Online safety is an increasingly important component of Schools and Teachers wider safeguarding and child protection responsibilities. Being online is now a central part of young people’s lives through their interactions with social media, websites, apps and games, often engaging across multiple devices like mobile phones, laptops and tablets. The Department for Education (DFE) has statutory guidance in relation to safeguarding children, requiring a whole school and community approach where online safety is an integral part of school policy and culture, and where all staff receive regular training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the area of online safety.
This CPD article aims to explain the importance of online safety, the value and benefits of participating in an online safety CPD course, and what to expect from a typical course.
What is online safety?
In short, online safety is the act of staying safe online. It is also sometimes referred to as E-Safety or cyber safety. Although there are many positive opportunities presented through online engagement, there are also risks. In the context of young people, these include sexualised content, online harassment or bullying, exposure to advertising and mental health concerns.
The Department of Education guidance requires a dual approach to this from schools, ensuring safety within their own systems and use of online teaching resources, but also to recognise children’s wider engagement with the online world as part of their daily lives and to encourage open conversations about this and to incorporate it into the wider curriculum. This whole school approach aims to equip children with the tools to interact positively with online activity, identify risks, and know how to respond and find support if risks occur.
What is a designated safeguarding lead (DSL) in schools?
Schools are required to appoint a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) to ensure Schools adhere to safeguarding policies of which online safety is now a critical element. This will normally be a senior member of staff often supported by a deputy or in larger settings, a series of deputies. The DSL is not exclusive to schools and colleges and will be found in any industry or organisation that regularly engages with children and young people.
The DSL must be fully trained in safeguarding policy and will be the referral point and lead for any suspected safeguarding issues. The DSL will be required to oversee and support any areas of the curriculum that cover safeguarding issues.
The DSL is also responsible for ensuring all other staff are trained in current safeguarding procedures and incorporate this in to their Continuing Professional Development. An understanding of online safety is essential to the wider fulfilment of safeguarding policy and an online safety CPD course can be invaluable in ensuring both the DSL and staff remain compliant with current safeguarding requirements.