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Safeguarding Blog

Talking to children during COVID-19

A lot of children and young people will be feeling very anxious during the COVID-19 lockdown situation. It’s normal for children and young people to feel worried or anxious at the moment. We’ve all experienced sudden changes in our lives and routines – and we’re living with lots of uncertainty about the coming weeks and months. For some young people, the coronavirus pandemic may also worsen or trigger anxieties they were already struggling with.

Here are five things you can do to support your child:

  1. Talk to them about what’s going on. Find out how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about, let them know it’s okay to feel scared or unsure, and try to answer their questions and reassure them in an age appropriate manner. Remember, you do not need to know all the answers, but talking things through can help them feel calmer.
  2. Help them to reflect on how they’re feeling and encourage them to think about the things they can do to make them feel safer and less worried.
  3. Reassure them that this will pass, you’re there for them, and you will get through this together.
  4. Spend time doing a positive activity with your child (such as reading, playing, painting or cooking) to help reassure them and reduce their anxiety. This is also a great way of providing a space for them to talk through their concerns, without having a ‘big chat’.
  5.  Keep as many regular routines as possible, so that your child feels safe and that things are stable.

For advice and support please go to;

http://www.youngminds.org.uk

http://www.nspcc.org.uk

New Support helpline from the RSACC

The following information has just been received from the RSACC and provides help and support for women and girls who have experienced rape and/or sexual violence.

Today marks the launch of our new helpline number which means we have increased our capacity to support women who have experienced rape and sexual violence.

We have made the investment to ensure women in crisis or those who are struggling with the long-term impacts of sexual violence can access confidential assistance over the phone.

Our new RSACC helpline number is 0300 222 5730

The Helpline is open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 2pm.

We are acutely aware that the Covid-19 Pandemic is causing increased distress for many survivors with other support services closing, increased isolation and a higher likelihood of dangerous situations in the home due to lockdown guidance.

Isabel Owens, deputy chief executive at RSACC, said;

“ The improvements to our helpline system mean that we can help more women who are living with the life-long consequences of sexual violence such as depression and anxiety and also those women who are in immediate crisis.

“The coronavirus pandemic presents huge challenges for us all but the guidance means more survivors are in close confines with abusive partners, are struggling with isolation and loneliness or are under immense pressure to manage their own mental health alongside caring responsibilities and work. Our team has seen first-hand how this situation is exacerbating the trauma of sexual violence and women are turning to our vital service for support.”

“Whilst sadly some charities have been forced to pause their support, we are committed to continuing to be there for women by adapting our approaches, whether that’s through wellbeing phone calls, online counselling sessions and extending our helpline hours.”

RSACC had more than 700 calls to our confidential helpline in the past year. It is run by trained staff and volunteers who speak to callers for up to an hour to provide emotional support and practical information for women who are dealing with the trauma of being raped or sexually assaulted.

Don’t forget, RSACC is always here if you need us. We offer support to any woman or girl who needs to talk about rape or sexual assault. This includes our helpline, specialist counselling and women-only groups for survivors including mindfulness. Our new RSACC helpline number is 0300 222 5730. The Helpline is open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 2pm.

Family Media User Plan

Modern media and technology can be fun, informative and a great way to explore, learn, develop and enhance our daily life. However it also comes with its fair share of risks and dangers and sadly all too often it’s used inappropriately with little or no thought of the consequences of misuse.

Modern media and technology has also had a major impact upon family lifestyles and without the appropriate measures in place can impact on the way families interact and socialise together. As we all approach a 24hr plugged in online society we risk losing those valuable activities that quality family time brings, such as face to face interaction, play time, exercise and the importance of spending time away from our screens and gadgets.

Creating a Family Media Plan allows your family to look at how modern media and technology can work best for you. By working together as a family you get to set the rules, to create the goals and aims around the use of all the devices within your home. You also get to set and agree the important times when everyone can stop, switch off and take a break from their screens and devices.

Creating a Family Media Plan is also a great place to start those often difficult conversations with your family around the risks and dangers they face online and allows you to set simple rules that make you all a lot safer.

Making a Family Media Plan is easy and we have included an easy to follow template for you to complete on the link below.

