Safe Internet Use – Guidance for Staff
The development and now widespread use of the internet, social media technology, mobile phones and gaming technology has significantly enhanced our ability to communicate, entertain and learn. There are enormous benefits to using such digital and interactive technology, and as a result its use is widespread in schools, other educational settings including youth clubs, libraries, cafes, and hotels, as well as in the home. The importance of the internet as an indispensable tool for education and development cannot be underestimated.
However, there are risks to all of us who use digital, social media and interactive technology and we have a responsibility, therefore, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people and help them develop the skills to look after themselves. To support this there are numerous organisations and web sites packed full with advice, guidance and resources to keep children and young people safe online. Many of which can be found on the WSCB website here:
Safeguarding Staff -Guidance for all Professionals working with Children and Young People or their Families, in Wirral
The guidance presented below is an extract from the WSCB’s published multi-agency guidance E-Safety: Safeguarding Children and Young People using Digital and Interactive Technology
The guidance is for all staff working with children and young people and is designed to ensure staff keep themselves safe online and act appropriately at all times. Individual agencies will have their own professional codes of conduct, which this guidance does not intend to replace. It is guidance that relates specifically to helping professionals put safeguards in place to minimise the risk of any allegations of professional misconduct related to the use of digital, social media or interactive technology.
You should always be mindful not to put yourself in a situation that may comprise you or be misinterpreted either by the child or young person, their friend, parent or carer, other professionals or any other person. This includes both personal and professional situations. It should be remembered that careless and inappropriate action in a personal setting, whether intended or not, could have significant implications for your professional life. Ill judged comments made on social media may reflect poorly on your professional integrity.
There are few professionals who have allegations of professional misconduct related to digital and interactive technology made against them, or who are the victims of cyberbullying from children, young people, their friends or families. However, the impact of either an allegation or cyberbullying can be significant, both personally and professionally. Taking a few steps to be pro-active in minimising any risk to yourself, whilst you may think it unnecessary, is worth taking to avoid future complications.
Remember: as a professional working with children and young people, or their families, you may be vulnerable to have an allegation made against you or being the victim of cyberbullying. Sometimes this is a result of communication or a situation being misconstrued (and this also relates to communications with adults, friends and colleagues). Other times this may be an act of revenge taken against you for an incident that has resulted through your professional practice. It may also be that someone, through having complex needs of their own, may develop an unhealthy interest in you as a person.
Therefore the following steps are recommended to all professionals, who work with children, young people or their families.
Ten Steps to Minimise Professional Risk
- As a professional you should fully appreciate that the onus is upon you and not the child or young person to distance yourself from any potentially inappropriate situation;
- Review all content about yourself on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram etc. Particularly consider removing any personal information or photographs. These could be manipulated and used against you;
- Do not give personal information such as email addresses or mobile telephone numbers to anyone who is, or has been, a service user or is a member of their family;
- If you wish to keep in contact with any child or young person under the age of 18, or their family, who has been a user of your service, ensure that you only use work emails or telephone numbers to communicate with them;
- If there is any incident, related to this guidance, which involves a child, young person or their family, that causes you concern, report it immediately to your line manager. Document it as soon as possible, according to your workplace procedures;
- Ensure you adhere rigidly to the Acceptable Use Policy of your workplace. If you breach any part of the AUP, report it immediately as per your workplace procedures;
- Do not access any illegal or inappropriate websites on your personal computer or mobile phone. This includes illegal or inappropriate images of children, certain other types of pornography or extremist websites. It is illegal to access or download material that promotes or depicts criminal behaviour;
- Be very careful when liaising with others in contact / web cam internet sites (for example chat rooms, message boards, social networking sites and newsgroups). Avoid inappropriate communication with individuals under 18, or with who you may be in a position of trust. Avoid inappropriate communication with those who you do not know. Adults can pose as children using interactive technology; likewise some children can pose as adults;
- Use your common sense and professional judgement and expertise at all times to avoid circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature. This relates particularly to social networking sites and mobile phone technology. This includes communications you make which are directed at or seen by friends, colleagues, other professionals or the wider public;
- Remember, digital and interactive technology may be the virtual world, but it has an impact on our real world. Do not treat people any differently through electronic communication than you would on a personal basis;
Guidance for Acceptable Use
All staff should:
- Demonstrate honesty and integrity, and uphold public trust and confidence in respect of anything placed on social networking web sites.
- Ensure that any content shared on any social networking web site, at any time, would be deemed as appropriate i.e. staff are personally responsible for ensuring that any privacy settings meet this requirement.
- Ensure appropriate language is used, at all times, for any comments placed on social networking sites.
- Ensure that any comments and/or images, at any time, could not be deemed as defamatory or in breach of any relevant legislation.
Staff must not
- Have contact with children or young people where there is a relationship developed as part of their ‘professional’ role on any social networking website
- Use social networking sites as forum to make derogatory comments which could bring the organisation into disrepute, including making comments about children and young people, parents, other staff members or the wider community. Any breaches of this policy could result in disciplinary action and may result in your dismissal.I understand and agree to adhere to the Policy on the Use of Social Networking Websites