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How to keep children safe online

In the rush to set up methods to connect children online, organisations may not have adequate child safeguarding policies in place.

COVID-19 has resulted in increased online activity by many children. This has meant online learning platforms have reshaped learning for many children where schools are closed.

It has also seen online games, social media and video chat programmes providing opportunities for many children to connect with their network and play with their friends, parents and relatives while in isolation.

As such, online methods are providing an opportunity for organisations to continue to work with and engage with children through all phases of the IDO cycle.

Positives and negatives

Increased online activity supports children’s learning, socialisation and play, but may also expose them to increased online risks.

While the internet can provide many benefits, increased internet use can put children at greater risk of online harm, such as sexual exploitation and cyberbullying.

Organisations therefore have a responsibility to mitigate risks when engaging children through online methods, while also empowering them to safely use the internet.

Key online risks to children’s safety 

  • Online sexual exploitation

    Spending more time online may increase the likelihood that children come into contact with online predators. Physical distancing measures are likely to increase children’s outreach to new contacts and groups online, where predators can groom children for sexual exploitation.

  • Cyberbullying

    is a major concern with wide-ranging negative impacts and may increase as a result of increased time online. Instant messaging, online gaming and chat services are being used by an increasing number of young children who may have limited online experience and be less resilient to bullying behavior. Girls, children with disabilities and those perceived to be divergent from the “norm” may be at increased risk of online bullying and discrimination.

  • Online risk-taking behaviour

    A lack of in-person interaction with friends and partners may lead older children to engage in riskier behavior online; for example, through sexting or the sharing of self-generated sexualized content.

  • Potentially harmful content

    Increased online activity may expose children to age-inappropriate and potentially harmful content, including content that is violent, misogynistic or xenophobic; that promotes political or ideological violence; or incites suicide and self-harm.

  • Inadequate approaches for child safeguarding online

    In the rush to set up methods to connect with and engage children online, organisations may not have adequate child safeguarding policies in place to govern child-adult conversations via private networks and other online tools. Parents and caregivers may be unfamiliar with new technologies, limiting their ability to engage their children in a discussion about keeping safe online.

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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