Last Updated on 25th November 2022

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Hello and welcome to another episode of your favourite – we hope! online podcast It’s Safeguarding Soundbites! As always, we’ll be giving you a round-up of this week’s safeguarding news, lets get into it.

With ‘Christmas lights switch ons’ and Santa popping up at shopping centres across Northern Ireland, parents are being reminded to share their Christmas family fun photos and videos safely online. While we all love seeing the joy in children’s faces take over our social media feed, it’s important to remember the risks that come along with uploading this type of content online. It’s sometimes referred to as sharenting and many of us might not even think twice before putting this content online on our social media feeds – The average parent shares almost 1,500 images of their child before their fifth birthday. However, there are risks. This week, cyber security experts at VPN Overview outlined some of the dangers, including digital kidnapping, sexual exploitation and unreliable safety settings – meaning images can often be screenshotted and shared beyond your control. We recommend that if you are choosing to sharent, you’re always ensuring that your safety settings are on the strongest possible option and blur and crop photos to remove any identifying details. You can also find our guide to safer sharenting by searching our website at saferschoolsni.co.uk.

Did you ever use a walkie talkie when you were a kid to talk to your friends or siblings? If so, you’ll remember just how fun they were! Well, the walkie talkie is making a comeback – but this time it’s gone digital! Social app HiPal Walkie Talkie has been hitting the top of app stores recently. The app lets users communicate with friends through their phones, even when they’re not using them. However, it might not be quite as safe as the analogue version that you and I remember. Our online safety experts have discovered risks such as poor age verification and the invasive nature of how the app works. Our experts also took a look at Wizz, an app that matches users together using a swipe system, much like many dating apps use. Both HiPal and Wizz raise serious concerns about how friend finding apps encourage young people to connect with strangers across the digital world. This can lead to unhealthy and potentially harmful relationships where oversharing personal information can put young people at further risk. Visit your Safer Schools NI App to find out what our experts had to say.

In the news this week Meta have announced they’re introducing new safety features for young people using their platforms. New users of Facebook and Instagram will have secure settings by default upon sign up. Young people who are already on Facebook will see prompts encouraging them to review their privacy settings. The platform is also testing out ways to protect young people from adult accounts that seem suspicious, such as limiting their interactions with young people for accounts that have recently been blocked or reported by any young person. Meta have previously come under criticism for failing to protect young people, with many concerned about the addictive nature of their platforms and how they’ve handled internal research showing the negative impact Instagram has on young people’s mental health.

A recent report by image sharing and social media network Pinterest has shown an increase in the amount of child exploitation and self-injury content being removed. Pinterest’s Transparency Report outlines all of the control removals and enforcement actions that the company took in the first half of 2022. Indicating this isn’t due to an uptick in this type of content, the company says the stark increases reported are due to updates in their detection systems.

TikTok have released a new feature to their platform – and it might sound familiar! TikTok Now encourages users to share their ‘real life’ and upload ‘in the moment’ content. Users are prompted at a random time during the day and given a three-minute window in which to upload a real-time photo or 10 second video. Many have drawn parallels between TikTok Now and BeReal, the app that’s exploded in popularity this year. Both platforms give users strict time limitations to upload and focus on the idea of sharing authentic moments on social media.
Although we love the concept behind being ourselves online, there are potential safeguarding risks for young people. From the pressures of FOMO to oversharing in a bid to be more real, our online safety experts took a closer look at TikTok Now and the safeguarding risks. More to come on this next week in Your safer schools NI app.

A pre-school in Belfast this week have said they’re at a loss on how to stay open amidst the rising costs. The leader of St Bernard’s Pre-School has written to assembly members and other officials to raise her concerns. She says there is despair amongst the non-statutory pre-school sector at the lack of adequate funding. Speaking to BBC News NI, Ms Mulhern went on to say that the money she received each month did not meet the monthly running costs of the pre-school.

According to research by the START campaign, almost a fifth of pre-school children in Northern Ireland have a daily diet consisting of unhealthy treat foods, such as biscuits, crisps and cakes. The research also found that 20% of children aged 2 to 15 years old are reported to be overweight. The START campaign aims to encourage parents to take steps towards healthy family eating habits.

That’s everything from me, Colin Stitt, Head of Safer Schools, for this week! Join me next time when I’ll be back with next week’s news and updates – in the meantime, find us on social media by searching for ‘safer schools ni’. If you’ve found today’s podcast useful, help spread the word about Safeguarding Soundbites by sharing on your own social media and with friends, family and colleagues and don’t forget you can also download the Safer Schools NI app for free on your device’s app store. Stay safe and I’ll speak to you next time.

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