Keeping children safe
On this page you will find:
- Advice for keeping children and young people safe online
- PANTS rule
- Out and about
- Self Harming
- Children and young people’s mental health
The internet can be fun and a great way to chat, listen to music, and share images or media. But remember to be smart and stay safe!
Keep personal information like your mobile number and your address to yourself. Also make sure to never tell anybody your passwords or any other information you aren’t comfortable sharing. Not all people you meet online are real or honest.
It is important to remember that if you publish a picture or video, anyone can change or share it, and it might be difficult to delete later.
Remember, you can block people you don’t know on social media and messaging apps like Whatsapp and Facebook messenger.
If you find anything that makes you uncomfortable online, it is important that your child or young person is able to tell a trusted adult like a parent or a teacher.
For more information on how to stay safe online, check out the following webpages:
Advice if you’re worried about a child sending, sharing or receiving nudes
Tips on how to start the conversation with your child
Advice on how to support your child if they’ve seen something that’s upset them
Learn more about the risks of online games and how to protect your child
Advice to help you understand the risks and keep your child safe
How to support your child if you’re worried they’re watching porn online
Advice on how to make internet connected toys and devices safe for your child
How setting up parental controls can keep your child safe online
For many young people with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND), the internet can be a place where they feel safe, calm and in control. Somewhere they can make friends without having to communicate face-to-face, and build a community which they may not have in their offline life. While the internet is a fantastic resource that many young people love using, life online for a child or young person with SEND can present unique problems that require careful supervision and support.
When your child develops an interest in the internet, whether verbal or pre-verbal, it’s crucial to help them find ways to stay safe online. Everyone has the right to feel secure and enjoy their time online, therefore it’s critical that they understand their own and others’ boundaries and behaviour. The sooner you begin this conversation, the easier it will be to discuss future concerns regarding online safety.
Setting up parental controls and filters on your home internet will assist prevent your child from viewing age-inappropriate photos, videos, and websites when using the Wi-Fi. Many devices, such as phones, tablets, and game consoles, feature parental controls that limit access to this content as well as other online charges, such as in-app purchases and the ability to turn off location services.
To help children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) connect and share safely with others online, Internet Matters have provided insight and advice on what you can do as a parent or carer to support them:
Child Net also have information for parents and carers of young people aged 11 and over with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities covering healthy relationships, digital wellbeing, online pornography and nudes. To find out more click here
Privates are private
Always remember your body belongs to you
No means no
Talk about secrets that upset you
Speak up, someone can help
It is important for your child or young person to remember that your body belongs to you, and if somebody touches you in a private place tell an adult you trust or talk to ChildLine: You can contact Childline by phone, email, text or via a message board. To phone call 0800 1111. They have a video that shows you what happens when you contact them and lots of ideas and information about keeping safe. Their website is at www.childline.org.uk.
Protecting young children
Statistics show that crime against young children by strangers is rare. Even so, these seven tips can help protect your child:
- tell your child to avoid talking to people they don’t know when you’re not around
- make sure your child knows never to walk away with strangers
- make sure your child understands that they should always tell you if a stranger approaches, and never to keep this secret
- if your child is travelling alone, tell them to sit near other families on the train or bus
- if your child has to use a lift – tell them only to use lifts with friends, and not to feel worried about getting out if they are uncomfortable about someone else being in there
- if your child gets lost, they should ask for help from a police officer, another grown-up with children or someone working at a nearby shop
- have your children learn their address and telephone number by heart
While you are out with your children
Sometimes, young children can still be vulnerable even if you are with them. Following these simple precautions should give you peace of mind:
- try to keep your children within your sight or another adult’s whom you trust
- use reins for your toddler – these will keep your child nearby even if you get distracted
- when out and about visiting places, always arrange a meeting point for you and your child, in case either of you get lost
- make sure you all travel together in the same train carriage, or have seats close together on a bus or coach
- always go with your child into public toilets
- remind your child never to talk to strangers, even if you are nearby
Keeping teenagers safe
More crimes are committed against teenagers than any other age group, but here are some things they can do to keep safe on the streets:
- stay alert, and keep personal stereos/MP3 players turned off, so they can hear what’s going on around them
- stick to busy, well-lit roads, and avoid short cuts through alleyways
- if your child thinks someone is following them, they should cross the road or go to a place with lots of people around, like a bus stop or shop
- your child could carry a whistle or shrill alarm around their neck or on a key chain to warn off suspicious strangers
- when travelling by bus, your child should try to use bus stops on busy roads
- if someone tries to take something from your child, tell them never to fight
- tell them to keep mobile phones and other valuables out of sight, and to turn off their mobile phone ringer to avoid attracting attention
- don’t let your child carry weapons because they are more likely to be used against them, and it’s illegal
- encourage your child to speak up if they are being bullied or feel they might be in danger
Self-harm, or self-injury, describes a wide range of things people deliberately do to themselves that appear to cause some kind of physical hurt. It can still be very hard for parents and carers to know about – or witness – self-harming behaviour in their children.
