Safeguarding Children and Young People Online

1. Introduction

Every child and young person should be able to participate in an enjoyable and safe environment and be protected from abuse and these same principles apply in the online environment. This is the responsibility of every adult.

The Internet offers tremendous benefits and opportunities for children and young people and this procedure is certainly not intended to curtail any potential for fun, entertainment and learning. However, as with any social space, using the internet will pose some risks for children and young people particularly if they are unaware of the way that information / technology can be used by others (children / adults) with ill-intent to exploit or abuse them.

Child abuse is a very emotive and difficult subject for everyone involved. When the abuse / harm occurs online it can be even more challenging because many people who are significant in the child's life may not be as knowledgeable about the technology used. Indeed it is likely that the child or young person may know more than the adults around them about how to use the technology.

A child could experience abuse/harm online without actually ever meeting the person causing the harm in 'real life'. The abuser could also remain anonymous or adopt a pseudo identity.

Young people may be worried about confiding in adults about concerns or worries about things happening to them online through fear of the adult over reacting and / or confiscating their treasured device as an ill informed method of safeguarding that child.

It is important to remember it is not the technology itself that is the source of harm but rather the behaviour of another person that causes harm whilst online. Confiscating a particular device therefore may not be an appropriate response to safeguard a child from harm online. The arrangements in response to harm/potential harm experienced online should be same as the arrangements in response to harm experienced by a young person in the 'real world'.

2. Definitions and Risks

'Internet Abuse' relates to five main areas of abuse of children:

  • Sharing and production of indecent images of children (although these are not confined to the internet);
  • A child being groomed online for the purpose of sexual abuse/exploitation;
  • Exposure to pornographic or other offensive material on the internet;
  • Children taking/sending indecent images of themselves (sexting);
  • The use of the internet, and in particular social media, to engage children in extremist ideologies or to promote gang related violence.

The term digital (data carrying signals carrying electronic or optical pulses) and interactive (a message relates to other previous message/s and the relationship between them) technology covers a range of electronic tools. These are constantly being upgraded and their use has become more widespread as the internet can be accessed easily on mobile/smart phones, laptops, computers, tablets and games consoles.

Social networking sites are often used by perpetrators as an easy way to access children for sexual abuse. In additionaddition, radical and extremist groups may use social networking to attract children into rigid and narrow ideologies that are intolerant of diversity: this is similar to the grooming process and exploits the same vulnerabilities.

Internet abuse may also include cyber-bullying. This is when a child is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child using the internet or mobile phones. In the case of online bullyingbullying, it is possible for one victim to be bullied by many perpetrators.

Digital safety - means protecting children from 4 main areas of risk:

  • Content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material online. Some online content is not suitable for children and may be hurtful or harmful. This is true for content accessed and viewed via social networks, online games, blogs and websites. It’s important for children to consider the reliability of online material and be aware that it might not be true or written with a bias. Children may need your help as they begin to assess content in this way. There can be legal consequences for using or downloading copyrighted content, without seeking the author’s permission;
  • Contact: being the victim of harmful interactions online, children can be contacted by bullies or people who groom or seek to abuse them. It is important for children to realise that new friends made online may not be who they say they are and that once a friend is added to an online account, you may be sharing your personal information with them;
  • Conduct: behaving in a way online that causes harm or increases the likelihood of it. Children may be at risk because of their own behaviour, for example, by sharing too much information. Children need to be aware of the impact that their online activity can have on both themselves and other people, and the digital footprint that they create on the internet. It’s easy to feel anonymous online and it’s important that children are aware of who is able to view, and potentially share, the information that they may have posted;
  • Commercialism: children can be unaware of hidden costs and advertising in apps, games and websites. Children’s privacy and enjoyment online can sometimes be affected by advertising and marketing schemes, which can also mean inadvertently spending money online, for example within applications.

Sexting - the use of technology to send intimate/sexually explicit text messages including naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others. They can be sent using mobiles, tablets, smartphones, laptops - any device that allows you to share media and messages. Remember, if someone under the age of 18 creates an explicit photo or video of themselves, they could be held responsible for creating an image of child abuse. By sending this content to another person, they could be held responsible for the distribution of an image of child abuse. By receiving this content from another child, they could be held responsible for possessing an image of child abuse.

Creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A child is breaking the law if they:

  • Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend;
  • Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it's shared between children of the same age;
  • Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.

There is some evidence that people found in possession of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs or films/videos of children may now or in the future be involved directly in child abuse themselves. In particular, an individual's access to children should be established to consider the possibility that they are actively involved in the abuse of children including those within the family, within employment contexts or in other settings such as voluntary work with children or other positions of trust. Any indecent, obscene image involving a child has, by its very nature, involved a person, who in creating that image has been party to abusing that child.

Upskirting is a specific example of abusive behaviour that typically uses a mobile phone camera to capture an image under another person’s clothing. It is behaviour that has been linked to on-line bullying and grooming. Upskirting is a criminal offence and should be reported to the Police. However, if a child is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action is not in the public interest.

With effect from 29 June 2021, section 69 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 expanded so-called ‘revenge porn’ to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

E-Safety is the generic term that refers to raising awareness about how children and adults can protect themselves when using digital technology and in the online environment, andenvironment and provides examples of interventions that can reduce the level of risk for children.

When this guidance refers to 'Online', this means somebody using a device to gain access to the Internet. How somebody accesses the Internet or 'gets on lineonline' will vary massively especially as technology is changing so rapidly; the list below is a starting point of different means of getting online. HoweverHowever, this is certainly not exhaustive and will change over time:

  • Computers, PCs, Laptops, iPads, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) etc.
  • Mobile phones, Smartphones, 3G phones etc;
  • Through WiFi connections available in restaurants, cafes, hotels etc;
  • iPods, MP3s etc.
  • E-mail, Instant messaging, Texts, Blackberry Messenger;
  • Social networking sites e.g. Facebook, Twitter;
  • Video hosting websites e.g. Youtube;
  • Games consoles e.g. Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo online;
  • Chatrooms and Blogs;
  • Webcams.

Risk of Sexual Exploitation via online;

  • Spending increasing amount of time on social networking sites;
  • Accessing dating agencies via mobile phone;
  • Unexplained increased mobile phone/gaming credits;
  • New contacts with people out of their area;
  • Spending increasing amounts of time with online friends and less time with friends from school;
  • Going online during the night;
  • Being secretive and unwilling to share/how online contacts;
  • Concern that a child's online friendship has developed into an offline relationship;
  • Concern that inappropriate images of a child are being circulated via the internet.
  • Arranging to meet people they have met online;
  • Exchanging inappropriate images in exchange for gaming knowledge/phone and gaming credits;
  • Receiving gifts through the post from someone the child does not know;
  • Concern that a young person is being coerced to provide images;
  • Sharing of inappropriate images amongst friends.
  • Concerned that a child is being bribed by someone for their inappropriate on line activity;
  • Concern that a child is selling images via the internet for money;
  • Concern that a child is being drawn into providing increasingly provocative/sexualised images in exchange for payment;
  • Negotiating a price for sexual activity/images;
  • Concern that a child is selling sexual services via the internet.

Social Networking – Content uploaded online can be copied, altered and re-posted by anyone and it is very difficult to take back what may be later regretted. Children who create or post inappropriate, offensive or even illegal content could get into trouble with their school, friends and even the Police. Social networking sites are often used by perpetrators as an easy way to access children for sexual abuse. In additionaddition, radical and extremist groups may use social networking to attract children into rigid and narrow ideologies that are intolerant of diversity: this is similar to the grooming process and exploits the same vulnerabilities. The groups concerned include those linked to extreme Islamist, or Far Right/Neo Nazi ideologies, various paramilitary groups, extremist Animal Rights groups and others who justify political, religious, sexist or racist violence.

Downloading/File-Sharing – downloading, sharing or selling content without the permission of those who own the copyright;

Gaming – Playing games online has always been a popular pastime for children. However, it has undergone a massive increase in popularity since the onset of the COVID pandemic, as a result of more time spent at home and restrictions on physical social contact. Also in common with many other online activities, there are both positive and negative aspects to gaming. Gaming may lead to;

  • Unwanted contact (grooming) from others online who may wish to bully or abuse them;
  • Risk of financial or identity theft if the child shares personal family information online;
  • Cybercriminals also use gaming platforms and forums to recruit children for illicit activities such as malware coding and money muling, and some radicalisation begins on gaming platforms;
  • Playing games with an inappropriate age rating, potentially exposing children to violent, sexual or other unsuitable content, gambling, or involve gambling to, for example, predict results or win money;
  • Running up bills (for example, on in-game properties/in-app purchases);
  • Spending excessive time gaming, to the exclusion of social contact, exercise and schoolwork, and potential health risks.

