Western Digital Safeguarding Steering Group (Staying Safe Online)
The Western Digital Safeguarding Steering Group is made up of voluntary and statutory agencies in the Western Trust area of Northern Ireland. We are committed to delivering evidence-informed training and resources to make technology and the Internet a safer place for all. We support the vision of the 5 Rights Foundation which believes children and young people should be supported to access digital technologies creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly.
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We deliver high-quality training focused on Digital Safeguarding Awareness. This training is open to professionals who work in the WHSCT area and work directly with children and families. The training is open to professionals in the statutory, voluntary and community sector. We are unable to offer places to the general public or private/fee-based organisations or companies. Our training consistently well-reviewed and is delivered by professionals trained to CEOP Ambassador level with expertise in their respective fields, including suicide prevention.
Conferences, Master Classes and Bespoke Events
We deliver and/or signpost to events and invite experts including YouTubers from across the world to spread positive messages about staying safe online. In 2011 and 2012 we held two ‘Virtual Lives’ Conferences, in 2017 our Conference focused on, ‘How Tech Impacts on Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing’, in 2018 we explored ‘Digital Resilience Across the Lifespan’ and in 2020 we will focus on, ‘Boundaries in a Boundaryless Environment- Safeguarding Challenges in the Digital Age’. We have delivered and hosted events on technology-assisted domestic abuse, learning disability and technology, mental health and staying safe online and ‘sharenting’. We have also presented at Conferences across the UK, blogged and podcasted about digital safeguarding issues.
Message in a Minute
We send out a monthly e-Message in a Minute that focuses on digital safeguarding topics, events, free training or resources that are relevant to parents, carers and professionals. It usually only takes about a minute to read!
We have been developing a variety of ‘Top Tip’ booklets for children, young people, parents and carers that are available in both hard copy and online.
Download and Print the ‘Top Tip’ Booklets below on the following links:-
Respectful Sharenting Booklet
What is ‘Sharenting’?
Sharenting is when parents share information or photos about their children online e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Blogging etc. Parents have always enjoyed sharing photos and stories about their children, but the online audience can be huge and include people who aren’t really ‘friends’.
Information can also stay online for a very
long time. INEQE found that the average 38 year-old Facebook user has 338 ‘friends’ and could have 114,000 people looking at their
stuff if their settings are ‘friends of friends’!
Do you know who can see your children’s photos?
Why do people ‘sharent’ and what’s good about it?
To connect with others such as friends & family to share children’s achievements, celebrations or milestones. Parents also sharent to get support when feeling isolated or needing help at any time of the day or night! It’s convenient, instant and free* and connects lots of people all at the same time and can be a great way to keep memories digitally. There are also loads of different communities online that can help parents immediately, without leaving your house! Technology can be fantastic!
The average parent posts over 200 photos of their children every year but the majority don’t check privacy settings regularly. – Nominet UK
What are the risks?
Social Media is only free* in money terms. We
‘pay’ with our information which creates digital ‘footprints’. This information is used by companies or data brokers and one day might affect your child in ways not yet known or understood.
Some photos or stories are not respectful of children’s privacy or dignity, especially when parents are frustrated and share content that could shame, embarrass or upset a child.
People may also take your photos for other reasons without your knowledge or consent. Some children could be bullied because of what their parents share.
- Do check your privacy settings and ensure you carefully choose who sees your precious memories. Think about
what and how you share and sometimes exercise restraint about what you share.
- Do think about the future. Do you want your child, their future employer, partner or school mates to see that photo or read that post?
- Do consider whether you would like that information, photo or video to be shared about you. If the roles were reversed, would that be ok?
- Do encourage a culture of mutual respect or ‘Netiquette’ about online behaviour and sharing. This teaches your children good lessons about respect and kindness!
- Do take particular care when sharing about children who are ill, in hospital or disabled. They are children first, not just ‘patients’ or ‘disabled’. They have the right to privacy and to choose who knows about their health or medical condition. If you are trying to raise funds or awareness, consider using Avatars or sharing anonymously.
- Do remember children learn from you about what’s okay to share online. If they see that anything goes, that won’t help with their own boundaries about sharing as they grow up.
- Do discuss and agree online family privacy rules the same way you talk about other privacy rules such as bathroom or bedroom privacy or helping with getting dressed. It’s important to talk about what is or is not acceptable to share online. NSPCC have Family Online Agreements you can use.
- Do take care with what you post online and remember that your child may one day see what you have written or shared about them. This is kind of like virtual ‘eavesdropping’ and if you are expressing frustration about being a parent (and yes it can be tough!) just think about how that might be interpreted by your child or other people.
- Do encourage a culture of consent. If you expect people to ask for your permission to be in their photos, do the same with your own children. Give your children the right to say no, the same way you can distance or ‘untag’ yourself from other people’s photos. Even very small children should be taught about consent and that they have choices about what happens to them.
