The Protection of Children Standard


Correspondence, Communication and Social Networking Procedure

This is a new chapter for October 2011.


  1. Context
  2. Acceptable Use
  3. Putting the Policy in Place
  4. Responsibilities of Staff
  5. Web Site Resources

1. Context

Childhood First is committed to helping all the children and young people they look after to stay safe. Information and Communications Technology is an integral part of our lives and children need to learn how to use it effectively - but safely.

We have a responsibility to educate children and young people on e-safety issues; to ensure they understand appropriate behaviours and critical thinking skills and to enable them to remain both safe and legal when using the internet and related technologies, in and beyond the home or school.

Children and young people can access the Internet in many different ways using a variety of devices including desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones and games consoles. This Policy aims to provide guidance relating to children's and young people’s safe use of the Internet regardless of how and where they access it.

The Internet is constantly changing, therefore it is impossible to provide a single set of rules to cover every aspect of Internet safety for all the children and young people placed with Childhood First. Each placement provides a different set of circumstances that must be addressed in the individual risk assessment, this will help to determine what the acceptable level of Internet use is and guide the process of setting up any agreements if necessary. The risk assessment will be subject to regular monitoring and amended as necessary. For agreements see Appendix 1 - to follow.

2. Acceptable Use

Childhood First considers that all children and young people should be helped and empowered to manage themselves over time; to enable this process, Internet Rules should set clear boundaries, using appropriate language, about what is expected of the child or young person while placed. Children and young people should be asked to sign an Acceptable Use statement which could include:

  • Time limits for useage;
  • The type of sites or specific sites that the young person is permitted or not permitted to use;
  • Agreement to explain or show staff what they are doing online at any time;
  • Not engaging in any behaviour that is unacceptable e.g. bullying, gossiping;
  • If the young person accesses social networking sites, an agreement to share who their online 'friends' are, ensure privacy settings are appropriately set and establish the type of activity that is acceptable;
  • The need to tell someone if inappropriate content is accessed or they are upset by anyone while online;
  • The need to ask before carrying out certain activities e.g. setting up an account on a games site, joining a social networking site;
  • Young People who wish to post images of themselves on websites must be made aware of the risks involved. In some cases it may not be safe for young people to post images on social networking sites such as Facebook or MSN. This must be assessed on an individual basis.

3. Putting the Policy in Place

Some practical arrangements will be needed to ensure that the policy is effectively implemented and maintained:

  • It is recommended that the Internet Rules are displayed or kept near to the device that the child uses most frequently to access the Internet;
  • The Internet Rules should be reviewed and, if necessary, revised at regular intervals;
  • It may be necessary to prevent Internet access on a temporary basis as a sanction. However it is not usually acceptable for children or young people to be prevented from accessing the Internet permanently. If this action is taken the child or young person’s social worker should be notified in accordance with regulation 15, 7b of the Children’s Homes Regulations;
  • Prohibiting young people from using social networking sites will not necessarily prevent them from accessing them elsewhere. A more effective way of helping to keep young people safe when using social networking sites is to:
    • Ensure young people set their privacy settings appropriately;
    • Pay attention to what information the young person is posting; and
    • Encourage young people to share their social networking experiences with an appropriate adult.

4. Responsibilities of Staff

Staff will need to be up to date with e-Safety knowledge that is appropriate for the age group they are working with. If a member of staff has any concerns about  online activities they should report it to their line manager or a senior member of staff.

Staff need to be aware that most Social Networking sites impose age limits on their membership. Facebook, for example, currently denies membership to anyone under 13 years old. Youtube states that their site is not intended for under 13 year olds to view and that members must be over 18 or have parental/guardian consent to add content to the site. It is therefore inappropriate for children under 13 years old to use social networking sites.

Staff will sign an Acceptable Use Statement to show that they agree with and accept the rules for staff using non-personal equipment, within and beyond either the home or school environment and will:

  • Use electronic communications in an appropriate way that does not breach the Data Protection Act 1998;
  • Remember confidentiality and not disclose information from the network, pass on security passwords or leave a station unattended when they or another user is logged in.

Also see the Correspondence, Communication and Social Networking Procedure and the staff handbook.

5. Web Site Resources

Useful resources are available on line for both children and staff:

CEOP - site of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, which delivers a multi-agency service dedicated to tackling the exploitation of children. It provides advice to parents, carers and children on Internet safety, an online reporting facility.

Thinkuknow - helps young people, parents and carers and teachers to learn about the risks that young people may encounter whilst using the Internet. Developed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) the Thinkuknow web site also includes a facility for young people to report online abuse.

Childnet International - provides a range of resources to help children and young people to use the Internet constructively and to protect children from being exploited in the online environments provided by new technologies.

It includes comprehensive advice for young people, parents, teachers and carers about Internet and mobile safety in the form of downloadable leaflets and interactive activities.

Get Safe Online – the result of a joint initiative between the Government, law enforcement, leading businesses and the public sector. This site provides free, independent, user-friendly advice on Internet security and safety. Look in Resources for Parents, Teachers and Young People in the Knowledge Base for advice on Internet safety.

Digizen - set up by Childnet International to help tackle online bullying or cyber bullying. It contains advice for young people and parents/carers on social networking and cyberbullying.

Ofcom Guidance on Parental Controls for Games Consoles - Type games consoles in the search box on the Ofcom web site to access a summary of parental controls features on games consoles. The page includes links to the leading games consoles manufacturers to access instructions on how to set up the controls.