The information on this internet safety page has been contributed entirely by childminder Jayne Jones who was a police officer and worked in child protection before she became a childminder. It is up to you to adapt the information here for use in your own setting.
Internet and Screen Safety – information for childminders
Children today are lucky enough to have access to a wealth of information on the internet and are in a very connected world that is still a cause of much confusion to a lot of parents and carers! This of course includes us as their childminders! We should all be aware of how to keep children safe online and about the risks that they may face. We are in fact obliged now to have some knowledge procedures around keeping our children safe online.
Not sure how whether your knowledge or procedures are good enough? Maybe consider the following questions as a childminder:
-Would you feel equipped to provide advice to a parent in need or know where to refer them if something went wrong online for their child?
– If a child discloses something to you that happened to them online that they didn’t feel comfortable with?
-What would you say if your Ofsted Inspector when asked how you are keeping children safe online?
What risks are our children facing?
- Cyber (online) bullying (often from their peers and children that they know)
- Grooming – often into sexualised behaviour
- Engaging in, or watching inappropriate material, often above their age category.
- Radicalisation – being exposed to extreme views and exploring those views for themselves.
- Online pornography.
- Online gaming (for too long, talking to strangers, inappropriate content)
Watching too much screen-time is also a major issue for many young children. Some very young children have their own devices and spend many hours of the day alone watching them. This is often demonstrated by their detailed knowledge of programmes and use of American language such as ‘candy’ as the norm. Where you suspect this at home, diplomatically share information with parents about screen safety. It is useful to have an idea about what your children are doing at home with screens. I once babysat for a family where the young child had a 10pm bedtime and watched a screen until she fell asleep as her daily routine, something I would not have otherwise known about.
Changes you can make in your setting:
Here are my top tips for keeping children safe online and meeting your obligations to keep children in your care safe.
- Have a clear Internet Safety and Screen time policy. Below is a generic one if you wish to adapt this for your own setting. Share this with your parents to ensure they also start thinking about how much time their children are online and what it is they are watching / playing.
- Consider whether you are happy accepting personal devices and mobile phones into your home. What if they get mis-used or lost? Write it into your policy if you do not want to have devices in the house, or design an ‘acceptable use’ policy of your own with clear guidelines your policy.
- Make internet safety an everyday part of your setting. This particularly applies if you have children for wrap around and holiday care.
- Think about the purpose of screens in your setting. Does the television have a purpose, such as a short film related to your story book?
- Display an online safety poster somewhere prominently.
- Do you have your own older children who are allowed screen-time whilst your minded children are in your home? How does this work in practice? Are they viewing material that is unsuitable or frightening for younger children?
- Celebrate and acknowledge online safety week in February each year. Focus activities for this week, for younger children this can just be a sharing and kindness task … communication to parents is key.
- Consider providing families with a written agreement document. Do they have boundaries when it comes to screens and do they understand what they are and are not allowed to watch / do in your house? Can the children themselves do this for your own setting? Written agreements can be found online.
- How do you share with parents? Can you add a document to your noticeboard, handouts, newsletter or some other way about staying safe online?
- Consider a short online course yourself as part of your CPD. The NSPCC provide this for a small fee, Childminding UK members can access a course for free and there are countless others. This is part of you fulfilling your safeguarding obligations.
- Make yourself familiar with the authorities and charities that provide information and support with online safety. Below is a list of some of the support services available, but this list is not exhaustive.
- Download the ‘Netaware’ app to your phone or mobile device for easy access to information regarding different games and programmes online that children may have access too. This app will provide helpful and supportive information to questions you may be unsure about.
Sample Internet Safety and Screen time policy
Children should be exposed to a wide range of offline and online activities that have been risk assessed and carefully planned to ensure that they can deliver in accordance with their educational, social and emotional needs. Television can be used to illustrate a topic being studied or explain a concept that has been talked about. Sometimes children can benefit from quiet time by watching television that is carefully chosen and does not include advertising. In my setting, I will opt for a specific programme that runs alongside our current storybook or topic. Likewise, the use of computer screens can be beneficial to children where the risks are assessed and managed, and the times limited. Coding programmes and online games can have benefits to a child’s fine motor skills and develop their online communications skills, but both have to be carefully managed.
