E-Safety & Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying Guidance for Schools

Cyberbullying: Understand, Prevent, Respond

I’ve been privileged to work with Childnet International leading on national cyberbullying guidance under two very different governments in the UK. The original guidance blazed a trail as the first government supported work of its kind produced anywhere in the world. Cyberbullying, Safe To Learn was released in 2007, and followed by Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff in 2009 – the first national cyberbullying guidance for school employees.

Co-funded by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility and the UK’s Government Equalities Office the new guidance, Cyberbullying: Understand, Prevent, Respond builds on the success and lessons learnt of the original work, and responds to changes in online abuse and young peoples experience of mobile, internet and gaming technologies.

The guidance is also critically informed by those working in schools (145 schools and organisations supporting schools took part in the research and consultation) and by the voices of young people. Five groups of young people from secondary schools in London, Manchester, and from the First Out group for young people, Leicester Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre gave us their time and opinions. We learnt some very important lessons, and these were included the guidance, including a section on What Young People Have Told Us (& if you work with or know any young people, you should read this.).

Several people have asked me recently about the difference between the new guidance, and the guidance produced in 2007. There are several, not least that the new guidance is considerably shorter.

A key change, and one I am very proud of, is that discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes are addressed from the outset. The guidance opens:

Cyberbullying, or online bullying, can be defined as the use of technologies by an individual or by a group of people to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else.

Cyberbullying is often linked to discrimination, including on the basis of gender, race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or special educational needs and disabilities. For example, girls report experiencing a higher incidence of cyberbullying than boys, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to experience bullying, including cyberbullying.

The guidance is also clear in terms of the responsibility for education providers to ensure learning communities are places that welcome and support all children and young people:

Bullying may also be, or felt to be, supported institutionally and culturally. Young people may be bullying within environments where respect for others, and treating others well, is not seen as important – or where disrespect and poor treatment is tolerated or encouraged. Individuals who do not conform to social norms may face discrimination within intolerant communities.

The guidance can be downloaded from Childnet, along with a range of practical resources including lesson plans and short films.

iPads as Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices

Using an iPad as a ACC device


Nether Hall School provides education for pupils with severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. They’ve been working on a DigiLit Leicester innovation project, evaluating iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) devices, to support communication for learners with speech impairment. The majority of students at the school have difficulties with speech and language, and many use AAC devices to help them to communicate. The school identified several issues with commercially available ACC devices: bulky design and look; limited functionality (for example, only supporting a few words); and cost (with many priced between £4,500 and £14,000), which limits the number of devices the school is able to afford to provide.

Helen Robinson, Head of sixth Form, and Heather Woods, Communication Specialist, discuss the final report and reflect on the project:

Project Process

The project began with identification of the students who would participate in the trial and the software that would be used. Through discussions with the school speech and language team, The Grid was chosen as the most appropriate software for the project as  it was seen to have more facilities and, most crucially, linked to the school’s current systems, for example Eyegaze and Communicate: in Print. Sensory Software, the makers of The Grid, provided staff training and have provided additional support throughout the project.

Initially, the team had intended to create a standard grid for use with all learners throughout the project. However, it became clear early on that with the diverse needs of their learners, and the capabilities of the software, bespoke grids could (and would need) to be created for each child. The training provided to the school was key in enabling them to create personalised communication grids for each of the students involved in the trial.

Working with Students

The first stage was to introduce the device as a tool, with a grid that was appropriate to each individual pupil. Serious consideration, based on assessment and experience, was given to deciding whether to use True Object Based Icons (TOBI[1]), photographs or symbols for each student.

One to one teaching sessions with the Communications Support Coordinator (CSC) were given to demonstrate to the pupils that if they touched the photograph or symbol, they would receive the item they had requested. In this way, a relationship of trust was built around the use of the device. For some pupils, simply recognising that they could interact and take control of the proceedings was sufficient to motivate them to use the device for communication.

Once the iPad was established as a communication device, the grid was developed.  This was bespoke to each individual pupil:

On the simplest level, the photo began true to size and gradually became smaller and moved to a different part of the screen after selection meaning that the pupil had to be more accurate to request the item or activity. Next, an item that was known to be disliked was added.  This was to test whether the pupil was selecting an item or simply pointing and touching the screen randomly. If this item was selected, the pupil had to hold it and interact with it. The next step was to make the icon move after it had been touched, again to check that this was not random.  The pupil had to look at the icon and touch accurately to make their choice.

On a more complex level, photos were the starting point; in some cases these were photos of the class and staff. Pupils would then use the device to participate in registration activities. This led quickly to adding symbols for lessons. Alternatively, the standard grid on ‘The Grid 2’ was used and simplified to the level that worked with the individual pupil.

Project Report

Since the beginning of the trial, the school have seen significant benefits to their learners through the use of the iPad as an AAC device. Learners have made improvements not only in their communication skills, but also in terms of behaviour and their relationships with staff and family. As the project progressed, it was decided that funding would be used to bring in Karen Cameron and Sarah Younie, researchers from De Montfort University, to work with the school to support the research element of the project; specifically the writing of the project report.