Online Grooming – An adult or peer with an inappropriate child sexual or radicalisation interest in approaching a child online with the intention of developing a relationship with that child to sexual abuse, exploit or radicalise them. This can lead to exploitation and sexual abuse.

Premium Rate Content and in-app purchases – Mobile phone downloads and apps are easily available from websites and online services such as Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Often when one emerges it can quickly become ‘the thing’ to have and talked about by children. A lot of popular apps are free to download, but this does not mean they won’t charge children later on – many games are free up to a point, before then asking for a payment in order to continue onto the next level or to access additional features. When involved in the game and eager to progress further, it’s easy for a child to click to ‘pay and continue’ despite any messages asking them to confirm this, and for them not to consider the cost. The charge of ‘playing on’ or getting to the next level may be less than a pound per time, but this can mount up very easily. Some transactions can cost considerably more.

Financial – Whether being blackmailed into paying someone money or someone asking to use a child's bank account or pressure to buy premium rate content etc. as above.

Phishing is when someone tries to get hold of a child or adult’s personal information by sending an email containing a link to a bogus website. The email usually pretends to be from an authoritative source but is in fact a fake. The fraudsters want the child/adult to click on the website and submit information they can use.

Vishing is when Fraudsters call a child/adult on the telephone, impersonating someone from their bank, police, or service provider for example. They trick the child/adult into divulging personal financial information which they then use to gain access to the child/adult’s bank account and transfer money out. This is also known as an ‘impersonator’, ‘vishing’ or ‘courier’ scam.

Smishing is when a child may be sent a text containing a bogus link, orlink or be asked to reply with personal information to a fraudulent number.

Online shopping scams occur when a child has a bank account and is using their debit card to shop online. The fraudsters will often advertise fake products or a bogus service and take the child’s money but then never deliver what was paid for.

Money mule scam are often targeted at children and the scammers may ask the child to pay funds into their own account, then ask them to withdraw the cash to hand over or transfer it to another account. Allowing a bank account to be used in this way makes the person who has the account a money mule. This is an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and could lead to a criminal record and the bank account being closed. This could then lead to problems opening a new account or difficulties obtaining credit in the future.

Sharenting (or oversharenting) is a term used to describe the overuse of social media by parents or loved ones to share content based on their children.

Radicalisation – adults and/or peers use social media to reach out to and groom children into supporting terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups. Or to disseminate material or an extremist or terrorist nature.

The Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure and Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure should be borne in mind depending on the circumstances of the concerns.

3. Minimising Risk to Children and Young People

One of the most important messages that we should ensure children understand in relation to using online safety is that they should not give out personal information, particularly their name, address or school, to anyone they do not know or trust. This particularly includes social networking and online gaming sites. If they have been asked for such information, they should always check with their parent or other trusted adult before providing such details. It is also important that they understand why they must take a parent or trusted adult with them if they meet someone face to face who they have only previously met on-line. Educating children to this effect is the responsibility of all those working with them when using computers, whether that be in schools, youth clubs, residential children's homes, home education service etc. Firewalls and filtering software alone will not protect them, we need to give advice and guidance to ensure they have a safe online experience.

Supporting parents to safeguard their children: We need to ensure that those who care for children are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how to keep them safe and what to do if things go wrong. Often parents do not use these environments and therefore lack confidence in supervising their children's online activities. It is important that we support parents by raising awareness of the benefits, risks and dangers to help them understand more about what their children are doing online. We need to offer practical advice and guidance on how to keep their family safe online.

Adhering to Acceptable Use Policies in all establishments: There is a requirement to ensure that children and staff use the internet and related technologies appropriately and safely. The implementation of an acceptable use policy should be built into existing policies and procedures and should provide a structure to safe e-safety practice. Acceptable use policies (AUP) should clearly identify ways in which these technologies can and cannot be used and the procedures and support strategies for misuse. See Appendix 1 for examples of AUPs.

