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Online Safety: Social Media and Gaming

Social Media

Social media is the collective term for social networking websites, video sharing platforms, online blogs and community forums that enable users to communicate with others, share photos and videos, play games together, and keep informed about news, events and campaigns.

There are a wide range of potential risks that could be experienced on social media, alongside the many benefits, for example:

  • Adverts and spam
  • Cyberbullying and harassment
  • Grooming, online sexual abuse and exploitation
  • Oversharing personal or private information
  • Potential impact on emotional-wellbeing, self-esteem and/or mental health
  • Receiving ‘friend’ requests or messages from unknown people
  • Seeing or sharing inappropriate or upsetting posts, pictures or videos
  • Unreliable information, fake news and hoaxes

Social media is primarily funded by advertising, where they sell targeted advertising space to other companies based on user’s data; they are restricted from doing this with the data of children (under 13) by the Children’s Privacy Protection Act. For this reason, most social media sites have a minimum age requirement of 13 years.

Social media can provide new and exciting opportunities for educational settings to engage, communicate and collaborate with learners, parents/carers and their wider communities.

Online Misogyny and Problematic Content

Schools are increasingly raising concerns regarding the potential impact of online influencers who may be promoting misogynistic and/or other problematic ideas. This type of content can promote and encourage discriminatory behaviours and attitudes (including racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic attitudes), sexual harassment and abuse, abuse in relationships, and victim-blaming narratives which can ultimately present a number of safeguarding challenges for schools. The impact of this content can also be magnified as it can tap into insecurities children or indeed adults may have about body image and agency, and the frequent focus on money, success and power can play on financial and status insecurities, which can lead to risky and even illegal behaviours.

Whilst targeted action is recommended in any cases where a child is known to be specifically accessing misogynistic/problematic content and/or is sharing harmful view/messages, a robust and well planned PSHE/RSE education as part of a spiral curriculum is the recommended approach to ensure schools develop an effective and reflective response to proactively tackle this issue.

If schools are aware of a specific issue involving pupils accessing misogynist content online, please contact the online safety team for advice. In addition to our online safety team, additional advice and information is also available through the Kent Prevent Education Officers.


Gaming is one of the most popular online activities for children and young people; it is a fun way to spend time with friends and family members and can create opportunities to develop teamwork, concentration skills and problem-solving.

Many games have an interactive online element, which enables users to play against others online, chat, send messages or make purchases. This online component can introduce additional risks, such as:

  • Cyberbullying and harassment
  • Exposure to inappropriate or harmful content, such as sexualised or violent material
  • Grooming, online sexual abuse and exploitation
  • In-app/game purchasing and gambling
  • Overuse of screens and ‘addiction’
  • Receiving requests or messages from unknown people.

Video games are age rated in accordance with the Pan European Gaming Information rating; the PEGI rating considers the age suitability of a game, not the level of difficulty.

The impact of video games on children and young people is widely debated and academic research is often inconclusive or conflicted. Some studies suggest that the impact of playing video games depends on a range of factors, including family environment, age of child and developmental ability.

Responding to concerns

Many online behaviour incidents amongst young people occurring on social media and gaming platforms outside the school/setting day and off premises. Whilst parents/carers are ultimately responsible for this behaviour, DSLs and leaders should ensure that appropriate action is taken if any safeguarding concerns or incidents that affect the school/setting culture are reported.

If specific concerns are brought to schools and settings attention, the DSL should ensure they are discussed with parents/carers and any other professionals involved to ensure appropriate safeguarding action is taken. If there are any child welfare or safeguarding concerns regarding the use of gaming or social media, they should be responded to in line with the settings child protection policies. Kent educational settings can contact the Education Safeguarding Service for advice on responding to concerns on gaming, social media or using social media safely with their community.

It is important to recognise that if simply banning children from playing online games or using social networking sites underage is likely to be ineffective and runs the risk of driving safeguarding concerns, such as abuse or bullying, underground as children will not report concerns for fear of getting into trouble or having their internet access and/or devices taken away. Whilst education settings should not promote the underage use of gaming or social media, it is important to ensure children and their parents/carers access information and support to make informed and appropriate choices. Staff should be aware of and follow the UKCIS ‘Challenging victim blaming language and behaviours when dealing with the online experiences of children and young people’ guidance when discussing issues on social media/gaming.

Advice for settings to regarding advice for parents/carers and responding to harmful content, including online 'warnings' challenges and hoaxes can be found on our supporting parents/carers page and at:

GamCare’s Young People’s Service

GamCare provides information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling harms. Although most gambling is illegal for under 18s, the latest Young People and Gambling Survey shows that approximately 350,000 (11%) of 11-16-year-olds spent their own money gambling in the previous week – that’s more than those who smoked (6%) or took drugs (5%). The survey found that more boys than girls gamble, and as many as 55,000 young people nationally can be classified as experiencing harm from their gambling. The report found that the most common form of gambling among the 11-16 age group was betting with friends, but buying scratch cards and lottery tickets, playing fruit or slot machines, and gambling online, also feature.

GamCare runs a specific website for young people, called the BigDeal, and have launched a dedicated support service tailored to the needs of young people. The Young People Service (YPS) can support anyone aged 18 and in the UK who is either at risk of, or is experiencing, harms because of gambling. This can be if they are gambling themselves, or if they are affected by someone else’s gambling. The service is free, flexible and confidential and offers information, advice and self-help tools tailored to each young person’s needs to ensure that every young person worried about gambling is listened to and fully supported. Professionals concerned about a young person experiencing gambling-related harm can also get in touch with the Young People Service for advice.

For more information about the service, including making referrals, e-Learning content and factsheets access the BigDeal website and parents and professionals hub.