Last Updated on 5th April 2024

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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Safeguarding Soundbites podcast. This week we’re marking anti-bullying week in the UK, discussing file sharing apps Airdrop and Nearby Share, and finding out all the latest news in the digital safeguarding world.

According to Ofcom, 4 in 10 children in the UK between the ages of 8-17 have experienced bullying either online or offline. We’ve put together a collection of our best online resources to help parents, carers, and teachers work through this difficult topic, both at home and in the classroom. You can find these resources by visiting our website!

After being alerted to concerns around the sharing of photos from phone-to-phone in schools, we’ve created a guide about the file sharing features of Airdrop and Nearby Share. The iOS and Android features allow users to send people nearby files, such as photos, links, and documents. Young people could potentially be exposed to age-inappropriate content, such as sexual imagery and violent videos, through this sharing feature. It is also a potential platform for cyberbullying of both pupils and teachers, and for the sharing of self-generated sexual imagery. To help, schools should ensure they have effective mobile phone policies in place, following the applicable regional guidance. You can find out more advice on how to mitigate the risks in our guide, which you’ll find on our website ineqe.com.

In the news this week, an investigation by business magazine Forbes claims to have found evidence of TikTok accounts hiding child sexual abuse materials in plain sight. Forbes reports that accounts are sharing graphic videos of minors engaging in sexual and exploitative acts. The materials are stored on private accounts, viewable to only the account holder, but predators are sharing the account password with multiple users. Although TikTok has a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abuse materials and prohibits the sharing of login credentials, it appears these users are circumventing the rules, and if an account is banned, they quickly set up another. Predators can find these accounts by searching for key words and phrases that appear completely innocent or nonsensical from any outsider’s perspective. Forbes have reported their findings to TikTok and the relevant agencies for further investigation.

Police Scotland and social services have come under fire after a new report shows that some vulnerable children have been reported missing hundreds of times while being at risk of sexual abuse. The Scottish police force were required to publish internal reports that have revealed vulnerable children found in the company of registered sex offenders and being sexually abused in exchange for money, alcohol, and drugs. One report found that 16 children in residential or foster care were reported missing over 630 times. Our CEO Jim Gamble has previously spoken out about the prevalence of children going missing from care, and how authorities need to create better systems and encourage more awareness of the issues that create these opportunities for sex offenders to take advantage. Campaigners and Members of the Scottish Parliament have asked for further investigation into the Police Scotland report and urged the Scottish government to intervene.

In Wales, a 16-year-old was able to gamble thousands of pounds away after opening a gambling account in his father’s name. The boy had seen an advert at a football match and opened the account just hours later. Welsh MPs and anti-gambling charities have called on the UK government to release their delayed white paper on gambling, which outlines proposals to reform gambling laws. Any exposure to gambling is a concern when it comes to young people, whether that’s through adverts seen in real life, as this case, or through gambling apps and loot boxes in videogames. As well as the potential for losing significant amounts of money, there is also the risk of addiction and negative impacts on school and home life. Get more information by searching on ineqe.com for ‘young people and gambling’.

A survey has found that more than half of young people aged 13-17-years-old have been exposed to violent content on social media. This includes fighting, sexual assaults and threats. The survey by the Youth Endowment Fund found that 24% of participants have seen another child online carrying a weapon and that 14% had skipped school due to their fears of being a victim of violence. Being exposed to harmful behaviours online is a major safeguarding concern, particularly around the emotional impact it can have, both short term and long term. There’s also risk of their behaviour being normalised and replicated, without the understanding of potential consequences. If the child or young person in your care has viewed this or other harmful content online, remind them to stay calm, don’t look any further into the content, and turn off their device. Follow this up by ensuring that you provide them with reassurance and support.

And that’s all for this week’s Safeguarding Soundbites! I’ll be back next week with your next instalment of safeguarding news, alerts, and advice. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love you to recommend us to your friends, families, and colleagues – because we know safeguarding works best when we all do our part. Stay safe and I’ll speak to you next time!

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