Professionals Online Safety Helpline Releases Annual Report

Professionals Online Safety Helpline Releases Annual Report

The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, work, and access information. However, with these benefits come risks, particularly in terms of online safety for young people. The UK Safer Internet Centre recognises these risks and provides a number of services to help individuals navigate online issues as well as harmful content.

One of these services is the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH), which is operated by SWGfL. The Professionals Online Safety Helpline has been in operation for over a decade and supports any professional working with children and young people with any online safety issue that they or the young people in their care, may be facing. Since 2011, POSH has supported over 24,000 contacts and handled more than 11,000 online safeguarding issues.

The helpline has now released their latest annual report exploring findings and trends across 2021 – 2022. Find out what issues were identified and how professionals were supported by the helpline team

An Increase in Cases

According to the latest report, there has been a significant increase in enquiries to the helpline over the past year with 4,078 cases recorded between 1 November 2021 and 1 November 2022. Compared with the same reporting period (2020 -2021) this was a 500% increase.

A breakdown of these calls reveals that the majority of concerns are related to social media content that could negatively impact a school's reputation and professional standing. This includes content where pupils are criticizing staff and potentially making defamatory comments.

It's important to note that there is no national coordination on these issues, which means that schools are often left to make decisions on their own without specialist training. As a result, many professionals are contacting the helpline because they don't feel that they have the capacity to deal with online safeguarding issues on their own. However, encouragingly it has shown that a quick enquiry to the helpline often improves their understanding or clarifies whether there is a need to escalate the concern.

Reporting and Training

The report also highlights that professionals face difficulties when attempting to find support from social media platforms. This emphasizes the importance of platform liability that’s being tackled in the Online Safety Bill. It's worth noting however, that a lot of the harms disclosed to the helpline would not be in the scope of the bill. It is therefore essential to support multiple stakeholders in the online safety space, rather than assuming increased platform liability will eliminate online harms altogether.

Interestingly, many professionals contacting the helpline are not fully aware of tools available on major platforms that allow them to block and report content themselves. This has emphasised the need for online safety training and the provision of information, such as that provided by our free Online Safety Live sessions.

Supporting Professionals

From the POSH report it is clear that online safety issues within professional settings require continued attention and investment. In particular, professionals need to be provided with tools, resources, and training to navigate these issues effectively, alongside continued support from services such as the Professionals Online Safety Helpline. To read the full report, follow the link below.

Download Report

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