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Online safety and schools

Last updated: 11 Jan 2024

What is e-safety for schools?

Online safety should form a fundamental part of schools’ and colleges’ safeguarding and child protection measures. By taking a whole school approach to online safety, you can help make sure all staff, governors, volunteers and parents know how they can help keep children safe online.

Government guidance for schools across the UK highlights the importance of safeguarding children and young people online.

> Read the key safeguarding legislation and guidance for schools in the UK

What you should do

Schools have a dual responsibility when it comes to online safety: to ensure the school's online procedures keep children and young people safe, and to teach them about online safety, in and outside of school.

Your school should foster an open environment in which children and young people are encouraged to ask any questions and participate in an ongoing conversation about the benefits and risks of the online world.

Our information and resources will help you to:

  • create e-safety policies and procedures that will help you mitigate risk and respond to concerns
  • ensure teachers have the knowledge to teach students about e-safety
  • provide advice on using social media 
  • support and include parents and carers by sharing helpful advice and resources
  • review and update your e-safety provision on an ongoing basis.


E-safety training

Take our elearning course on online safety and learn about how children and young people use existing technology, the risks involved and how to protect them from harmful content online in your context.

Includes modules on cyberbullying, radicalisation and extremism, grooming and more.

Find out more about what you'll learn


Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures

All schools and colleges should have robust e-safety policies and procedures that set out how to safeguard against and respond to online safety incidents. These must be understood and followed by all staff, volunteers, children and visitors.

Writing e-safety policies and procedures

Your online safety policies and procedures must follow the legislation and guidance for child protection in schools across the UK and for online safety.

They should apply to all devices with the capacity to connect to the internet and transfer data. This includes internet-connected toys, tablets, smart TVs and watches, phones, laptops and computers.

The Prevent duty

Schools in England, Wales and Scotland should also follow the Prevent duty’s statutory guidance regarding online safety and radicalisation (Home Office, 2023).

> Read more about radicalisation and the Prevent duty

Templates for an online safety policy statement and acceptable use policy

Our online safety policy statement template will help you create an e-safety policy that staff, students and parents and carers should follow. This applies to all online platforms, including social media and online games.

The online safety agreement template can be used to set rules for how children should appropriately use the internet.

> Download the templates

Responding to e-safety concerns

Follow your online safety policies and procedures and your organisational child protection procedures. Organisations that work with children and families must have safeguarding policies and procedures in place.

> Follow our guidance on how to respond to online abuse

> Read our guidance on safeguarding roles and responsibilities in schools

> Find out more about responding to sexting and sharing nudes

> Learn how you can support young people to use Report Remove to report nude images shared online

Ongoing review

Technology and the online environment are constantly changing. Online safety policies and procedures should be regularly reviewed and updated as part of your overarching safeguarding measures.

A whole school approach to reviewing these arrangements, including students, staff, volunteers and parents is good practice. Updated policies should be shared with and understood by all staff, children, and parents and carers, highlighting what has changed.

Resources you can use to help

Safeguarding self-assessment tool

Our free self-assessment tool helps schools develop and update their safeguarding policies and procedures and meet statutory and recommended safeguarding practices.

Online safety training

Our online safety elearning course, developed in association with the child protection unit of the National Crime Agency, CEOP, provides information and resources to help you assess and improve your school’s approach to online safety.

Learning from case reviews briefing on online harm and abuse

You can also read our learning from case reviews briefing on online harm and abuse to find out how you can improve online safety.


IT safety and data protection

IT safety and data protection

Schools must have strong IT infrastructure and data protection practices. Make sure your school:

  • uses a firewall and robust antivirus software
  • uses a recognised internet service provider
  • uses an encrypted and password protected WiFi network
  • actively monitors and filters any inappropriate websites or content
  • manages data in compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides advice on data protection for organisations across the UK (ICO, n.d.), whilst the Department for Education (DfE) provides further, specific guidance for schools in England (DfE, 2023a).

Filtering and monitoring

Putting in place effective filtering and monitoring systems are a way schools can help safeguard children from harmful online material and provide a safe environment for learning. Filtering restricts access to online content, while monitoring allows user activity to be reviewed.

