For Safe and Proper Use of Internet and Computers for Children Looked After
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The Internet like so many other technological advances is not immune from criminal abuse, and can bring its own dangers, not least to children. Behaviour on the Internet is subject to the same rule of law as elsewhere. We need to take precautions on the Internet to protect children from harm. The benefits of ICT and the Internet are immense. Knowsley want children and young people in public care and care leavers to access these benefits. In doing so, the Directorate is also taking steps to avoid the potential dangers as far as possible.
We all need to ensure that taking sensible precautions to protect ourselves and our children on-line should become as commonplace as it is to lock our doors or not talk to strangers.
Carers have a crucial role to play, whatever their Internet experience or expertise. This guidance is not intended to alarm, but to alert to the potential dangers that children and young people may face on-line and help carers to help them use the PC and the Internet positively and safely.
This chapter was reviewed in December 2020 and small adjustments were made. It should be noted that foster carer training is available on matters of internet and computer use, this should be discussed with the foster carer and noted in their PDP.
1. What is the Internet?
The Internet is a large number of computers all over the world linked together with cables and standard phone lines. A number of companies specialise in providing this service for a fee.
2. What is the World Wide Web?
To make the appearance of information available through the Internet more attractive, and to help people find information, it is possible for special pages of information to contain text, colours, and pictures, sound and even video. These pages collectively make up what is known as the World Wide Web. Most of these pages include information on the location of other pages on the World Wide Web, and it is possible to follow up links between pages with similar or related content. Moving from one page to another, regardless of where in the world they might be located, is called browsing or surfing the net or web.
3. What is Electronic Mail (E-mail)?
This is merely a way of sending messages from one person to another via the Internet. Each Internet user has a unique e-mail address (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) and by sending a message to this address, the recipient can read the message the next time he or she connects to the Internet. Internet e-mail addresses are usually provided when you connect to the Internet.
4. What are News Groups?
These are collections of messages written for public readership rather than addressed to an individual. Each collection or group of messages is about a particular subject or theme. Individuals can reply to these messages, and these replies are also public. In this way it is possible to track a multi-way conversation about an important issue of the day. At present there are more than 10,000 different topics available for discussion, from specialist science research to special interest support groups. Most of the media and public concern for pornography on the Internet refers to news groups.
5. What are the Dangers of the Internet Referred to in the Media?
There is material on the Internet that would be offensive to most people, such as pornography, material expressing extremist views and ideas (see Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Safeguarding Children and Young People against Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Procedure) and racist material (see Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Race and Racism Procedure) (and this can be accessed by children if using the Internet unsupervised. Software can be installed to try to 'filter' known offensive locations of material of this kind, but there is too much for this filtering to be completely effective, and the locations change frequently. The only way to lock access to this kind of material is to have a restricted range of pages available, in which case many of the advantages of the global and dynamic nature of the Internet may be lost.
6. Child, Carer and Staff Guidelines for Internet Use
Knowsley aims to promote good behaviour on the Internet as in other areas of caring for children.
The Internet is provided for children to do homework, conduct research, access learning activities and communicate with others. Access is an opportunity but not an automatic right – access requires responsibility.
Individual users of the Internet need to be guided to use it safely and sensibly.
Computer storage areas and disks should not be considered private. Children should be made aware that staff/carers may review files and communications to ensure that the system is being used responsibly and carers and users need to note that the Directorate reserves the right to check the content of materials produced or accessed on equipment bought via funds available to Knowsley MBC. Files stored on servers or disks may not therefore always remain private.
Children, young people and carers need to be aware that the following are not acceptable:
- Sending or displaying offensive messages or pictures;
- Using obscene language;
- Harassing, insulting or attacking others;
- Damaging computers, computer systems or compute networks;
- Violating copyright laws;
- Using others' passwords;
- Trespassing in others folders, work or files;
- Intentionally wasting limited resources;
- Spreading computer viruses;
- Attempts to hack into other computer systems.
There is no automatic right for a child/young person to access the Internet. If a child is getting into any kind of difficulty or is behaving irresponsibly in relation to computer use, the concern needs to be raised and addressed with the supervising social worker and the child's social worker as with any other concern that could arise in the child's life.
The Directorate strongly recommends installation of "Cyber Guard" or a similar programme on each computer as a means to reduce access to inappropriate material, unless special circumstances exist and an alternative agreement reached.
Young people will in many cases be more IT aware than most staff and carers.
Passwords need to be kept secure.
In each setting, the approach to use of passwords and the approach to safety needs to be considered by staff/carers and confidentiality and security addressed.
All staff have a responsibility to seek to adapt and advance the use of ICT.
Staff teams should seek to be aware of training opportunities which may be accessible.
In Knowsley's own residential home settings the application process will be used to ensure that the issue of lead and of attention to security are addressed.
Knowsley expects staff and carers do all they can to be alert to potential dangers related to the Internet in the same way as potential dangers in other aspects of caring for the child/young person; by offering guidance, and generally caring as a good parent and including talking to the child/young person, being vigilant and active in giving positive interest and attention.
Within day to day care and supervision, and backed by statutory visits and reviews, checks should be made as a matter of good care practice and to ensure that ground rules for responsible Internet use to be confirmed and recorded in respect of each child/young person and that access to the Internet is beneficial and well managed for each child/young person.
7. Residential Care
Staff can only access the Internet on ICT Fund related equipment for Knowsley MBC business only and with endorsement of the line manager.
Staff are bound by the Council's Code of Conduct. The line manager should ensure that every member of staff has signed it.
Managers need to know that use of the PC can be tracked on different levels. This will involve checking of some PCs.
Staff use should not impede young peoples' use of equipment the ICT.
In practice, some communication and negotiation will be needed.
8. Acceptable Internet Use Statement For Carers, Staff and Children
Where ICT equipment has been funded by Knowsley, the computer system is owned by the Council and is made available to the placement to further the education and development of children and enhance their "life chances".
Knowsley reserves the right to examine or delete any files that may be held on its computer system or to monitor any Internet sites visited, (and will conduct checks of some machines as part of the implementation of its policies).
Social Workers and Carers are used to considering whether there are risks to children from contacts by phone, letter, face to face. The Internet adds another dimension to this, but the same principles should be applied.
9. Rules for Responsible Internet Use
Young people should be guided to:
- Ask permission from a carer/member of staff before using the Internet;
- Not load content from CD ROMS, DVDs etc. onto the computer without permission;
- Make sure the e-mail messages sent are polite and responsible;
- Only use his/her own login and password, which will be kept secret, and will not use anyone else's password, login or mailbox;
- Not access other peoples files;
- Not give his/her name, home address or telephone number or anything else that could identify him/her on the Internet or on e-mail, or arrange to meet anyone at any time he/she has been in touch with via the Internet.
Also efforts will be made to ensure he/she understands that:
- Carers/staff will check computer files and monitor the Internet sites visited from time to time;
- All Internet activity should be appropriate to carer/staff roles and responsibilities and to the child/young person's personal and educational development;
- Access should only be made through a password, which should not be made available to anyone else;
- Activity that threatens the integrity of the ICT system, or activity that attacks or corrupts other systems, is forbidden;
- Users are responsible for all e-mail sent and for contacts made that may result in e-mail being received;
- Use for gambling is not acceptable;
- As e-mail can be forwarded or inadvertently be sent to the wrong person, the same care about levels of language and content should be applied as for letters or other media;
- Use of the network to access inappropriate materials such as pornographic, racist or other offensive material is not acceptable.