Online safety for children with SEND

Helping children with SEND stay safe online.

For many children and young people with Special Education Needs or Disabilities (SEND), the internet is a vital resource where they can make friends, play games and watch videos. A big part of what we do at Coconnect is focussing on online safety for children and young people. But what can we do to help children with SEND stay safe online?

Online safety for children with SEND

World Autism Acceptance Week takes place from Monday 27 March to Sunday 2 April 2023, so we thought it would be good to look at how we can address the additional challenges that a life online poses for children with SEND.

The benefits of the internet.

Being online can be positive for young people both with and without additional needs. It gives us access to a wealth of information and lets us discover new things that might not be available otherwise. Games, entertainment, videos and music are mere seconds away at our fingertips!

So many of our interactions now happen online. For example, video calls, sending messages to friends and family, and talking to others in online games. You can connect to anyone no matter where you are in the world! Social media also lets us discover, connect and communicate with people who share common interests too.

For children with SEND, the internet can be a lifeline. It allows them to make friends and stay connected without having to communicate face-to-face or in ways they might struggle with in the real world. They can be a part of communities they might not be able to in their offline life. In addition, it can also help them to feel safer and more in control of the online environment they build around themselves.

Online safety for children with SEND; The challenges 

Going online should be a positive experience for all children, but for some it can be overwhelming and confusing. Children with SEND may find this especially difficult.

  • Do they know the risks of being online, and can they detect risky situations? We need to teach the different types of risks that being online can bring, and the questions they can ask to spot and avoid putting themselves in to risky situations.
  • Do they understand that not everything they see or hear online is true? Children with SEND can be more trusting. They may struggle to understand that people share content that isn’t always true. Online content such as fake news, edited images and videos, and social media filters can all seem very real!
  • Can they manage the online risks they might face? We can all stumble across online content that is inappropriate or upsetting. But children with SEND might be more sensitive and worry about what they see. Make sure your school has robust web filtering in place to reduce the risk of them seeing harmful content while on your network.
  • What are they sharing with others? Not everyone online is who they say they are! Make sure they know not to share their personal information (such as their phone number, email, passwords, address or school).
  • Do they have healthy online relationships? Healthy relationships (both online and offline) often requires us to read other people’s emotions or behaviour. But this can be a challenge for some children with SEND. It’s important to talk about what healthy online relationships mean, and make sure they never feel pressured into doing something they don’t want to do.

Be kind online.

Cyberbullying happens in various different ways. It includes posting or sending negative or mean content about another person through messages, emails, online games, chat forums, and social media. However, it can also take the form of a manipulative, exploitative or conditional relationships.

Talk to your students about the importance of being kind and respectful to everyone online. Being aware of the language and tone of voice they use can help too!

Some children might not know about their digital footprint, so encourage them to stay positive and treat others how they would like to be treated. Our online activity creates a digital footprint, that can follow and impact us as we get older.

Online resources for teachers, parents and carers.

There’s a huge amount of information about online safety for children out there. But we’d really recommend you take a look at the following:

They have lots of information and resources for teachers, parents and carers about online safety for children with SEND.

Supporting schools and trusts.

We can help your school or trust keep your students safe!

We deliver safe, secure and reliable school broadband, safeguarding, security and school cloud services all over the UK. Our super web filtering complies with KCSIE, Prevent Duty, Internet Watch and national standards. And our proactive monitoring gives you the confidence that your students’ online behaviours are being monitored. So if a student becomes at high risk of harm to themselves or others, you can act straight away.

Just get in touch with us and we can have a chat about the best options for your school.

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