The UK Safer Internet Centre provides guidance for education settings across the UK about online filtering and monitoring (UK Safer Internet Centre, 2023).

In England, the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) filtering and monitoring standards for schools and colleges provides further detail about the systems schools should have in place, including:

  • a filtering system that blocks internet access to inappropriate and harmful content. The system should not excessively restrict the day-to-day needs of the school or stop students learning how to recognise risk themselves
  • an effective monitoring strategy that allows incidents to be quickly recognised and recorded
  • clearly identified roles and responsibilities for staff and third parties. This should include assigning a member of the senior leadership team and a governor to be responsible for ensuring the standards are met
  • regular reviews (at least annually) of the filtering and monitoring provision to check that systems are working as expected

(DfE, 2023b).

The DfE statutory safeguarding and child protection guidance for schools in England, Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) (DfE, 2023c) makes it clear that:

  • all staff should receive training on the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring
  • the designated safeguarding lead should take lead responsibility for understanding the filtering and monitoring systems and processes in place
  • information on school child protection policies should include information on appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks.

> Read our CASPAR briefing on the KCSIE guidance

In Northern Ireland, the online safety strategy and action plan (Department of Health, 2021) states that the Education Authority (EA), via C2K, provide the infrastructure to support the use of ICT in schools, including a tiered filtering system.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government’s national action plan for internet safety for children and young people states that schools are expected to use filtering as a means of restricting access to harmful content (Scottish Government, 2017).

In Wales, the Welsh Government’s web filtering standards provide advice on the types of websites that should, and should not, be available to pupils (Welsh Government, 2021a).

Online consent forms

If you decide to use online consent forms to record consent for children to take part in activities, these should be stored in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. Parents and carers should be informed of how this information will be stored and used.

Things to consider include:

  • how you will verify that forms have been signed by the right person
  • how you will keep the forms secure
  • how authorised staff will access and check the forms as necessary
  • whether all parents and carers will have access to an online system.

> See an example of a consent form


Teaching online safety

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.

Teaching resources

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.

Online bullying

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.

It's Not OK

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.

Talk relationships

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

External speakers

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.

Let children know you're listening

Our poster and animation provide tips to help you ensure children always feel listened to. Both are available in English and Welsh.

How to have difficult conversations with children

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.

Responding to sexting and sharing nudes

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

Online safety training

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.

Sharing nudes and semi-nudes training

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.


Social media

Social media and social networking plays an important role in many young people’s lives – it’s how they keep in touch and communicate with friends, family and schoolmates.

Personal mobile devices mean that children and young people can be active on social media anywhere and at any time. This can provide new opportunities for children and young people to learn and express themselves. But it can also present risks, including:

These issues should be tackled in the classroom and as part of an open, ongoing conversation about online safety, so children can learn about how to stay safe on social media.

> For advice on how to keep children safe online, including on social media – take our online safety elearning course

Social media in schools

Some schools use social media to engage children in in the classroom, celebrate student's work, or circulate news, activities and events to parents and carers.

Schools should always consider the safety implications when using social media with children and young people.

  • Schools should receive the consent of parents or carers and the child before posting any identifiable information or images of children and young people on social media.
  • Social media accounts used for educational purposes should be authorised and supervised by the school, filtered for suitable content and use appropriate privacy and security controls.
  • Concerns about social media content involving pupils, such as cyberbullying, self-harm, abuse or exploitation, should be raised in accordance with your school’s child protection procedures.

> Read more about responding to online abuse

> See more about social media and online communities

> Find out more about photography and image sharing guidance

Can teachers follow students on social media?

Teachers shouldn’t use their personal accounts to communicate with or follow pupils and students on social media. This should be included in your online behaviour policy and staff code of conduct. 

Including social media in your staff code of conduct

Your code of conduct for staff and volunteers should include clear statements that staff should:

  • not engage or communicate with children or children’s families via personal or non-school-authorised accounts
  • be aware of their digital footprint - the information about a person that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity
  • only use authorised school accounts to send school communications
  • use staff accounts for professional purposes only, including email, website and social media accounts
  • take steps to avoid being found by children on social media, by selecting strict privacy settings, using a different display name and choosing an appropriate display picture
  • not use social media in a way that would breach other school policies.

