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New digital platform launched to boost online safety lessons for children

The new Digital Matters platform is aimed at pupils in Years 5 and 6.

Joe Plumb Children's Online Safety
The new digital platform aims to teach children how to safely navigate the internet (Dominic Lipinski/PA) / PA Archive

Primary school children will have the chance to learn about online safety and media literacy via a new, free education platform launching in the UK.

Created by online safety group Internet Matters and cybersecurity firm Eset, the Digital Matters platform will be aimed at pupils in years 5 and 6.

The creators said it will offer guidance to children, teachers and parents about the issues young people can face online through digital lessons based on real-life scenarios that will cover topics such as misinformation, cyberbullying, online grooming, peer pressure and general online security.

The platform will be available online for free and will be regularly updated with online safety topics in line with the school curriculum, with companion resources also available for teachers to share with parents.

Ghislaine Bombusa, head of digital at Internet Matters, said: “There is a growing need to ensure young people not only stay safe online but have the media literacy skills they need to navigate their increasingly complex digital world.
“At a critical time in their development, we hope to help schools teach young people these skills in a supportive environment where they can practise making choices in realistic situations, all on an interactive digital platform.
“We also know the important role that parents play in keeping their children safe online, so the programme encourages their involvement, making sure that they feel empowered to support their children as they stumble across difficult situations online.”

Half of parents know their child has been cyber bullied - but feel powerless to stop it

Millions of parents feel powerless to protect their kids online – despite 48% knowing their child has at some point experienced cyber bullying.

The study of 1,400 parents, with children aged six-18, found 57% know little about how to keep their kids safe – with a third of these admitting they aren't that tech savvy.

And 47% have little access to what their child is doing online, due to locked phones and console passwords.

Over half (55%) of parents who feel helpless find it hard to keep up with all the online channels their child can use.

The research, commissioned by The Diana Award, has been released after Downing Street hosted a closed reception with charity ambassadors Rio Ferdinand, UK youth mental health ambassador for the Department of Education, Dr Alex George, and anti-bullying young ambassadors trained by the charity.

The meeting with Number 10 came as the Online Safety Bill goes through parliament.

Joe Plumb Children's Online Safety
But bullying is still more prevalent in the real world than online - although one in five experience both kinds ( Image: Fairfax Media/Getty Images)

According to the research, 46% of parents fear their child knows more about technology than the older members of the house, and can cover issues up.

Of the children polled, more than half (58%) wouldn’t tell their parents if someone tried to bully them online.

The Diana Award’s spokesman, Alex Holmes, said: “The online element of modern life can make bullying behaviour far more complex.
“When many of today’s parents were young, bullying behaviour – while awful – was something that happened outside or at school.
“Now, the safe-space that was home is also increasingly under threat in today’s always-connected world – especially where lockdowns and school closures have encouraged bullying behaviour to seep more and more into life online.”

The study also found 54% of parents realise they may be part of the problem – by sharing something online which could be construed as bullying or offensive, that their children could easily view.

And of these, six in ten worry their child might repeat something to another child that they have written or shared online.

However, two-thirds of parents (67%) were confident their children would approach them if they were being cyber-bullied.

It comes after one in three children (32%) said they’d likely make contact with the website moderator, or someone in charge of a game, if they were exposed to online trolls.

More than one in five (22%) would try and work out a way to “get back at” their aggressor – but 23% would ignore what was being said, and avoid going online again.

Joe Plumb Children's Online Safety
A quarter of youngsters have experienced unkind messages on messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Discord ( Image: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)

However, the results found bullying in real life is more prevalent than in the digital space, as 31% of the young people polled have had an issue with someone in the real world.

This is in comparison to 17% who have experienced cyber-bullying only – while 19% have experienced both.

Youngsters also claimed the most likely place they will see bullying is in the classroom by other pupils (31%).

However, 21% believe they’ve seen intimidation tactics used at school by teachers themselves, according to the OnePoll figures.

And one in four (26%) have witnessed unkind behaviour on messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Discord.

To date, more than 40,000 young people have been trained as anti-bullying ambassadors in nearly 5,000 schools throughout the UK and Ireland by The Diana Award, which aims to tackle bullying and empower young people to make a change.

Alex Holmes added: “Our results show that dealing with bullying behaviour can be overwhelming for parents – but it’s important for them to understand their role in their child’s safety, without letting things get brushed under the carpet.
“We encourage communication to not just rely on the child being open but flow both ways, with honest dialogue about acceptable forms of communication, both in real life and online.
“If you don’t know where to start, schools, parents and children can sign up to our Don’t Face it Alone campaign to get free anti-bullying resources, help and support, for all types of bullying behaviour. We’re here to help stamp it out.”