Supporting teachers and safeguarding pupils with online safety awareness

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5 minutes

Working and socialising online has become our new way of life. The Coronavirus pandemic meant that it was the only way we were able to connect with friends and family for a very long time.

But do children and young people understand the risks associated with being online? And are teachers confident enough when raising the subject in class?

With students now spending so many hours online, it’s time to make sure that your staff members feel confident and equipped to teach online safety and that they know what signs to look out for if a pupil is in a potentially dangerous online situation.

There are many topics related to online safety so, here, we’ll take a look at just one of them – the different versions of the internet, and the dangerous consequences they could have for your pupils.

Know your types

Many people don’t realise that the World Wide Web is made up of several different versions, all with varying degrees of risk associated with them. So, understanding these will go a long way in knowing how to safeguard your pupils.

The Surface Web is made up of readily available public information. Its websites are accessible and indexed, so it’s easy to search by a standard search engine such as Google. It’s the online world as we know it – yet it’s made up of just 4% of the digital content that’s being created (JEP, 2001).

That’s because nearly 96% of digital content is found on the Deep Web. This content is not searchable by standard search engines because its websites are not indexed, and they are often password protected. This part of the internet isn’t necessarily malicious – its websites are accessible but they often contain private information such as financial reports, medical records, subscription information and legal documents.

The Dark Web, or the Darknet, is the one that poses the most risks to your pupils. Its websites are restricted and not indexed, and they are only accessible through certain browsers that allow people to remain anonymous. This is because it supports illegal activity such as arms dealing, child pornography and human trafficking. It also supports students who may

Early signs that a pupil is using the Deep or Dark Web

Your students should only be accessing content from the Surface Web, because information from the Deep or Dark Web is either unsafe or confidential.

Keep an eye out for these early warning signs:

  • There’s an icon for the Tor browser on their computer, which keeps their identity anonymous online (Tor is also known as the Onion Router and has a variety of icon designs)

  • Bragging how they know more information when searching online

  • They have multiple accounts that you can’t access

  • They become secretive and hide away in their bedrooms or other places

  • Their computer is locked

  • Their sleep patterns are irregular

  • They are resistant when questioned

  • They have extra spending money

  • They understand terms usually associated with illegal activities on the Dark Web, such as DDoS (distributed denial of service – a type of cyber-attack) and doxing (when someone publicly reveals private information about an individual or organisation on the internet)

  • They quickly switch between screens when you approach

  • Their monitoring tools never shows any activity

  • Failing grades

  • They become obsessive and are online constantly.

The consequences of using the Dark or Deep Web are disastrous, not only for the user but for everyone around them too. It can lead to a criminal record and prosecution, deportation or a hefty fine. It also has serious implications for future employment and puts pupils at major personal risk, such as exposing themselves to radicalisation, being groomed or getting involved in criminal activity.

Increasingly the dark web is associated with young people becoming involved in cyber crime, for example using the dark web to purchase stolen log-in credentials. Cyber criminal activity among pupils is identified as a safeguarding risk in Department for Education guidance, and it is important that a school’s designated safeguarding lead refers any pupil suspected of being involved in cyber crime to Cyber Choices.  

Luckily, help and support are just a phone call away. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) works across the UK tackling child sex abuse and providing support and advice to parents, young people and guardians.

At Entrust, our specialist training and consultancy experts can help your teaching staff to understand the risks associated with the internet and how to keep your pupils safe.

To find out more, contact us today.


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