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Safeguarding Young People in this Digital World

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By Helen Beecher Bryant
EARA Delivery Trainer, Kidscape
@Helen_B_B

I have worked with young people throughout my career and am staggered at the ease with which they share information, photos and videos with their social networks. This raises a raft of safeguarding issues that could not have been imagined twenty years ago. In a split second, a reactionary message can be sent; a button can be pressed which records something confidential, which can then be instantly circulated. This is the world our young people are growing up in – they are ‘digital natives’ and have not known a world without the internet.

Social networks can be used for good – I am avid user of Twitter, having realised the potential of the engagement it creates. I have used Twitter to recruit volunteers, heard about employment opportunities and funding streams, made contacts.

However, anyone can set-up social media accounts. There are millions of accounts on thousands of social media platforms worldwide. Whilst many are used for good, just as many are used for negative activity. This puts our young people are risk and these risks may be hard to see.

As a Youth Worker and EARA Trainer, I have a unique opportunity to gently instruct young people as to how to protect themselves: to avoid giving away personal details; to encourage them to make sure that they are safeguarding themselves from people who may have dangerous intentions; to rigorously and critically question anything they read online, through consulting reliable sources and speaking to trusted adults.

Being safe anywhere is about recognising what could happen and taking steps to minimise the risk. A life lived online, as the lives of many young people are these days, with the right controls and understanding of risk in place, can be fulfilling and enable positive engagement.

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