Skip to content.


What is InCtrl

Ensuring children are safe online and preventing technology-assisted child sexual abuse

InCtrl is a service that is designed to help keep children aged 9- to 13-years-old safe online to prevent technology-assisted child sexual abuse (TA-CSA). We support children and young people to build digital resilience by helping them recognise the risks they encounter online, promoting their emotional wellbeing and strengthening the supports around them.

The programme is tailored to the individual needs of children and young people. We encourage parents and carers to get involved in the work we do so that we can help them support and protect their child from technology-assisted child sexual abuse.

How it works

InCtrl is a face-to-face group-based programme that helps increase children’s digital resilience, improve their emotional wellbeing and ensure they have effective social and family support networks to help keep them safe.

Through the group sessions, we help children build healthy relationships online and offline. Extra support is in place during and after the sessions for any young people who may need it.

What happens when an organisation makes a referral?

When a referral is made, our practitioners will first make sure the programme is appropriate for the child’s needs. We involve the child’s parents or carers at the outset to ensure they have an understanding of what the programme involves and can help support the child throughout the process.

Group sessions

The groups are made up of 3 to 8 participants. We develop a clear group agreement to make sure children and young people are comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings about topics such as consent, online safetyhealthy relationships and self-esteem. The content of the group work is designed to complement curriculum guidance on relationships in all UK nations.

Some of the topics we explore in the group sessions are:

  • enjoying life
  • friendships and relationships
  • building resilience
  • social media and online spaces
  • dealing with social pressure and expectations
  • self-esteem and wellbeing
  • online life and life at home
  • conversations that make them feel uncomfortable
  • safety planning and seeking support.

The programme lasts up to 9 weeks and can be delivered on a one-to-one basis if group work is unsuitable for the child and they require additional support.

Evidence and evaluation

The evidence base

The internet and social media help children and young people stay connected with friends and family, support learning and create new ways for them to express themselves but it can also bring risks. Today’s children are increasingly exposed to the threat of technology-facilitated abuse, from both adults and their peers (Bentley et al, 2019).

The existing evidence - with regards to how to stay safe online - increasingly places an emphasis on building digital resilience: supporting children and young people to develop their knowledge and skills in safe spaces. There is a focus on building on the strengths of young people such as their technical skills and helping them to navigate the risks of the online world, and crucially, to make the most of the opportunities that online spaces offer them for learning, connecting and creating. There is also a focus on parenting strategies that are built on strong relationships and good communication.

Children and young people may not be able to distinguish between online and offline worlds. In offering services that align with children’s lived experiences, any such developments should seek to minimise the distinction adults make.

Evaluation of InCtrl

Rapidly developing technology and use of social media creates new opportunities to initiate abuse, exposing children to unacceptable risks in the spaces where they socialise, learn and play (Bentley, H. et al, 20192; Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. et al, 20173).

We recognised the need to create and evaluate tailored services for children who may be particularly vulnerable. InCtrl was piloted between January 2019 and February 2020 in Belfast, Coventry, Leeds/Bradford and South Wales. We evaluated the feasibility of the service in order to determine how we take the programme forward and whether there are any changes we need to make to strengthen the work we are doing.

We wanted to learn if InCtrl improves:

  • children’s digital resilience
  • children’s emotional resilience and wellbeing
  • parents’ confidence and ability to support and protect their child
  • communication around online safety between children and parents.

What we learnt

The study aimed to describe the implementation of the pilot service and how it works in practice; who used the service and their needs; and the outcomes reported by children, parents and practitioners.

We found that:

  • InCtrl was well received by the young people attending and by practitioners facilitating the groups. Children’s relationships with the practitioners were very positive, with some saying this was a key factor in their enjoyment of the sessions
  • of the 162 children referred to InCtrl, three quarters of them fully or partially completed the service. Children, parents, carers and practitioners described evidence of increased digital resilience, emotional resilience, and wellbeing for children who completed the pilot service
  • over 80% of referrals came from schools. Successful introduction of the service within schools was dependent upon having a good working relationship with a main referrer within the school who could explain the service to children, parents and their colleagues. Primary schools had several factors that complement the InCtrl service model
  • parental engagement is currently variable: finding ways to increase the lower-than-anticipated number of parents supported by InCtrl would strengthen outcomes for children by enabling a more systemic approach.

> Read the evaluation report

How we're continuing to evaluate this service

We are currently redeveloping the service ahead of the next phase of the evaluation. This redevelopment work involves drawing on the learning from our adapted virtual offer and building on the learning from the feasibility study.

Make a referral

Who is InCtrl for?

InCtrl is a preventative programme aimed at children where there are worries about the risks posed to them online. This might be because of previous experiences of adversity or their current circumstances.

We work with children aged between nine and thirteen-years-old as well as parents and carers of the child so that everyone is aware of the potential risks as well as the benefits that exist when being online.

Parents and carers are encouraged to get involved so that they can strengthen the support available to their child, help keep them safe online and protect them from technology-assisted child sexual abuse and other potential dangers.

Please be aware that this is a preventative service, therefore we work with children to help prevent the risk of TA-CSA. Where children may have experienced harm including TA-CSA, we would talk to the family and professionals involved about getting the right support for the child. This might mean signposting the family to a therapeutic service to support the child’s recovery.

Making a referral

To see if InCtrl is delivered in your area or to make a referral, email