Last Updated on 23rd February 2024

Read the script below

Natalie: Welcome back to Safeguarding Soundbites! Today, Colin and I will be bringing you this week’s top safeguarding news.

Colin: We will indeed, Natalie, including the newly released guidance on mobile phone bans for schools in England, spicy content on BookTok and all the latest social media news. Natalie, do you want to start us off with the mobile phone ban guidance?

Natalie: No problem. So, schools in England have been given new guidance aimed at curbing the use of mobile phones during the school day. The government has said this move aims to minimise disruption and enhance engagement in classrooms. Headteachers have permission to conduct searches on pupils for items banned under school rules, with legal protection against being sued over confiscated items. However, some unions remain sceptical, questioning the potential impact of this guidance.

Colin: We’ve talked before about mobile phone use in the classroom, in fact, we have a special episode on it which I’d encourage listeners to go back and listen to. But these updates are certainly interesting, I wonder how students will respond!

Natalie: And teachers! We know it can be a balancing act between phones and focus in classrooms but digital literacy is also really important – young people use their phones for so much in their lives, we can’t pretend that they don’t!

Colin: Absolutely – children and young people need to be educated around appropriate use of technology, particularly phones. From screentime to safety and privacy features.

Natalie: There are currently no bans in place for schools in Northern Ireland. Dr Graham Gault, the national secretary of the National Association for Head Teachers in Northern Ireland, has said there should be no need for officials to alter guidance that already exists for schools.

As you mentioned, Colin, you can listen to that special episode of mobile phone bans in schools that was released in November. The episode can be found on our Safer Schools NI App, which you can download for free on your phone and device’s app store.

Colin: Moving on to our next story, the European Union has launched an investigation into whether TikTok has violated online content rules, particularly concerning child safeguarding. This investigation comes after TikTok faced fines for breaching EU data laws related to children’s accounts. The commission is also probing into TikTok’s provision of data to researchers and its compliance with advertising disclosure requirements.

Natalie: And also in the world of social media, Instagram is reportedly testing new limits on the number of hashtags users can add to their posts, restricting users to no more than five hashtags. This move is speculated to be an attempt to combat spamming and enhance the quality of content on the platform.

Colin: I guess that’s because spammers use as many hashtags, particularly trending hashtags, to get the post seen by as many people as possible.

On a more serious note, I want to talk about this week’s warning from police. The National Police Chief’s council has reported that 52% of alleged offenders of sexual assault were children, committing offences against other children. Ian Critchley, the council’s lead for child protection, has warned that an increase in these assaults, are being fuelled by young people’s access to a “toxic” online culture. Mr Critchley said that violent pornography and misogynistic content is also contributing to the rise. He has urged social media firms to do more and said the implementation of the Online Safety Act is crucial.

Colin: Concerningly, a recent Freedom of Information request has uncovered some unsettling information. It reported that the youngest victim of a paramilitary attack since the Good Friday Agreement was only nine years old. The FOI stated that this child sustained ribcage injuries from an unknown weapon, and that another child, who was only 10 years old, was shot with a gun in their left leg.

These cases are truly harrowing. The information provided by the FOI request, showed that over 560 children and young people have been injured in paramilitary-style attacks between April 1998 and February 2023, with almost 40% of these involving injuries resembling punishment shootings.

Natalie: These statistics are absolutely shocking, Colin. It’s difficult to fathom that children as young as this are being targeted this way. It is essential that we do more to protect young people from such brutality.

Colin: Now for a quick ad break and then we’ll be back with more of this week’s safeguarding news.


Natalie: Shifting gears a bit, let’s talk about Tinder’s latest initiative in the UK. The dating app is rolling out enhanced identity checks for users, requiring them to verify their age and likeness through passport or driving license scans and video selfies. Tinder is hoping to boost user confidence through measures such as these, following increasing concerns over romance fraud on their platform.

Colin: Let’s hope it works, we know that romance scams are particularly rife these days, and this may even go some way to improve the implementation of age restrictions on Tinder? We shall see.

Natalie: Over to TikTok now where the rise of ‘BookTok’ has raised concerns about children accessing sexually explicit adult content. The trend, which sees the promotion of books and reading, has led one teacher to speak out, urging parents to check that the books their children are reading are age appropriate.

As well as this, some authors have reported an increase in young people asking for content warnings, or ‘spice ratings’. Interestingly, they stated that more young people are actually asking for books with less spice!

Colin: While on the one hand, it is great to see a trend that encourages reading and an interest in literature, we want to ensure that the children and young people in our care are not being exposed to content that’s not appropriate for their age, so parents, carers – definitely check in with what your children are checking out!

Natalie: And that wraps up this week’s Safeguarding Soundbites. Remember, you can find more resources and information on our website and safeguarding apps. Until next time…

Both: Stay safe!

Join our Safeguarding Hub Newsletter Network

Members of our network receive weekly updates on the trends, risks and threats to children and young people online. 

Sign Up

Who are your Trusted Adults?

The Trusted Adult video explains who young people might speak to and includes examples of trusted adults, charities and organisations.

Pause, Think and Plan

Use our video for guidance and advice around constructing conversations about the online world with the children in your care.

Go to Top