Safeguarding Team area offices. We have received a number of reports from schools relating to a video of child abuse  which is being shared through a variety of social media channels. This issue predominantly involves Secondary schools, however Primary schools or Early Years settings could be affected where children have older siblings. Police are aware of the video and  safeguarding action (link updated Jan 2018) has been taken to identify and protect the children involved. However upsetting, conflicting and inaccurate information is believed to be circulating, which is leading to panic and distress. Schools need to be vigilant to such concerns, but we would encourage you to take a proportional and informed response. If this issue has not directly affected your school:

  • Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and/or Headteachers may choose to send general reminders to pupils and parents about online safety. Kent schools and settings can contact the Education Safeguarding Team for further advice.
  • Template letters and resources are available through the Education Safeguarding Team Blog;
  • Be aware that sharing specific information regarding the video may be distressing to adults and children; Headteachers should consider if it is appropriate and necessary to do so.

If a concern has been reported at your school:

  • Staff may be the first to be informed of the concern; ensure they are all aware of the need to report safeguarding concerns, including online safety issues, directly to a DSL so they can take appropriate safeguarding action.
  • If pupils have received the video they should be supported in reporting the concern directly to the police via CEOP and/or Kent police via 101.
    • Following this, pupils should be supported in deleting the content (if appropriate) and to block and report any accounts sharing the video to the social networking site or app involved.
    • The Think U Know and Safer Internet Centre website have information on privacy settings and reporting methods
  • If pupils are distressed by the content and/or are considered to be vulnerable, consideration should be given to speaking directly with their parents, ideally in discussion with the pupils involved. DSLs may also potentially need to refer to or inform other agencies; for example if any of the pupils who receive the video are at risk or are known to early help or social care.
  • Schools may wish to wait until they have received a response from Police/CEOP before speaking with the wider pupil group; however, if it is felt to be appropriate or required to do so, we’d suggest speaking with pupils sensitively on a small group basis, such as in tutor groups and not via a large assembly as this could lead to safeguarding issues.
    • The school may wish to mention there has been a concern reported locally whereby upsetting content is being circulated online. We would not advise sharing the name of possible apps involved, possible names of young people involved or specific details about the video with pupils, as this could be misleading and distressing, both for your own pupils and for the families of those involved. Additionally specific information could make pupils curious which could result in the content becoming more widely shared or accessed.
    • Pupils should be reminded of how to respond if they are sent any upsetting or concerning concern online, such as speaking to a trusted adult, reporting to CEOP and/or the website/app involved.
    • Pupils should not be blamed for receiving this content, assuming it has been sent to them without a request and they have not copied or forwarded it on. We would suggest being clear with pupils about the potential legal issues of forwarding, copying or sharing illegal content, however would advise doing so with caution as if children are afraid of being criminalised or punished, this it could prevent them from coming forward to share concerns now and/or in the future.
    • It’s likely this approach could lead to disclosures; this would need to be managed by the school, such as having at least two members of staff present.
  • Following this, schools may decide it is appropriate to share information with parents; if so, a template letter is available from the Education Safeguarding Team on request.
  • Schools can also report this concern directly to CEOP, the Internet Watch Foundation (depending on where content has been shared) and/or to Kent Police via 101.

Kent Schools should contact their Area Safeguarding Adviser directly or the Kent Online Safety Team if they have any queries, or wish to discuss this issue further.