Last Updated on 18th November 2022

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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.

The number of children and young people in Northern Ireland who have received support about bullying has more than doubled in the last year. Data from the NSPCC shows that there’s been a 119% rise in counselling sessions for issues around in-person bullying. There is also a growing number of children seeking help and support after being victims of cyberbullying. The research was released in aid of Anti-Bullying Week and we have been marking this week by sharing some of our best bullying resources via our social media pages, including an animated video about bullying beyond the classroom and how to talk to children with autism about cyberbullying. Search Twitter and Facebook for ‘Safer Schools NI’ to find those and be sure to give us a follow while you’re there!

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 of 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.

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 only to 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 to the relevant agencies for further investigation.

Schools in Northern Ireland have been warned after it came to light that 45 schools had employed substitute teachers whose pre-employment checks were not complete. The mandatory employment checks vet staff via a criminal records check, but in these cases the substitute teachers had been employed outside of the established requirements and the checks were not completed.

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 Youth Endowment Fund also found 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 the 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 is everything 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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