Cutting the arms or the back of the legs is the most common form of self-harm, but it can take many forms, including burning, biting, hitting oneself, banging head onto walls, pulling out hair (trichotilliomania), inserting objects into the body or taking overdoses.
Some argue that risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking, taking drugs and having unprotected sex are also a form of self-harming.
Reasons for self-harm
A person may self-harm to help them cope with negative feelings and difficult experiences, to feel more in control, or to punish themselves. It can be a way of relieving overwhelming feelings that build up inside, to:
- reduce tension
- manage extreme emotional upset
- provide a feeling of physical pain to distract from emotional pain
- express emotions such as hurt, anger or frustration
- regain control over feelings or problems
- punish themselves or others
The feelings or experiences that might be connected to self-harm include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, gender identity, sexuality, abuse, school problems, bullying, social media pressure, family or friendship troubles and bereavement.
Over time, self-harming can become a habit that is hard to stop.
Is my child self-harming?
As a parent, you might suspect that your child is self-harming. If you are worried, keep an eye open for the following signs:
- unexplained cuts, burns, bite-marks, bruises or bald patches
- keeping themselves covered; avoiding swimming or changing clothes around others
- bloody tissues in waste bins
- being withdrawn or isolated from friends and family
- low mood, lack of interest in life, depression or outbursts of anger
- blaming themselves for problems or expressing feelings of failure, uselessness, or hopelessness
It can be difficult to know what to do or how to react if you find out your child is self-harming. Here are some things that can really help:
- Avoid asking your child lots of questions all at once.
- Keep an eye on your child but avoid ‘policing’ them because this can increase their risk of self-harming.
- Consider whether your child is self-harming in areas that can’t be seen.
- Remember the self-harm is a coping mechanism. It is a symptom of an underlying problem.
- Keep open communication between you and your child and remember they may feel ashamed of their self-harm and find it very difficult to talk about. Here are some ways you could start the conversation.
- Talk to your child but try not to get into a hostile confrontation.
- Keep firm boundaries and don’t be afraid of disciplining your child. It is helpful to keep a sense of normality and this will help your child feel secure and emotionally stable.
- If you feel confident, you can ask the whether removing whatever they are using to self-harm is likely to cause them use something less sanitary to self-harm with, or whether it reduces temptation. This can be a difficult question to ask and if you are not confident to ask this seek professional advice.
- Seek professional help. Your child may need a risk assessment from a qualified mental health professional. Talk to your GP and explore whether your child can be referred to your local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
- Discovering and responding to self-harm can be a traumatic experience – it’s crucial that you seek support for yourself. It’s natural to feel guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration and despair – but it’s not your fault.
- Be there to listen
Regularly ask how they’re doing so they get used to talking about their feelings and know there’s always someone to listen if they want it. Find out how to create a space where they will open up.
- Support them through difficulties
Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour, and try to help them work through difficulties. It’s not always easy when faced with challenging behaviour, but try to help them understand what they’re feeling and why.
- Stay involved in their life
Show interest in their life and the things important to them. It not only helps them value who they are but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.
- Encourage their interests
Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all help our mental health. Support and encourage them to explore their interests, whatever they are.
- Take what they say seriously
Listening to and valuing what they say, without judging their feelings, in turn makes them feel valued. Consider how to help them process and work through their emotions in a more constructive way.
- Build positive routines
We know it still may not be easy, but try to reintroduce structure around regular routines, healthy eating and exercise. A good night’s sleep is also really important – try to get them back into routines that fit with school or college.
As gaming has become more accessible through mobile gaming and the use of new technologies, studies show that 95% of children and young people play video games on and offline.
Whilst there are benefits for children and young people playing videogames such as socialising, mood management and creativity, there are high risk factors which parents and carers must be aware of. This is especially important given the steep rise in popularity of videogames within the past decade, in both boys and girls.