Programmes made available to children are suitable for their age and stage of development. We do not have a DVD player and I have a wide selection of cloud stored films that I have assessed as suitable for particular age groups. Films can be both entertaining and culturally educational and I believe form an important part of a child’s cultural capital development when watched in moderation. We watch a range of age appropriate films from Japanese anime, French children’s subtitled films and Disney classics. I aim to always watch television with young children so that we can talk about the programme afterwards and I can model any new vocabulary gained. Viewing time is limited and the television is switched off as soon as the programme is finished or when children lose interest.
Children will be permitted to use games consoles providing the game is intended for their age. I will work with parents/carers to set realistic time scales for the use of games consoles. If children wish to bring in consoles or games from home, I request this be discussed with me beforehand. This will ensure the content will be suitable for other children attending and brought on a day when our routines will allow time to play it. I do not allow children to bring in their own tablets or other devices to watch whilst they are in my care. I believe that a child should not arrive at a play / care setting with an expectation that they will be watching a screen. I have curriculum-based activities and experiences and outdoor play for them to enjoy, screens may form a part of our day if it is suitable at the time and for a short time.
At my setting, I keep children safe by ensuring I am updated with the latest information regarding online safety. I have a good working background and experience in this field and am aware of the dangers and risks that children may face and take online. I only show age appropriate programmes and films. Children take part in activities regularly to do with staying safe online. We talk about online and offline safety as part of our care. Once a year, we celebrate Internet Safety week and explore the matters in more depth in an age appropriate way during this week.
I have information and advice for parents and carers in this area should you wish to further access it. Please ask for further information if you wish to receive it or if you have any concerns.
NB: A very small percentage of people may experience photosensitive epileptic seizures when exposed to certain visual images, including flashing lights or patterns that may appear in video games. If a child is vulnerable to these seizures then such media will not be watched/played with whilst this child in present.
Support and Useful links for Online Safety Advice
If you are concerned that a child is in immediate danger from abuse online or otherwise, always call 999.
The following organisations can provide advice and information on how to support your children to stay safe online more generally.
NSPCC: Can provide advice and support with child protection issues and have a comprehensive online guide to online safety issues. They provide a E-training accredited course for parents and practitioners.
Childline number: 0800 1111 – Childline.org.uk
Childline provide children with a safe place to call or contact where they are worried about something in the on or offline world.
CEOP – Child Protection Online police – If you are worried about how someone is behaving online or have seen something that is abusive, CEOP will take your report and investigate.
Follow the links online to seek safety information about your child appropriate to their age, report abuse and gain support.
https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/ – Information, activity packs and age appropriate videos for parents and practitioners. They have provided packs for lockdown that can be completed with your child (approx. 15 minutes long) which are changed each fortnight.
Products that can help you with internet safety
The Ultimate Childminding Checklist is 3 checklists in 1: statutory requirements, countdown to your inspection, and outstanding workbook. It is useful whether you are new to childminding, trying to get organised before your inspection, or if you want to get outstanding and want to check you haven’t missed anything.
All the basic forms and policies you need to set up and run your childminding business. Concise policies, simple forms and printable basic childminding contract. Pack includes free updates when legislation changes because it’s hard to keep up.
Join the Childminding Best Practice Club and get monthly packs of themed activities emailed to you. As well as art projects with templates, each pack includes a planning guide to help you plan around a theme. Great for new ideas.
The Communication with Parents Pack contains all the tools you need to improve how you communicate with parents or learn to do so in an outstanding manner. The pack includes tackling more challenging forms of communication like when you have concerns about a child’s development, dealing with late payment, or giving notice. The pack also contains detailed marketing information to help you to attract new business including making a step-by-step plan to ensure that the all-important first visit goes well.