Potential Dangers and Online Abuse

This can sometimes be a difficult topic to discuss, but it must be acknowledged and addressed by everyone. This page aims to provide advice about some of the risks online and dealing with incidents of Predation, Grooming and how to prevent physical danger and sexual abuse.  

Some of the key risks  to be aware of online

Advertising: The web is a “market”

Search engines can use a range of techniques to find relevant sites in response to requests. Key words can be purchased based on a payment to the search engine company for each click made following a search. Where no sponsored link exists, searches are displayed in order of ‘hits’ or ‘number of times requested’. This means that in order to attract viewers, site owners will use whatever means they can to increase their ‘visibility’. This can be by the use of banner adverts on other more popular sites, or linking from sympathetic sites. There are marketing packages available from all search engine companies to raise visibility; however it is cheaper to use some of the free methods described. Nothing is “free” online; sites that allow free use are paid for by the adverts hosted on them.

Pop-ups 

One method of advertising that is popular is the use of the ‘pop-up’, where a visit to a site would trigger an advertisement in a new window “popping up”. This has diminished however since Internet browsers started incorporated blockers to protect users.

Cookies

Cookies are small programs that are installed on your computer when you are browsing. The aim of a Cookie is to remember you so content can be personalised for you or to get around the need to re-enter passwords. Some however install software that constantly requests a particular (sometimes unsavoury) site.  

Cyber-squatting

An area of concern in education is where a child mis-types or mis-spells web addresses; this is one of the most frequently reported reasons for viewing inappropriate, offensive, or obscene content. Web-sites that are designed to intercept wrong spelling are called ‘cyber-squatters’, and can intercept mis-typed addresses and take the viewer to the wrong site, or a domain registration company. Many of these also try to install adware and other malicious software, or even present adult content.  

Incitement Sites

Incitement sites are a phenomenon that exploit human weakness and typically seek to amplify behaviours such as racial hatred, homophobia, racism, self harm, suicide etc. Incitement sites can often target vulnerable young people and adults and normalise behaviour considered inappropriate or harmful such as Anorexia, Bulimia etc. These sites can be blocked using filtering however filtering is not always 100% effective and the child should be reffered to the appropriate professional to support them. Illegal content can be reported to Virtual Global Taskforce or the Internet Watch Foundation

On the 18th Feburary 2010 a 17 year old became the first to be prosecuted for posting race hate material on Youtube.

Posting too Much Personal Information

Both young people and adults are at risk of posting too much information about themselves online and not considering who might see it and what the consquences may be. Often people are uaware that once something (such as a photo, video, text etc) is posted online it is impossible to control and be 100% sure it has been removed from circulation once it has been deleted.  

Grooming/Predation

Grooming (or predation) can be defined as ‘befriending a child by building a strong, trusting bond’, and is most often used to refer to an act of lowering a perceived inhibitory attitude of a child regarding sexual behaviour with an adult. Typically the grooming process can involve showing pornography or images of child abuse to the child to give the impression that sexual acts are normal, common or part of being ‘grown-up’, offering gifts or presents in exchange for sexual acts (either online or offline), acting as a ‘friend’ or concealing their true age and identity. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 s15(2) provides a clear offence, … after having met or communicated with a child on at least two earlier occasions, to meet, or travel to meet, the child with the intention of sexually abusing him or her on that occasion or later. A crime may be committed even without a meeting actually taking place and without the child even being involved in the meeting (for example, if a police officer has taken over the contact and pretends to be that child). Nurturing Internet friendships is not restricted to children, and there is frequent use of online chat, usually with the hope of real-life contact for adults. If someone wishes to meet someone they have met online the advice is to take someone with you (an adult you trust), meet in a public place, let somewhere know where you are going and let them know tat you have arrived and are home safe. If you are concerned that you know someone who is becoming, or was a victim of predation or grooming, please report this to The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre

For Info on Cyberbullying:

Please see Cyberbullying section  What should you do?

If somebody accesses inappropriate content, the best advice is to minimise the page and make a note of the URL address. This address can be reported to the School Network Manager or Schools Broadband Helpdesk for them to block the site from the school network or filtering server. The address can also be reported to the Virtual Global Taskforce or the Internet Watch Foundation if the content is offensive or illegal.