Remember to work together to agree your plan and revisit it often as your family grows and develops, but also to meet the every changing world of modern media and technology

https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/Support-tools/home-activity-worksheets/

Parental controls

As we approach school closures, lots of children and young people will have a lot of time on their hands. I have been made aware today that Sony, Microsoft (Xbox) and Nintendo have already reported large increases in users on their platforms and the developers behind Fortnite have reported a large spike in users.

This is likely to continue over the coming weeks and months. So with that in mind here are some handy links for parents and carers on setting parental controls on consoles and gadgets. This should help to ease some worries and give you the ability to protect your children from accessing inappropriate material.

https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/ – An excellent site for setting parental controls  with easy step by step picture guides on how to set controls on most popular gadgets.

www.darlington.gov.uk/disp – This is the Local authority website and it’s new. It will be added to over the coming days and weeks as more information becomes available. You will find useful advice, guides and links on a variety of internet and gaming related topics/issues.

https://www.net-aware.org.uk/  –This is an NSPCC site and contains some great information on popular apps and games.

Also recommended for people to download is the Pegi age rating app https://pegi.info/app

available in all the app stores. The app provides excellent information on video game age ratings.

I hope you find this information helpful. If you know of any other sites which you have found useful and may be helpful to other parents and carers, please let me know.

Sexual Harassment and young people

Sexual violence and sexual harassment can occur online and offline (both physically and verbally), and are never acceptable. The following information is from Childnet International and offers support to parents, schools and young people.

90% of 16-24 year olds and 69% of 12-15 year olds own a smartphone, giving them the ability to quickly and easily create and share photos and videos. This increase in the speed and ease of sharing imagery has brought concerns about young people producing and sharing sexual imagery of themselves. This can expose them to risks, particularly if the imagery is shared further, including embarrassment, bullying and increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Producing and sharing sexual images of under 18s is also illegal.

Many people are unclear on the difference between harassment and abuse, both in schools and in adult life. Sexual harassment can happen in an educational or social situation and involves making unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. Sexual abuse is being persuaded or forced into undesired sexual activity. It’s important to note that this can happen to both males and females; sexual abuse and harassment works both ways. It can be committed by someone who is close to you, even a friend or family member.

When talking about online sexual harassment, we typically think of the offender as an adult. But that is by no means always the case. Both with respect to physical and so-called ‘digital’ offences, young people are often harassed by other young people.

In a recent survey by a children’s charity:

1 in 10 (10%) of survey respondents aged 13-17 reported being sent sexual threats online (e.g. rape threats) in the last year.

Almost 1 in 4 (23%) of survey respondents aged 13-17 witnessed young people secretly taking sexual images of someone and sharing them online (‘creep shots’) in the last year.

1 in 12 survey respondents (8%) aged 13-17 years reported that they have shared a nude or nearly nude image of someone else without their permission in the last year.

Almost half (47%) of survey respondents aged 13- 17 witnessed people their age editing photos of their peers to make them sexual (e.g putting their face on a pornographic image or adding sexual emojis).

Over a third (33%) of survey respondents aged 13-17 witnessed young people sharing images or videos of someone they know doing sexual acts in the last year.

What we all need to do to support our young people is:

Make it clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment are never acceptable and will never be tolerated – it is not an inevitable part of growing up.

Not to dismiss or tolerate sexual violence or harassment as “banter” or “part of growing up”. Banter is only banter if both parties are enjoying it. Once it becomes offensive and hurtful, it’s not “banter” anymore.

Challenge behaviour such as grabbing bottoms, breasts and genitalia. If we see this on TV, movies or youtube etc., we need to point out how wrong it is and tackle the issue head on.

Understand that sexual violence and sexual harassment can be driven by wider societal factors, such as everyday sexist stereotypes and language. Tolerating any of these behaviours risks ‘normalising’ them – they are potentially criminal acts.

It is an offence to possess, distribute, show and make indecent images of children. • The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (England and Wales) defines a child, for the purposes of indecent images, as anyone under the age of 18.

