Keeping Children Safe Online

A guide for organisations

This guide is based on a model that helps organisations plan their approach to the use of social media. It also signposts sources of further support: advice, training and information.

What does the guide cover?

The Keeping Children Safe Online guide (PDF in English or Spanish) has been developed for international NGOs who want to use social media with children and young people that they work with. They may want to develop children’s skills and capacity; to use social media as a development tool for a community project; to provide access to technology, or to offer social media as a communication tool between communities or between sponsors and sponsored children.

The advice is targeted particularly at NGOs working with children and young people in developing countries where there is increasing use of social media and a need for organisations working with children to protect them in the online world.

In today’s increasingly digital world, the issue of e-safety, that is keeping children safe in the electronic world, is extremely important.

Why is it important to provide advice in this area?

NGOs are increasingly engaging in projects or activities that use social media as a form of engagement, empowerment and development. This can vary from internet radio to Facebook or Twitter as well as the use of ICT for development projects to advance human rights or social and economic well-being.

ICT has huge benefits for children and young people: it provides access to a range of often inaccessible resources, communication and support. However, social media also creates potential risks for children.

It is essential therefore that organisations, which are planning projects, have guidance and support to protect children and young people, manage risks and maintain the highest levels of child safeguarding standards.

Overview of risks

British psychologist Dr Tanya Byron highlighted the risks posed to children and young people online in her review of children in the online world in 2008. As part of the review the London School of Economics categorised the risks as the ‘three Cs’: content; contact; and conduct. They give a framework for considering risks posed to and by children online.

Content: refers to material that children and young people can access online: commercial (adverts or spam); violent or hateful material; pornographic or sexual material, and racist or biased content. The principle of the “Content” risk is that children access and come across online material as passive recipients. This may expose them to risk.

Contact: refers to children and young people as participants – they are actively involved in the interaction. They may share information about themselves, which puts them at risk. Their information may be harvested or tracked. They may be stalked or bullied; meet strangers on and offline, or be subjected to grooming.

Conduct: involves children or young people engaging in risky behaviour. They may download something illegally, bully or harass another young person or adult, create and upload sexual material or ‘sext’.

Further risks were identified in a report compiled by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard in collaboration with UNICEF, which was published in 2010. Evidence suggested that risks for children in the developing world have a different focus to those in the industrialised/developing world.


Download the full guide for more details: The Keeping Children Safe Online guide (PDF in English or Spanish)

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