Last Updated on 28th June 2022

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Hello and welcome to safeguarding soundbites, the safeguarding news podcast brought to you by Safer Schools NI. My name’s Colin Stitt, Head of Safer Schools here at INEQE Safeguarding Group and today I’m going to be talking about this week’s safeguarding news and letting you know what our safeguarding experts have been looking into this week.

First up, we’ve been investigating Horizon Worlds, the virtual reality social space created by Meta. Previously only available in the US and Canada, this week Meta announced it would be released in the U.K.

Part of the Metaverse, this VR world has over 300,000 users. But with its growing popularity, there has been increasing controversary over the platform, with reported incidents of sexual harassment and inappropriate content. And despite being for those aged 18 and over, there have been reports of underage users in the virtual world, including those as young as six. So how we can protect the children and young people in our care from accessing this adult-orientated space? Our online safety experts have put together a guide to Horizon Worlds that has all you need to know, which you’ll find at saferschoolsni.co.uk.

Instagram are launching new parental controls in the UK, with the changes expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks. The new controls will include options of setting daily time limits, scheduling break times and seeing the accounts that a parent’s child has reported.

Meta is facing eight lawsuits in the US, accusing the platform of employing addictive psychological tactics to get young people using it more often and of failing to protect young and at-risk users. The lawsuits also allege that prolonged exposure to Meta platforms has led to actual or attempted suicides, self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and among other mental health conditions. If you’re worried about the mental health of a child or young person in your care, head to Safer Schools NI to find resources with advice and guidance to support.

Ofcom have released their annual Online Nations report, which outlines how people in the U.K. are using and experiencing the internet. We were particularly interested to learn that only 14% of young people aged 13 to 17 are reporting or flagging harmful content or behaviours they encounter online. We took a look into the reasons this might be and gave some top tips as to how we can encourage children and young people (and ourselves!) to be more proactive about reporting harmful content and behaviours online. To learn more, you can visit our website at saferschoolsni.

According to the PSNI, the number of child cruelty and neglect offences in Northern Ireland has increased by a third over the last year. There were 681 offences recorded, an average of two a day, with 250 of those cases involving children aged between six to 10 years old.

Nearly 100 pupils are still waiting to hear which school they will be attending in September, despite being due to hear back in May. A third of pupils nominated an integrated school as their first choice, highlighting the calls for greater support of integrated education.

That’s everything from me for this week – I’ll be back next week with more safeguarding news and advice. In the meantime, you can follow us on our social media pages by searching for ‘Safer Schools NI’. We’d love for you to share Safeguarding Soundbites with friends, colleagues and family so we can spread the word on how to keep our children and young people safer online. Thanks for listening and remember, stay safe.

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