Firewalls - Whilst there is no guaranteed method of protecting users when online, there are some software solutions that can filter or block content. The majority of schools obtain their Internet feed from the Regional Broadband Consortiums which provide a level of filtering agreed with Local Authorities and schools. There is the facility for schools to choose their own filtering requirements from within the general provision. In other settings, where the Internet feed is not filtered, then individual machines can have specific filtering software applied. This needs to be undertaken with the agreement of senior management.

4. Legislation

The UK legislates against the production, distribution and possession of abusive images of children (also known as child pornography). It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, distribute or advertise indecent images (photographs or pseudo-photographs) of children (Protection of Children Act 1978 England and Wales) as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

The Serious Crime Act (2015) introduced an offence of sexual communication with a child. This applies to an adult, who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication, which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age. The Act amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16 having communicated with them on just one occasion (previously it was on at least two occasions).

An indecent image of a child is a visual record of the sexual abuse of a child, either through sexual acts by adults, other children (or which involves bestiality), or children posed in a sexually provocative way.

It is a serious arrestable offence to seek out images of child abuse. The making of (this includes the voluntary downloading of) and possession of such images carry maximum sentences of ten and five years respectively.

The UK laws which relate to child abuse images are:

  • Protection of Children Act 1978 (England and Wales) as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994;
  • Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006;
  • Communications Act 2003;
  • Civic Government Act, 1982 (Scotland);
  • Sexual Offences Act 2003: Key Changes (England and Wales);
  • Memorandum of Understanding: Section 46 Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Behaviour that is illegal if committed offline is also illegal if committed online. It is recommended that legal advice is sought in the event of an online issue or situation. There are a number of pieces of legislation that may apply including:

Communications Act 2003 - Sending by means of the internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent, there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.

Protection of Children Act 1978 - It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children in the United Kingdom. A child for these purposes is anyone under the age of 18. Viewing an indecent image of a child on your computer means that you have made a digital image. An image of a child also covers pseudo-photographs (digitally collated or otherwise). A person convicted of such an offence may face up to 10 years in prison.

Sexual Offences Act 2003 - The offence of grooming is committed if you are over 18 and have communicated with a child under 16 on one occasion (including by phone or using the Internet) it is an offence to meet them or travel to meet them anywhere in the world with the intention of committing a sexual offence. Causing a child under 16 to watch a sexual act is illegal, including looking at images such as videos, photos or webcams, for your own gratification. It is also an offence for a person in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with any person under 18, with whom they are in a position of trust. (Typically, teachers, social workers, health practitioner fall in this category of trust). Any sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13 commits the offence of rape.

Serious Crime Act 2015 - The Act introduces a new offence of sexual communication with a child. This would criminalise an adult who communicates with a child for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, where the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16. The Act also amended the Sex Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16 having communicated with them on just one occasion (previously it was on at least two occasions).

5. Recognition and Response

The impact on a child of online sexual abuse is similar to that for all sexually abused children. However, it has an additional dimension of there being a visual record of the abuse. Online sexual abuse of a child constitutes significant harm through sexual and emotional abuse, see Responding to Abuse and Neglect Procedure.

Significant harm is defined as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and/or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful that there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.

Practitioners in all agencies working with children, adults and families should be alert to the possibility that:

  • A child may already have been / is being, abused and the images distributed on the internet or by mobile telephone;
  • An adult or older child may be grooming a child for sexual abuse, including for involvement in making abusive images. This process can involve the child being shown abusive images;
  • An adult or older child may be viewing and downloading child sexual abuse images.

6. Concern about Particular Child(ren)

Where the concerns involve a particular child(ren) practitioners should make a referral or have a discussion with the relevant Children's Services in line with the Referral, Investigation and Assessment Procedures.

Practitioners should be aware that, for the reasons outlined in Impact on Children, the child may not want to acknowledge their involvement or admit its abusive nature, and may resist efforts to offer protection. This should not be a deterrent and agencies will need to work together closely in order to continue to monitor and assess the nature and degree of any risk to the child.

The police should ensure that checks are made with regard to the subject adult and any other suspected adults, their contact with other children and other activities involving children. This is in order to identify the existence of organised and complex abuse or abuse of children through sexual exploitation.

The Police can draw upon powers to seize communications materials only in specified circumstances where the level of evidence would support an application to do so. The Police will receive support from the National Crime Agency which includes the CEOP Command at Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) as appropriate, to assist with enquiries of this kind.

