Digital safety platform launched to protect young children online

Nicole Weinstein
Tuesday, May 31, 2022

An interactive online safety programme teaching primary school children about cyberbullying, online grooming and how to keep their personal information secure has been launched by online safety experts, Internet Matters.

The programme allows children to choose online 'helpers'. Picture: Internet Matters
The programme allows children to choose online 'helpers'. Picture: Internet Matters

The programme, Digital Matters, was developed to tackle the rise in the number of six- to 10-year-olds who have experienced trolling and abuse from strangers online, which has more than doubled in the last year, according to new research undertaken by Internet Matters.

At the same time, exposure to fake news, misinformation or disinformation has risen by 63 per cent in the space of a year. Parents also report that their children are increasingly facing online peer pressure and are tricked into giving away personal information.

Within the new platform, aimed at primary school pupils in Years 5 and 6, children are taught about e-safety through group activities and discussion with their teacher or a parent.

They then move onto Once Upon Online, a storytelling session which lets the children make choices that could be risky in real life, so they can learn about the consequences in the safe place. Pupils choose one of five 'Helpers' to give them tips to the answers when unsure. 

Lee Parkinson, primary school teacher, who also appears on podcast, Two Mr Ps in a Podcast, trialled the platform.

He said: “Being able to show kids the direct result of their choices online, when faced with difficult situations, such as sharing information or being confronted with fake news, allowed my class to make mistakes and learn how to make the right choices without the potentially nasty consequences.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the age that kids use tech unsupervised is rapidly getting younger so issues like trolling, receiving nasty comments online and being tricked into sharing personal information is no longer just an issue for secondary schools to deal with and I feel the best form of prevention with all these issues is through education.”

Ghislaine Bombusa, head of digital at Internet Matters, who led the creation of the platform, with support from digital security firm, ESET, said that there is a “growing need” to ensure young people not only stay safe online but have the media literacy skills they need to navigate an increasingly complex digital world.

She added: “We also know the important role that parents play in keeping their children safe online, so the programme encourages their involvement, making sure that they feel empowered to support their children as they stumble across difficult situations online.”

Digital Matters has been developed with teacher input and each lesson has been through the PSHE Association's (the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) quality assurance process.

Teachers and parents can access the Digital Matters platform for free here.

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