For young people today, using the internet is a way of life, and even most adults can’t remember how we all survived without our search engines and smartphones. Modern life has truly been transformed.
But it is not without risk. There are steps to be taken to protect our children and vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation online. Teaching them about the internet and relating it to ‘real life’ is useful. For example, you wouldn’t tell a stranger in the street your address, so why would you tell someone you ‘met’ online?
Safer Internet Day
Safer Internet Day has been organised to promote awareness and understanding around the possible issues and offer some solutions to them. The focus of the day, in February, is to help keep children and vulnerable adults safe from any sort of abusive or coercive activity online. Awareness is growing about keeping children safe, but there is still much more that can be done.
Supervision is important once these individuals are online, because lessons are easily forgotten and people can be very convincing. Anyone working with vulnerable people in this sort of capacity should have basic DBS checks in place.
The media has focused more on keeping children safe, though there is now a growing number of small charities and campaign groups keen to support vulnerable adults. Charity staff will all have basic DBS checks in place to allow them to work with these people and their families and carers to understand potential risks without causing fear.
These risk assessments form the basis of their work. Being able to anticipate where any issues might arise, given an individual’s particular disability or reason for being online, will allow for more effective planning.
Developing a Social Media Policy at work, as many employers already have, will allow employees to help people they work with and support them online on social media whilst maintaining professional boundaries, and having a set of ‘rules’ in place is often easier to understand. As a starting point, if or when is it acceptable to accept a friend request on Facebook from someone you are supporting?
For more information and guidance on staying safe online, see the government website.
The online world moves so quickly that it is worth keeping up to date with guidance.