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Safer Internet Day 2024: A 'Spotlight on Digital Safety'

4 minute read
By Smoothwall

As part of Safer Internet Day, we’re sharing our latest impact statistics to highlight the frequency of suspected risks students face online and the importance of putting a ‘Spotlight on Digital Safety’.

Our data has revealed that every 2 minutes, our digital monitoring solution, Smoothwall Monitor, spots a child at suspected serious risk online.

Speaking to Smoothwall customer Sue Bailey, Strategic Safeguarding Lead at the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, about our latest insights, she explained safety leads in schools are “seeing an increase in trends where children are searching the internet to try to understand the situation in Gaza and a correlated increase in searches linked to extremism and weapons”.

In addition, the data also revealed that a suspected very serious risk to a child, including a risk to health or life, was flagged (alert level 5 on a scale of 1-5), every 45 minutes. In cases where a suspected very serious risk is identified, immediate action is taken and the school is alerted with a direct phone call from Smoothwall’s human moderation team. The potential risks include bullying, grooming, extremism, self-harm, terrorism, offensive behaviour and incidents of a concerning sexual nature.

It also found a suspected vulnerable child every 11 minutes, with the highest risk, including to health or life, flagged every 45 minutes. Smoothwall classifies a vulnerable child as someone who makes credible threats of suicide or self-harm, who appears to be using or involved with illegal drugs, substances or alcohol, or someone who appears to be at risk of non-sexual abuse. A vulnerable child might also suffer from an eating disorder, domestic abuse, or show signs that they intend to take part in a dangerous online trending challenge either by their own motives or peer pressure.

Sue Bailey also stated, “On the front line, whilst it’s often harrowing to see the subject matter of the alerts flagged to us, they are invaluable in allowing educators to intervene, identify the level of risk and inform all the necessary parties. We have seen children at risk of exposure to self-harm, bullying, grooming and exploitation, offensive behaviour and incidents of a concerning sexual nature.

More recently, we have seen more and more children searching the internet in relation to the situation in Gaza, searches for ‘What is Hamas?’ and searches related to weapons are also increasing. Mental health is also a growing concern within schools and there have been instances where being alerted to these risks has allowed our team to step in and save lives.”

'Inspiring change' this Safer Internet Day 

In line with this year’s Safer Internet Day theme ‘inspiring change’, we’re calling on the whole school community - teachers, parents, governors and students - to be educated on the potential risks students are being exposed to and ensure the right protection measures are in place when it comes to online safety.

Smoothwall’s VP of Prevention and Enablement, Rob Faulkner said, “Never has it been more important to protect children online”. Almost daily we are seeing stories in the news on the most serious of risks that children are exposed to online - and these are only the tip of the iceberg. With the huge progression in regulation via KCSIE and DfE over the last year, there is an urgent need for schools to have the tools in place to identify risks as early as possible and intervene for the child’s wellbeing. We must all do more to make the online world safer for children and inspire change”

Sue Bailey concluded, “Whilst the internet is a vital tool for both students and teachers in education, as proven during the pandemic, it’s relied upon even more so now.

As these statistics prove, harnessing the power of technology for good and keeping children safe online is a huge challenge - it’s important we have the right tools in place to provide that balance as well as ensuring we continue to educate and prepare children and parents on how to stay safe online.”

At Smoothwall we're dedicated to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children in their digital lives. Working closely with school ITs, DSLs and senior leadership teams, we provide them with seamless support and protect children from online risks they might encounter - at school, at home, and everywhere in between.

To learn more about Smoothwall Monitor or any of our other digital safeguarding solutions, please get in touch. Our team is on hand to help answer any questions you may have. Email us at enquiries@smoothwall.com.


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