The increase in freely-available, inappropriate images, as well as inappropriate behaviour amongst students in certain age ranges, has given rise to more serious breaches of online safety, and this highlights the necessity for schools to have a clear escalation route outlined within their policy.

Every school visited by our Internet Safety advisors into in the last 18 months has had an issue with either social networks or sexting - these are by far the most common issues we face.

We see sexting and the distribution of sexual images becoming an issue in some schools where they’re running BYOD schemes and their students are mobile, and for schools that don’t have a robust safety policy in place, there can be fairly serious implications for staff too.

I visited one school recently that didn’t have that system linked to their internet safety policy and a teacher was contacted by the police because they had tried to take a copy of an inappropriate image to show the Head – so it can also lead to sticky situations for staff in terms of potential prosecution.”

If images like these are discovered on a student’s device, it is the school’s responsibility to confiscate the device, place it in a secure area and escalate the issue as laid out in their Internet Safety policy to either the school’s safeguarding lead, or the Head. 

Schools in this situation should then consider whether it’s an isolated incident between two pupils, what the nature of the image is, whether there’s a broad age difference between the individuals, whether it appears there was coercion from a third party, whether they’ve done anything similar before, whether the child is vulnerable, whether the image has been widely broadcast and, finally, whether there is any concern for the individuals involved.

Considering each of these points carefully will help Heads and safeguarding leads determine the relevant course of action.

For more advice insights and tips please visit www.rm.com/what-we-do/online-safety-for-schools

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