‘Equally important to the right of the child to one day narrate her own story, is the child’s right to choose never to share the information at all’ Steinberg, 2017:87
- Don’t share anything that could place your child at risk such as their location, school uniform, date of birth, etc. Although these risks are probably low, information can be easily ‘stolen’ by strangers or predators online. Even innocent and cute photos have been found on paedophile sharing sites.
- Don’t share anything embarrassing or private such as sitting on the potty or toilet or being naked/semi-naked regardless of age!
- Don’t share photos or videos of your children in any state of distress e.g. tantrums, being upset or afraid or anything that could breach trust between you and your child e.g. private information that only parents would know.
- Don’t use social media as a way to discipline or shame your child when you have run out of ideas or are frustrated. Taking ‘selfies’ of their messy bedroom or encouraging your friends to support you by commenting or liking your posts may cause more problems than it solves and may affect trust.
- Parenting NI have support online
parentingni.org or 080 8801 0722
Help and Advice
02/NSPCC Helpline 0808 800 5002 ‘Techy’ info and online safety advice parentzone.org.uk Making the Internet Work for Families!
Parenting for a Digital Future • Research & Blogs on Sharenting
INEQE Video- Sharenting
Cerebra Guide for Parents with children who have Autism or Learning Disabilities:
The Western Digital Safeguarding Steering Group is made up of voluntary and statutory agencies in the Western Trust area of Northern Ireland. We are committed to delivering evidence-informed training and resources to make the Internet a safer place for all. We support the 5Rights Framework which believes children and young people should be supported to access digital technologies creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly.
For more information log on to
Booklet based on: Greaves, D. (2017) What are the Rights’ Implications of ‘Sharenting’ for Children and Parents? A Systematic Review of the Literature. Belfast: Queen’s University. Your feedback is welcomed:
- Do check your privacy settings and ensure you carefully choose who sees your precious memories. Think about
For all emergencies please contact 999 or 101 for non-emergencies.
Childline: 0800 1111 or click here for online support
CEOP (Child Exploitation Online Protection) – Click here for more information about online reporting
Professionals Online Safety Helpline: 0344 381 4772 or email: email@example.com
NSPCC/o2 Helpline- Support for Parents and Carers: If you have a question about parental controls or concern about a social network your child uses, expert advisors at our free helpline are here to help. Phone: 080 8800 5002
Parenting NI Helpline: Available Monday to Thursday 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and Friday 9:30am to 12:30 pm. Phone: 080 8801 0722
- Other Useful Websites
Projects and Partnerships
Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy
Members of the WDSSG worked with Causeway Coast and Glens PCSP to facilitate and present at ‘Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy’, a Digital Resilience conference for post primary pupils and their teachers in Ulster University Coleraine in February 2019. 1200 attended of which 350 were pupils from schools in the WHSCT area. Evaluations were very positive from both staff and pupils and the project went on to win the PCSP Community Safety Award for Excellence in Collaboration (photo below).
The Digi-PAL project is a joint initiative between the Western and Northern Social Care Trusts and sector specialists, Nexus NI and NSPCC. The project has two objectives that combine to achieve the overall goals of:
- Increased digital resilience that will reduce vulnerability to exploitation through social media and other internet based channels
- An ‘across-the-lifespan’ approach to the implementation of this proposal will ensure that people of all ages and at different stages of life will develop greater resilience to deal effectively online exploitation through social media and other internet sites. Tailored training inputs and facilitated access to information and support will increase their self-confidence and will build their capacity to deal with negative issues
Objective 1: Create a network of community-based ‘digital resilience champions’ to facilitate the delivery of cyber-safety specific training, information sharing and access to appropriate support channels for affected individuals and families.
Objective 2: Create and maintain a digital platform that will connect the network of community-based ‘digital resilience champions’ with ongoing access to expert guidance from service providers. The digital platform will also function as a portal to store and share up-to-date cyber-safety materials and information resources.
- Digi-PAL Champions delivered 14 group sessions to over 80 people
- Digi-PAL Champions delivered 30 one to one interactions with individuals. The most common topics covered were scam detection/avoidance and privacy/security settings.
- Through these sessions, Champions prevented 4 people becoming victims of online scams
- A bespoke core awareness sessions was delivered to 25 Libraries NI staff in Dungiven
- Elements of the Digi-PAL programme are now integrated into the Libraries NI ‘Introduction to iPad’ sessions
- A website has been developed (www.digipalni.org) with a range of signposting and resources for Champions and the public to access. This includes a member’s area to upload feedback from sessions delivered and one to one interactions.
- Evaluations were very positive- view the course evaluation here
Testimonials from participants included:
“I found the entire course to be relevant in some way, whether from a personal or professional perspective. However the information shared in relation to risks to children and young adults online was particularly relevant to my work as a youth worker. However I did feel I could apply all the information shared to some aspect of myself, personally”.
“I think I will use the information I have learnt through this training, to open conversations on the issues of online safety, apps, and risks with the young people I work with. Ensuring they are aware of the various support agencies available and the importance of telling someone, no matter the problem. I have also found myself discussing some of these issues with hose in personal life, ensuring that they too are aware of the risks and support available”.
Western Digital Safeguarding Steering Group Staff