7. Indicators

Often these issues come to light through accidental discovery of images on a computer or other device and can seem to emerge 'out of the blue' from an otherwise trusted and non-suspicious individual. This in itself can make accepting the fact of the abuse difficult for those who know and may have trusted that individual. The initial indicators of abuse are likely to be changes in behaviour and mood of the victim. Clearly such changes can also be attributed to many innocent events in a child's life and cannot be regarded as diagnostic. However, changes to a child's circle of friends or a noticeable change in attitude towards the use of computer or phone could have their origin in abusive behaviour. Similarly, a change in their friends or not wanting to be alone with a particular person may be a sign that something is upsetting them.

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.

8. Issues and Protection

Accessing or Creating Indecent Images - Where there is suspected or actual evidence of anyone accessing or creating indecent images of children, this must be referred to the Police and Children's Services.

Online Grooming - Where there are concerns about a child being groomed, exposed to pornographic material or contacted by someone inappropriately, via the internet or other ICT tools like a mobile phone, referrals should be made to the Police and to Children's Social Care Services.

All such reports should be taken seriously. Referrals will normally lead to a Strategy Discussion to determine the course of further investigation, enquiry and assessment. Any intervention should be continually under review especially if further evidence comes to light.

Due to the nature of this type of abuse and the possibility of the destruction of evidence, the referrer should discuss their concerns with the Police and Children's Services before raising the matter with the family. This will enable a joint decision to be made about informing the family and ensuring that the child's welfare is safeguarded.

Chat Room Grooming and Offline Abuse - Grooming of children online is a faster process than usual grooming, and totally anonymous. The abuser develops a 'special' relationship with the child online (often adopting a false identity), which remains a secret to enable an offline meeting to occur in order for the abuser to sexually harm the child. The abuser grooms online by finding out as much as they can about their potential victim, establishes the risk and likelihood of the child telling, finds out about the child's family and social networks and, if safe enough, will isolate their victim, usually through bribes or threats, and gain control.

Abusers may use child sexual abuse images to break down the child's barriers to sexual behaviour (and communicate to the child the abuser's sexual fantasies). Repeated exposure to abusive images is intended to diminish the child's inhibitions and give the impression that sex between adults and children is normal, acceptable and enjoyable.

There is an additional dimension to the silencing of children who have been groomed in chatrooms. Children's behaviour on the net is far less inhibited. They will talk about things and people and use language that they wouldn't in their everyday lives, and they are fearful of those close to them finding out what they have said.

Children who have been 'duped' into believing that their online contact is a 'friend' have a serious concern of their own peer group finding out that they have been 'foolish' enough to be conned in this way. The majority say they would have told no one about their abusive experiences.

Sexting - Self Generated Explicit Images of Children - Any incidents that come to light should be handled carefully, bearing in mind both that possession of the images may constitute an offence in itself, and the child whose image has been shared is at risk and may already be subject to an exploitative relationship.

There have been a number of cases of images or video of children under the age of 16 engaging in sexual activity being shared. These are legally images of child sexual abuse, even if they have been shared by others of the same age. All such cases are evidence of a child being sexually exploited and should be dealt with as such.

If images or video of children engaged in sexual activity or in revealing poses are known to have been posted online, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • The Police should be contacted immediately. The Police will be in a position to make judgments about how matters are pursued in relation to offences and offenders. Where children are voluntarily sending/sharing sexual images or content with one another the Police may use the 'outcome 21' recording code to record that a crime has been committed but that it is not considered to be in the public interest to take criminal action against the people involved. This reduces stigma and distress for children and helps to minimise the long-term impact of the situation;
  • Sites or networks on which the images appear should be alerted to the existence of illegal material. It is important that material online be removed as soon as possible, but staff must not put themselves at risk of illegality. Once the matter has been reported to the Police their advice on this must be followed;
  • Any children who have themselves posted potentially illegal material should be told to remove the items, and warned that Police action may follow if they do not.
  • In some cases, there may not be an obvious means of flagging or reporting the image. Even in these circumstances the existence of the image should be notified to the network provider and Police action may be necessary to ensure its removal or engage the co-operation of the child who has control of the image;
  • The incident should be logged through the organisation's own monitoring/line management procedures;
  • Appropriate educational/pastoral work should be undertaken with all children involved.