Useful resources

Enhancing online safety for children

Our podcast episode on enhancing online safety for children includes advice on digital footprints and personal and professional boundaries.

Behaviour management and codes of conduct

Download our template behaviour code for adults working with children to help create a policy that includes rules on using social media.

Protecting children from cyberbullying

See more guidance for schools on how to prevent cyberbullying and teach children about it in lessons.

Responding to sexting and sharing nudes

Read about what to do if a young person tells you they've been involved in sharing nudes, how to write policies and procedures around this and where to report or share your concerns. 

Social media, online communities and safeguarding 

Find out more about keeping children safe on social media and in online communities, including how to assess and mitigate risk on online platforms, writing policies and procedures and how to recognise and respond to concerns

Photography and filming children

Read about the steps you need to take when taking, sharing or storing images or films of children. Includes information on livestreaming and using video conferencing software.

The Government also has guidance on how you can recognise and respond to online radicalisation via social media (Department for Education (DfE) and Home Office, 2015).


Supporting parents and carers

Supporting parents and carers

Online safety can be daunting for parents and carers, as they may have concerns about their understanding of the topic and their knowledge of latest developments. Schools should remind parents that e-safety is more about their parenting and communication skills than technology.

Parents and carers should understand that it isn’t enough to protect children from online harms by simply banning sites or installing firewalls and filters.

Encourage parents and carers to maintain an open and ongoing discussion about online safety at home/as a family/with their children.

(Assiter, Avery and The Education People, 2018b).

You can involve parents and carers by:

  • sharing resources, news activities and events via social media, newsletters, handouts and email
  • circulating new and updated e-safety policies and procedures
  • organising and inviting parents to online safety sessions, potentially using external visitors
  • showing parents the learning resources you use in the classroom.

More advice about online safety and how to keep children safe online can be found on the NSPCC website. This includes information on social media, online gaming, parental controls, sharing nudes, livestreaming, harmful content and online reporting.

> See our online safety advice for parents and carers on the NSPCC website

The UK Safer Internet Centre has guidance for parents and carers on online safety over the summer holidays (UK Safer Internet Centre, 2018).



Assiter, A., Avery, R. and The Education People (2018a), Online safety for learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) (PDF). Kent: Kent County Council.

Assiter, A., Avery, R. and The Education People (2018b), Engaging families in online safety: guidance for educational settings (PDF). Kent: Kent County Council.

Department for Education (DfE) and Home Office (2015) The use of social media for online radicalisation. [Accessed 15/07/2021].

Department for Education (2021) Harmful online challenges and online hoaxes. [Accessed 15/07/2021].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023a) Data protection in schools. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023b) Meeting digital and technology standards in schools and colleges: filtering and monitoring standards for schools. [Accessed 19/06/2023].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023c) Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges. [Accessed 29/08/2023].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023d) Teaching online safety in school. [Accessed 18/04/2023].

Department of Health (2021) Online safety strategy and action plan. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

Home Office (2023) Revised Prevent duty guidance. [Accessed 02/01/2024].

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (n.d.) UK GDPR guidance and resources. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

Scottish Government (2013) Safe and responsible use of mobile technology in schools: guidance. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2016) Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of digital technology. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2017) Internet safety for children and young people: national action plan. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

UK Council for Child Internet Safety (2018) Using external visitors to support online safety (PDF). [London]: UK Council for Child Internet safety].

UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) (2020) Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for education settings working with children and young people. [London].

UK Safer Internet Centre (2018), Guidance for parents and carers on online safety over the summer holidays. [Accessed 15/07/2021].

UK Safer Internet Centre (2023) Appropriate filtering and monitoring: guide for education settings and filtering providers. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

Welsh Government (2021a) Education digital standards: web filtering. [Accessed 12/07/2023].

Welsh Government (2021b) Keeping safe online. [Accessed 25/07/2023].