Safeguarding in the digital age

Imagine a school without ICT suites, classrooms without whiteboards. Or children who have never used a mobile phone and the only tablets in the school are in the nurse’s office. Crazy, eh? Or perhaps an education version of time-travelling TV dramas Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars.

Now, think about safeguarding training. Made a statutory requirement in schools in 2009, safeguarding training has been slow to respond to the additional, complex challenges of the digital age.

Decisions about safeguarding concerns that seem clear when issues occur offline can be more difficult in a digital world.

Would a child playing an age-inappropriate violent video game be a safeguarding flag? Is an 8-year-old girl posting ‘duck face’ pictures on Instagram something that needs reporting? Does the new Prevent duty mean you cannot encourage open debate? What is ‘adequate monitoring’? What happens if you find child sexual abuse images on a child’s device? Should you even be looking?

None of these questions have binary answers. As with so much safeguarding, context is all.

The ‘duck face’ might be a simple case of a child copying a celebrity and a parent not realising that the minimum age rating for Instagram is 13. But it might be the clue that, added together with other risk-taking behaviours, suggests a child is at risk of harm.

To recognise and respond to digital safeguarding issues it is essential to understand both the offline context and the online. How can professionals possibly educate children about the risks of using the dark web if they don’t know what it is or what’s there?

Is your ‘adequate monitoring’ actually encouraging teenagers to develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of proxy servers? Are you failing in your safeguarding duties if your pupils are accessing age-inappropriate social networks on your premises? Are you criminalising a young person if you report an incident of sexting, or protecting them?

According to Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, of the National Police Chiefs Council, ‘These (sexting) incidences do not need to be reported in every situation. Parents and professionals can use their own judgement on when to involve the police.’ But many teachers are understandably confused.

Building the knowledge required to make those judgements cannot be left to luck or osmosis. As publishers of we know only too well the breadth of information teachers need to stay ahead of the risks that young people have to navigate.

That’s why, over the course of the last year, Parent Zone has developed the first Digital Safeguarding training.

We feel it’s the final piece in the jigsaw, alongside our acclaimed online safety training and Digital Schools membership scheme, to help teachers protect their pupils, while helping them make the most of the digital age.

Join our experts in safeguarding and the digital world in London for our very first session next Tuesday. It’s a course we believe every school should have at least one member of staff trained in. Otherwise, you risk being the school delivering analogue safeguarding in a digital age.

Written by Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of Parent Zone and executive board member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety

To find out more, go to or email


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Categories: Safeguarding.


  1. HelenSalmon2

    tm014d1009 SchoolsImprove agree they could have done with this but it will help current schoolgirls.

  2. tm014d1009

    HelenSalmon2 SchoolsImprove depends where you are from there is still a culture of fear associated with ethnic minorities. Girls disappear

  3. jcstaff_

    FosterCareLynn AMLTaylor66 A tricky one! Think safest approach in schools is decision-making processes need to be unequivocal & clear?

  4. jcstaff_

    AMLTaylor66 FosterCareLynn absolutely. Skilled Des Safeguarding Leads & school culture of prioritising safeguarding essential [*soapbox*]

  5. FosterCareLynn

    jcstaff_ AMLTaylor66 Agree but all staff need knowledge & consistent response eg, NOT dealing with image by emailing to HT #safeguarding

  6. jcstaff_

    FosterCareLynn AMLTaylor66 “staff need knowledge and consistent response” – couldn’t agree more 🙂 #safeguardingchildren

  7. nibzy

    FosterCareLynn AMLTaylor66 Erm, isn’t the issue behind the sexting being missed here? They why/to whom etc? #motives and abuse are linked

  8. jcstaff_

    nibzy FosterCareLynn AMLTaylor66 while remembering that schools & other agencies need to consult & follow their LSCB procedures

  9. nibzy

    jcstaff_ FosterCareLynn AMLTaylor66 yes. I can see this will confuse rather than clarify. It’s a bit #montypython

  10. FosterCareLynn

    nibzy jcstaff_ AMLTaylor66 Agree – so many issues for schools at mo but start with confident staff (& governors) in digital safeguarding

  11. AMLTaylor66

    FosterCareLynn nibzy jcstaff_ we need to use tech responsibility before getting creative with it..Or maybe it’s through the creative use?

  12. jcstaff_

    AMLTaylor66 complex Amanda, they seem to understand it under 10, then it goes out window. Thoughts NCCcybersafe ? FosterCareLynn nibzy

  13. FosterCareLynn

    AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe nibzy -its about knowledge eg, birth parents finding foster children thro google reverse image search

  14. FosterCareLynn

    AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe nibzy A school, parent, carer, sports club etc uploads photo. Upload own pic of child =match =locate

  15. nibzy

    AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn that is an excellent point. One I hope we can mange, I asked this at a conf, response:U0001f610

  16. nibzy

    jcstaff_ AMLTaylor66 NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn its 10+ that I feel the issues really start, it’s in my recent findings, and 10 is 1/2

  17. nibzy

    jcstaff_ AMLTaylor66 NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn average age which smartphones are bought/given. So this is THE time to up support etc

  18. AMLTaylor66

    nibzy jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn cradle to grave IMO… #tech moving so quickly we need basic understanding to build upon

  19. nibzy

    AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn I wish we were as switched on as IIDDeutschland – and did this here in UJ

  20. nibzy

    AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe FosterCareLynn also not as many “in group” politics between esafety companies. It’s not helping.

  21. FosterCareLynn

    nibzy AMLTaylor66 jcstaff_ NCCcybersafe that is an excellent point #childrenfirst. Hate to think of ‘profits’ from #safeguarding

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