Extremist Material - Where there are concerns in relation to a child's exposure to extremist materials, the child's school may be able to provide advice and support: all schools are required to identify a Prevent Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who is the lead for safeguarding in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism. Suspected online terrorist material can be reported through the Report online material promoting terrorism or extremism website. Content of concern can also be reported directly to social media platforms.

9. Impact on Children

Children may have great difficulty in talking about their abuse, some denying that it is their image even when there is categorical proof. The reasons for this include that children:

  • Can experience intense feelings of powerlessness, knowing that there is nothing they can do about others viewing pornographic pictures/films of themselves (and sometimes their coerced sexual abuse of others) indefinitely;
  • Express concerns over how the images will be viewed (i.e. that they enjoyed it or were complicit in its production);
  • Are aware that the sexual abuse they endured to produce the images can be distributed commercially or non-commercially for the arousal of others. They are also aware that it can be used to groom and abuse other children;
  • Suffer in the knowledge that there is a permanent record of their sexual abuse and this knowledge has implications for the need for long-term support and treatment of the children to reflect the harm that indefinite circulation can cause;
  • Children may also be shown images of their own abuse by their abuser, and they typically hold a personal responsibility for not stopping their own abuse and that of others involved. All these aspects reflect the impact of the grooming process of the abusers, who endeavour to make the child feel that it is their fault and that they could have stopped the abuse.

10. Responding to Concerns about the Safety of Children

When there are concerns about the welfare of a child which have occurred online then the agency should use its usual safeguarding children procedures and good practice to respond to these. In this sense the context of the abuse/ harm occurring online is no different to other situations where there is a concern about a child's welfare.

If there is a concern about actual Significant Harm or the risk of Significant Harm to a child arising whist online then the agency should immediately activate its own safeguarding children or child protection procedures, and make a referral to the relevant Children's Services below. Again this is no different to concerns in other situations and if a child is in immediate danger then contact the Police on 999.

Integrated Front Door – Bedford Borough Council Children’s Services
Office hours: 01234 718700

Access and Referral Hub - Central Bedfordshire Council Children’s Services
Office hours: 0300 300 8585

Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub – Luton Council Children’s Services
Office hours: 01582 547653

Out of hours for all three areas: 0300 300 8123

When an incident raises concerns both about Significant Harm and unacceptable use, the first and paramount consideration should always be the welfare and safety of the child directly involved.

To assist Police in any subsequent investigations, where possible, staff who are made aware of online abuse or inappropriate activity should try to preserve copies or records of offending material and obtain any relevant passwords to accounts or websites, where possible.

11. Responding to Concerns about the Online Conduct of Staff and Volunteers

Practitioners may identify a concern through a relationship with a child or an adult, from visits to the family home or from information shared by the victim's friends or family. A practitioner who has a concern should discuss this with their line manager and/or their agency's designated safeguarding children lead. See the guidance for assessing children and families affected by adults viewing child sexual abuse images on the Internet.

A concern about an adult should be shared even where there is no evidence to support it. A referral should be made to the Police about the adult. The Police must consider the possibility that the individual might also be involved in the active abuse of children and their access to children should be established, including family and work settings, and a referral made to the relevant Children's Services for the attention of their LADO.

If staff (paid/unpaid) behave in ways online that cause concern then this will usually be dealt with under the auspices of the Acceptable Use Policy or Standards of Proficiency of the agency (see example of an acceptable use policy in Appendix 1 and also Appendix 2: Example of a Standards of Proficiency Written for All Staff (Paid /Unpaid) When Using Online Communication). Acceptable Use Policies define what behaviour is acceptable when using digital technology and should be in place to help everyone understand all aspects of their duties when technology is involved.

However, if the conduct by staff or volunteers amounts to a concern about an abusive relationship with, or harmful behaviour towards, a child then the Allegations and Concerns regarding Staff, Carers and Volunteers Working with Children and Young People Procedure should be followed.

Practitioners in all agencies should be aware of alerting indicators amongst their workforce colleagues and follow the procedures in Safer Recruitment Procedure and Allegations against staff or volunteers, who work with children Procedure.

Human resources and IT practitioners should be aware of the new legal framework created by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

12. Online Safety Resources