Last Updated on 3rd February 2023

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Hello and welcome to this week’s Safeguarding Soundbites, the podcast that gives you all the latest safeguarding updates and news that you can use to keep the children and young people in your life safer online.

February is here and that means one thing…no, not Valentine’s Day – Safer Internet Day! In case you missed it last week, we’ve created a comprehensive list of all our best resources in honour of Safer Internet Day – which is next week on the 7th. You can use our resources to help kickstart the conversation with the child or young person in your care about everything to do with online safety, from age verification to Snapchat and BeReal. Check the Safer Schools NI App or head over to our website at saferschoolsni.co.uk to find those free resources.

New research from the Children’s Commissioner for England has found that one in 10 children have viewed pornography by the time they are nine years old. Twitter was the platform where the highest percentage of children had seen pornography – 41%, compared to 37% viewed on dedicated pornography sites. The research also raised concerns about how the use of physical aggression in pornography is affecting young people’s views, with 47% of young people aged between 16 and 21 believing that girls “expect” physical aggression in sex.

In social media news, Twitter has said they will take less severe action for rule breakers and from now on will only suspend Twitter accounts that engage in “severe or ongoing, repeat violations” of its rules. Rather than ban users, Twitter will be more likely to limit the visibility of a tweet or tell a user to remove a tweet. They will also be allowing users to appeal suspensions.

Although some will no doubt welcome the changes, the relaxing of consequences for rule breaking could feed into a more worrying bigger picture – Twitter has implemented a number of changes, including the layoffs of content moderation staff, that raises the question of how safe the social media platform is for users, particularly young people.

The Antisemitism Policy Trust has raised concerns over how algorithms help hate to spread online, such as Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories. The Trust’s chief executive Danny Stone said he welcomed the upcoming Online Safety Bill but highlighted how it won’t cover legal but harmful materials, including search companies prompting people towards harmful searches. You can find out more about the Online Safety Bill by searching the Safer Schools NI App or website.

A new research paper has revealed the apps and platforms that children feel most unsafe using. The Pupil Safeguarding Review investigated children’s feelings of safety in school and beyond. It found Roblox was the platform where children felt most unsafe, with 15% of children surveyed naming the online gaming platform. Our Online Safety Experts took a look into the top five named – you can find that on the App or our website.

A Westminster Committee has heard how young people in Northern Ireland were coerced into rioting by paramilitary organisations in order to clear debt. The House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee are examining paramilitary activity and heard how young people with drug debts took part in the 2021 riots in exchange for a debt write-off. Giving evidence to the committee, a spokesperson from lobby group The Stop Attacks Forum went on to say young people are terrified and are victims of exploitation and coercion.

And finally, if you’re one of the million users enjoying ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that students love and teachers hate, be warned: there’s an enemy AI hot on its heels! The new tool from OpenAI is designed to detect whether text has been written by artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT. The text-generating tool has become popular for its ability to create human-like responses and essays to prompts, resulting in its use being banned from schools and universities. However, the new tool used to detect whether or not AI has been used is unlikely to send the chatty bot to the AI graveyard – its makers say it’s currently pretty unreliable.

That’s all from me for this week – join me next time for more news and safeguarding updates. In the meantime, you can catch us on social media by searching for ‘Safer Schools NI’. If you’re listening via a podcast player or app, make sure to subscribe. And if you haven’t got the Safer Schools NI App yet, what are you waiting for? Visit your device’s play store and download it right now for free. Stay safe and I’ll speak to you next week!

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