Teaching online safety
Alongside ensuring your e-safety arrangements are robust, it's essential that schools and colleges teach children and young people about staying safe online – both in and outside of school.
Teachers should have ongoing conversations with children about the benefits and dangers of the internet and create an open environment for children and young people to ask questions and raise any concerns.
Teaching online safety should not be restricted to IT and computing lessons. Embedding key messages about staying safe online throughout the curriculum helps ensure that children of all ages are taught online safety skills.
We've developed a range of engaging and age appropriate teaching resources to help teachers deliver e-safety lessons and create an ongoing conversation with children and young people about online safety.
We developed a school pack about online bullying for 11-16-year-olds with the Anti-Bullying Alliance and Diana Award. The resources can be adapted for use in lessons, assemblies or in school councils and focus on what children and young people can do if they witness cyberbullying.
A set of lesson plans, films and activities are available through It's Not OK for children and young people aged 11 and over. These reinforce the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships and how to recognise and respond to inappropriate behaviour. They cover topics including online safety, grooming and sexting.
Our Talk Relationships service supports secondary schools to deliver inclusive sex and relationships education. Alongside elearning courses and a dedicated helpline, it includes age-appropriate lesson plans on a range of relevant topics, including: safer online friendships and relationships, sharing of nudes and pornography
Teaching children and young people with special educational needs, additional needs and disabilities
Children and young people with special educational needs, additional needs and disabilities may require different teaching methods to learn about online safety, such as:
- tailored teaching materials, including visual, verbal and multi-media resources
- more detailed explanation of complex issues
- continuous reminders and reinforcement of e-safety messages
- a slower, smaller-step approach to building online resilience
(Assiter, Avery and The Education People, 2018a).
> Use our Love Life resources to talk to young people with learning disabilities about online safety and other topics
You may want to make use of external expertise to supplement and reinforce your school's online safety education.
Visitors with the right expertise can provide online safety information to children and young people, staff, volunteers and parents and carers.
When used as part of a well-planned, broad and balanced curriculum, this can make a significant contribution towards children's, staff and parents' online safety awareness.
Use visitors to enhance your approach to online safety, rather than deliver it in full. External expertise can help revisit and build on learning as part of a whole school approach to online safety. Visits should be part of longer term planning rather than only used for 'one-off' sessions in response to online safety incidents.
(UK Council for Child Internet Safety, 2022).
> Read the UK Council for Child Internet Safety guidance on using external expertise to enhance online safety education
> Find out what safeguarding measures you need to take when you have school visitors
Talking to children and young people about online abuse
We’ve created resources that will help you talk to children about online safety topics. They can help you respond to disclosures, difficult conversations that may arise and any online safety incidents, discoveries, allegations and concerns.
Our poster and animation provide tips to help you ensure children always feel listened to. Both are available in English and Welsh.
Find out how to prepare and have a conversation with children and young people you work or volunteer with about difficult, upsetting or sensitive topics.
Get advice on what to do if you need to help a young person who has received or sent an explicit image, video or message.
Our elearning course on online safety will help you ensure that staff and volunteers are aware of the risks that children and young people can be exposed to online and know how to respond appropriately.
Our elearning course will help professionals to respond to incidents of nude image sharing or sexting.
In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has published non-statutory guidance on teaching online safety in school (DfE, 2023d).
The DfE has also published non-statutory guidance for schools and colleges on harmful online challenges and online hoaxes (DfE, 2021).
The Scottish Government has produced Guidance on developing policies to promote the safe and responsible use of mobile technology in schools and on Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of digital technology (Scottish Government, 2013; Scottish Government, 2016).
The Welsh Government has online safety resources for schools (Welsh Government, 2021b).
The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) provides a range of guidance and resources about online safety, including guidance for education settings on sharing nudes and semi nudes (UKCIS, 2020).
If a child or young person needs confidential help and advice, direct them to Childline.
Calls to 0800 1111 are free and children can also contact Childline online or read about online and mobile safety on the Childline website.
You can also download or order Childline posters and wallet cards.