As cases of online abuse soar new app is designed to keep children safe

With reports of issues surrounding online abuse soaring a free mobile app aimed at protecting children has been launched in East Sussex.

The Safer Schools app will provide information and advice about sexting, bullying, mental health, media literacy, gaming and sexual exploitation online. Its launch comes amid a worrying rise in cases of online abuse, with Covid restrictions leading to more online activity among children.

Figures from Sussex Police show a total of 92 reports in April 2020, 40 per cent more than the same period in 2019. Of these, 19 related to sexual grooming and abuse of children through sexual exploitation and the creation of child sexual abuse images, while 73 related to offences involving indecent images of children.

Councillor Bob Standley, East Sussex County Council ESCC) lead member for Education and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability, said: “The rise in reports of online abuse is extremely worrying and something that urgently needs to be addressed.

…emerging threats and risks that the online world presents to the children and young people…

“With outdoor activity limited due to Covid restrictions and school learning taking place at home for much of the past year, children have spent considerably more time online than usual. While the internet can be a great tool for learning and socialising during these difficult times, unsupervised it can also be a very dangerous place.

“We hope this free app will give teachers, parents and carers the information and advice they need to keep children as safe as possible.”

The app, designed as part of the Safer Schools initiative, will allow teachers, school staff and safeguarding practitioners from other sectors access to information and a range of resources addressing issues.

Staff will also have access to accredited courses, appropriate use of social media and managing mental health in schools.

Colin Stitt, Head of Service and Safer Schools for Ineqe Safeguarding Group, which developed the app with insurer Zurich Municipal, said: “Many of us have experienced the benefits of the internet to remain connected during the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, we need to be aware and respond effectively to the emerging threats and risks that the online world presents to the children and young people in our care.

“Our Safer Schools app will help educate and empower you as you protect and make the school community safer.”

Rod Penman, Head of Public Services at Zurich Municipal added: “We are, absolutely committed to working with our local authority customers and where we can, to help make people, children in particular, safer.”

Available free for East Sussex maintained schools insured with Zurich Municipal, the Safer Schools App offers critical advice regarding image sharing, online bullying and safer gaming. For more information visit www.oursaferschools.co.uk

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