  • A device which can be tailored to an individual childs needs which can then grow and develop with the child.
  • Costs a fraction of other equal more expensive communication devices on the market.
  • Looks cool and appropriate for children, teenagers and young adults.
  • It’s high picture and sound quality reduces confusion compared to other communication devices.

Next Steps

  • To write use of iPads into the schools policy for devices as communication aids.
  • To train staff in supporting Pupils with AAC devices
  • To establish a Parents support group –  Promote wider  community  use of devices and bespoke for individuals home use.
  • Investigate bags for portability
  • Extend project to more students


An Evaluation of the use of iPads as Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (Word) (PDF)

Case Studies only (Word) (PDF)

[1] A T.O.B.I. can be a line drawing, scanned photograph, etc., which is cut out in the actual shape or outline of the item it represents.


Cross-posted from

e-Safety: The Critical Agenda

I'm delighted to be curating the Digital Safety strand at Learning Without Frontiers, an international festival of learning and technology, taking place in London January 9th-11th. I very much hope to see some of you there, but if you can make it in person or not I hope you'll join in the discussions.

The first session, running from 9.45am – 10.45am on the 11th, is titled e-Safety: The Critical Agenda. The session gives some of the UK's foremost practitioners in the field of e-Safety an opportunity to propose and defend what they think are the most important issues facing e-safety research, policy and practice today.

Chaired by David White (senior manager, TALL, University of Oxford), the panel includes Will Gardner (CEO Childnet International), Sonia Livingstone (Head, Department of Media and Communications LSE) Annika Small, Director Nominet Trust. Each speaker will propose the two issues or topic areas they believe to be amongst the most important current e-safety concerns and defend their priorities. 

Everyone is welcome to join in and contribute to the debate. We'll be taking questions and discussion from 10.15, with comments and questions welcome via Twitter – the conference tag is #lwf11.

We'd also like you to vote! Please let us know what your top three e-safety priorities are – you can also submit your own e-safety priority area.

Voting will close at 11am on the 11th of January so that the results can be announced/posted at the start of the second session.

Here are the panels selections. You can vote from this post under the descriptions, or open the vote selections in a new window by clicking here.

Josie Fraser:

  • Address geolocation services

Geolocation services offer many interesting opportunities for learning and interacting.  However, they also raise some serious issues – about personal safety, about privacy, and about just how well we understand and manage service settings. Geolocation services can currently be considered emblematic of the lag between new and emerging technological practices and tools and public and educational policy and practice. Because of the seriousness of their potential misuse, we must prioritise ensuring both independent and service provider information about effectively managing risks is available to children, young people, parents and educators.

  • Network responsibility not just personal responsibility

e-Safety is often regarded as an issue of personal responsibility. However, unlike other safety issues, many areas of digital safety and cyberbullying characteristically take place within networks. We should focus on supporting the skills to operate successfully within networks – including taking responsibility for looking out for all members within those networks. This approach requires reviewing how we respect others digital identities and privacy, and how we negotiate issues of consent.

Will Gardner:

  • Parents and carers remain a priority 

There has been a lot of work aimed at parents particularly in the UK, including with the UK Council's Zip it, Block it, Flag it campaign, Childnet’s Know IT All for Parents, as well as a range of other initiatives and information, including from service providers. Yet this need is a continual one as parents and carers continue to have a key role.

  • Increase the trust and transparency in reporting to service providers.

Research shows that reporting to service providers by young people is currently not high. In the social networking world, where moderation provided by service providers is limited and a reliance is put on the user community to self-moderate, it is vital that the reporting process becomes as transparent as possible.

Sonia Livingstone

  • Reaching younger children

The age at which children first go online, and use social media sites and services, is decreasing. This raises new challengers for educators and parents to find appropriate ways to discuss issues such as sexuality, pornography, violence and drugs that, previously we’ve hoped to leave until post-primary school. My research suggests that, although few young children encounter online risks, when they do it is particularly upsetting for them. Additionally, parents and carers will not necessarily be aware when children have encountered upsetting material.  Addressing safety advice to young children therefore raises new and pressing challenges.

  • Engaging with already vulnerable children and young people

Research shows that children and young people who are vulnerable or at risk offline are also likely to be more at risk online. While many children will encounter something online that bothers or upsets them, most are reasonably well able to deal with it. However, those who are vulnerable, lacking in social support or facing other difficulties may lack resilience, or even seek to engage in high risk activities.  Already vulnerable children and young people may well be particularly in need of safety advice to address online risks, and may also be one of the hardest to engage groups.

Anikka Small:

  • Integrating e-Safety into Digital Literacy

Nationally, we need a greater emphasis on digital literacy and e-safety should be a key part of this – and not considered as a stand alone issue. The digital landscape is changing all the time and young people need to be equipped to cope with – and contribute to – this dynamic environment.

  • Engaging young people in e-safety discussions

In order for e-Safety advice to be relevant and remain up-to-date, it is  critical that we ensure young people are involved in the identification, co-design and sharing of digital safety resources and practices.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to vote and to come along to the session! The vote results are below:
eSafety the critical agenda - vote results