For further information on Sexual Harassment and young people, please see the following sites.

https://www.childnet.com/parents-and-carers

https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/parents-and-carers

TikTok new safety features

TikTok has unveiled new family safety features. These will allow parents and carers to link their account, to their child’s and restrict what content they can see, limit or remove private messaging and set time limits on the app. Check out the link below for more information.

https://www.darlington.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/public-health/children-and-young-people/darlington-pshe-network/darlington-internet-safety-partnership/apps-and-games-information/

Half Term Internet Safety Sessions for Parents/Carers

Parent Internet Safety Sessions at :C the Box, Priestgate Darlington. Tuesday 18th  Feb and Thursday 20th Feb 1pm -2pm. During these sessions parents/carers can find out about parental controls and how to keep their children safe online. All welcome. For more details contact

Michael Clark or Colin Gibson (Targeted Media Youth Worker)

at :C the Box on 01325 405699 or mobile 07788 388163

Random Video Chat apps

Darlington Early Help Team have had a number of reports lately about primary aged children using random video chat apps that allow users to video chat with strangers. In all of these cases children have been chatting to adult males who ask for personal information and in some cases they have seen an adult expose themselves.

Random Video Chat Apps –

Random video chat apps that allow you to talk to strangers anonymously are gaining popularity and a simple search through the Google and Apple stores reveals too many apps to list here. Along with this growth in random chat apps we are seeing a rise In young children using them. Apps such as Omegle, Monkey, Holla, MeowChat and Chatspin all allow you to randomly chat to strangers. Sign up is easy and in general you don’t have to register your details, just add a username and away you go. A lot of these apps have a rating of 18+ on the app stores but we are now starting to see these type of apps being made for children with age ratings of 3 years plus. While some of these allow parental supervision to monitor who your child talks to they still encourage children to video chat to strangers with the view of making new friends. These apps also introduce and normalises the practice of random video chat apps at very early age.

While we can see the attraction of making new friends online for many children and young people especially if your someone who struggles to make friends face to face we find it hard to recommend random video chat apps. We have had numerous reports from parents, schools, children and young people who tell us about a number of incidents of children being exposed to sexually explicit chat and behaviour as well as requests for personal information and being threatened and scared as a result of using these types of apps.

Awareness needs to be raised around the risks and dangers of using these types of apps and for the potential of children being exposed to sexually explicit content such as other users exposing themselves and performing sex acts on themselves or on others on camera. Parental supervision and controls are a must as well as encouraging children and young people to report anything that’s makes them uncomfortable, worried or scared to an adult.

County Lines Update

Criminal exploitation known as ‘county lines‘ is where gangs and organised crime networks exploit children to sell drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs. Children as young as 12 are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of how vulnerable these young people are.

In 2018 the government set up the national coordination centre for county lines and that has been up and running around a year and still needs time to establish itself. Since county lines relies on mobile phones, the police have recently been given a new power – Drug Dealing Telecommunication Restriction Orders (DDTRO) to shut down a drug dealing line where possible.

In a recent Government report looking at how forces tackle so-called county lines drug gangs, inspectors recommended the Home Office carry out a review of the criminal abuse of mobile phones which should “explore” the regulations of the communications industry, adding: “The present arrangements that enable criminality by allowing the anonymous acquisition of phones and numbers, should be re-examined.”

Some useful sites if you require further information or support:

http://www.thechildrenssociety.org.uk

http://www.fearless.org

http://www.Childline.org

Domestic Abuse ‘biggest threat to child protection’

Domestic violence, family conflict and drink and drug abuse are the biggest drivers of the rise in child-protection cases in England, says the Local Government Association (LGA).

The organisation representing English councils has surveyed the councillors in charge of children’s services about the causes of a 53% rise in child-protection cases over the past decade.

More than 80% identified domestic violence and substance misuse as being behind the increased numbers in their local authorities.

An average of 88 children are taken into care each day and the LGA asked the lead councillors for children’s services for their view of the most common causes.

The behaviour of adults around children – in the form of domestic violence, drinking and drug taking – was the most frequent explanation for councils having to intervene to protect 18,000 more children than a decade ago.

This was followed by factors such as poverty, housing problems and debt.

Useful Links if you require further help:

http://www.familyhelp.org.uk 01325 364486

http://www.myharbour.org.uk 03000 20 25 25 (24 hr)

http://www.mysistersplace.org.uk 01642 241864

Useful Links

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