Talking to strangers
With the rise in popularity of multiplayer games like Fortnite, the social aspect of gaming has grown. Often games provide chat features for users to interact. In some cases these have safety features (like privacy settings, AI tracking, and human moderation) but at times children may use other apps alongside the game to communicate which don’t offer the same protections to keep them safe.
Also, our research reveals that children with vulnerabilities are twice as likely to experience contact with strangers and online trolling than those without vulnerabilities.
Gaming is designed to keep children engaged so it can be hard for children with SEND to stop playing especially if it fulfills a range of needs for them. Spending long periods playing without breaks can interfere with their wellbeing. If a child’s sleep, physical activity, learning, and socialising are being impacted negatively by their inability to stop gaming then there is cause for concern.
Increased screen time
Children can develop a passion for gaming and can spend many hours watching videos on how to play the game or watching live streams of others gamers playing. Sometimes these may contain inappropriate language or adult themes, particularly if they are playing games with an adult rating. They may also want to record and share their own game play which can have risks.
Risk of gambling
The use of loot boxes in games or in-game purchases where you cannot see what you are buying can be considered a form of gambling and can encourage young people to gamble. Gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system creating a thrill, so it’s important to set passwords or pins to restrict in-app purchases. Explaining what is free and what costs money in the games they play and where the boundaries are can also help them to make smarter choices.
Risk of addiction
Children with autism or ADHD spend twice as much time playing video games and are more likely to become addicted to them, the Mail Online reports.
Research has previously suggested that children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at risk for problematic video game use, or so-called “video game addiction”.
Meeting up with strangers
It can be easy for children, particularly those with communications difficulties, to form strong bonds with people they play games with online especially if this is the main way that they socialise. There is the danger that they may make friends with someone who is a groomer or a catfish (lying about who they are), it can put them at great risk if they decide to meet up in the real world.
It is important to be aware that
- Certain difficulties or impairments can put children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are at a heightened risk of online abuse such as sexual abuse, coercion, online grooming, etc
- Children and young people tend to see no boundaries between on or offline life and often become victims online, through someone who knows them offline and is aware of their vulnerability. In this way, the perpetrator has the knowledge to manipulate their target especially if they have SEND
- Some online groomers used online gaming platforms and consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation to make contact with young boys
- Children with SEND are more likely to experience all online risks compared to those without any difficulties
- Out of the different types of risks, children with SEND are significantly more likely to experience contact risks online. Examples of this include sexting under pressure and coercion. They appear to be preyed upon and singled out
- Children with communication difficulties are also more likely to experience contact risks. They are more likely to spend time in chat rooms than their non-vulnerable peers which can facilitate direct communication and are known for explicit sexual talk, innuendos, and obscene language
- Experiencing contact risks is also associated with a greater risk of seeing harmful content and experiencing more aggressive behaviour from others online
Child Protection Conferences are a key tool in Havering to keep children as safe as possible and to bring the multi-agency group together to plan how to build on the family’s parenting strengths. They take place 3-6 monthly after an outline child protection plan has been made. They are chaired by an Independent Chair, the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). Parents, children aged over 12 years and professionals working with the family are invited. Parents can invite family members, a solicitor and/ or an advocate to support them.
Children’s Services sometimes receive information that makes them suspect a child may not be safe or well cared for. This information is called a referral. If after receiving a referral, children’s services suspect a child is suffering significant harm, they must investigate this. This is called making child protection enquiries. If agencies at a multi-agency strategy meeting think the child or unborn baby is at risk of significant harm, they make a decision to hold a Child Protection Initial Conference within 15 working days to see if risks are determined and a child protection plan is needed (Section 47 Children Act 1989). In Havering, we are now back to face to face Conferences and we are soon to move to new Conference Rooms in the Havering Town Hall.
Professionals from partner agencies who need to submit a multi-agency report for a scheduled child protection conference should do so here firstname.lastname@example.org
East Cheshire SCP has produced this helpful film for children and young people about Child Protection Conferences.
Please find our new leaflets for children and families here:
In our safeguarding system, children and young people who are in care, have reviews take place every few months (after the initial review after the first month), from the time a child is accommodated by the Local Authority. They are chaired by an Independent Chair, the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), who will advocate on behalf of the child’s needs. A plan is made at these reviews to address every issue that could arise for a child looked after and to plan for their future. Often the parents are invited and all professionals involved, but this is the child’s meeting. Professionals should ensure they share information, even if they are not invited to the Review.
Please find our new leaflet for children and families here: Guide to C/YP in Care Reviews