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Digital risk resources

Digital Risk and Resilience Resources

Digital Risk And Resilience Resources Landing Page

This resource is an on-going development as information and support for all professionals who work with children and young people.  The content has been co-produced by Xenzone and young people from their online counselling and support service, Kooth.

Young people’s understanding and experience of the digital world often exceeds that of adults and professionals.  To help young people navigate the digital world we require more nuanced discussions and conversations about digital resilience.

This resource aims to provide the tools to begin to explore digital resilience with young people by providing information on key concepts, new ideas and links for further information.  For more exploration of theoretical underpinnings and deeper learning on this topic, come and try our e-learning session on digital risk and resilience, there are also sessions available specifically on risk elements: 

This resource does not claim to have all the answers.  Through each of these pages we have links to vital information on each topic.  For general information in this area, we recommend:

 

 XENZONE LOGO1

 

 

Youngminds 

Rationale for a resilience building approach

 

 Parent

Digital resilience building is everyone's responsibility

 

E-Safety

E Safety“I think it is kind of common sense because we have grown up with these things but at the same time there is a lot of education for internet safety in schools and just generally”- Megan (15)

  • Young people who are vulnerable offline are more likely to be at risk online.

  • Professionals might be watchful for young people who do not have strong social connections, lack positive family relationships or have low self esteem.

Although knowledge of risks and adult supervision is important, the more controlled and moderated young people’s digital use, the less likely it is that young people will build resilience to online risk.

Young people who are vulnerable offline are more likely to be at risk online.

Professionals might be watchful for young people who do not have strong social connections, lack positive family relationships or have low self esteem. Although knowledge of risks and adult supervision is important, the more controlled and moderated young people’s digital use, the less likely it is that young people will build resilience to online risk. 

'I guess the thing about the internet is that there is a lot you can do to be in control, and i think the sense of control is important to lots of people... things do affect me online when people are horrible to me some times but i mean nothing serious happens to me and i cant see it doing so idk maybe thats dumb and naive lol'- Jen (22)

As we see from the quote above, young people are used to hearing the e-safety message and often tell professionals and parents what they think they want to hear. Many successfully identify risk and how to keep safe or avoid online risk. This knowledge does not necessarily impact their own digital use, however, or change their behaviour. Professionals need to adopt more effective ways to communicate with young people about the digital world. Providing e-safety information to young people has become a priority in a context of online risk. It can contain strategies and important information, which equip young people with the knowledge they need to navigate the digital world. Attempts to shield children and young people from online risk in order to moderate or control online behaviour may, however, only lead to secretive use and exposure to further risk.       

‘I think there are a lot of negatives but you stereotype young people because we are not all like that. I know that some of us may well be, but I think you exaggerate quite a lot’- Lyra (15)      

Those with a responsibility to educate, support or protect young must think beyond scare stories in the media. We must tailor our responses to a diverse audience, including honest debate on what might motivate risky behaviour. Young people will never be free from risk, nor will they stop using the internet. We must move from E safety to online resilience approaches, and for that message to be effective, emphasis needs to include the positive aspects of the digital world, not just the pitfalls.   

Research has shown that it is not necessarily the digital world that corrupts young people, but the psychological and social circumstances particular young people bring to the digital world. Strong links exist between vulnerable individuals and groups of young people and risky or problematic digital use.

Young people experiencing low self esteem, mental ill health, social exclusion or isolation, lack of community connection, or family support are all at risk. It is useful for professionals to recognise the links between disconnect and disadvantage, which increases online vulnerability amongst young people and work to overcome these barriers both offline and online, as both are deeply interwoven.

 

Links and resources

 

Information For Parents

Digital Footprint

Digital FootprintI’m kind of torn both ways about it - like i get it and that but i just dont see why it should affect anybodies future jobs like their social media should be separate- Pixie (18)

  • A digital footprint or cyber shadow can be intentional or unintentional and include the information left behind as a result of a user's web-browsing, stored as cookies.

  • Young people may not be aware of the impact this has on security, safety or potential outcome of universities and employers viewing this footprint.

  • Adults may also be unaware of their own digital footprint, or the importance of security and privacy, and therefore miss the importance of exploring this with young people.

'In a way its kinda scary that your whole history can be found online , luckily I have nothing to be scared of  really' –JB (15)

A digital footprint is the trail of activity left behind online, either intentionally or inadvertently. This includes social media posts, photos or videos uploaded, comments left and websites visited. This footprint impacts on privacy and security and how we are viewed, now and in the future. Many  young people do not consider the impact of their digital trail, however assumptions made about young people’s universal  lack of responsiveness to messages of safety and privacy may not be entirely correct . Some young people talk about  the pressure of being always available and accessible online and this may lead to a more relaxed approach to online security.   

'We see calculations made from our digital foot print all the time with those really annoying tailored ads. And a passive footprint is one that is taken without the users knowledge of stuff like web browsing and active is the one we intentionally create e.g. social media'- Megan (15)

There is a common view that as a whole young people are unconcerned with privacy when it comes to digital communication.  However, studies have shown, more than we are led to believe, are savvy about sharing personal details and monitoring their privacy settings. Research has shown that  it is adults, not young people, who  are less resilient to threats to privacy .  Almost 95 per cent of users aged 14 to 17 had monitored or tightened their social network privacy settings, compared to a 65 per cent average across all age groups1.    

That does not mean discussions about online footprints aren’t crucial, as young people have varying levels of understanding the pitfalls of  an open internet environment.       

        1'A New Privacy Paradox: Young people and privacy on social network sites‘ (2014) Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre, University of Oxford.

         

Links and resources

Identity

Identity74% of girls agree that “most girls my age use social networking sites to make them look cooler than they really are” and 41% admitted this describes them.

(girlscouts.org, 2010 survey).

  • The ability to shape and control one’s identity online can be incredibly empowering for adolescents as they explore who they are.

  • Concerns around social media tends to focus on privacy and safety, but fewer discuss the relational, informational, and self-esteem related benefits and risks to social media use.

  • Young people can feel pressure to be individual. Identity characteristics can be written on the body, such as gender or ethnicity, or are elective, such as our chosen political affiliations.

It has become commonplace to share personal landmarks, opinions, thoughts and our daily activities online. Many of us give this information freely, particularly via social networking sites, and young people are no exception to this.

'Everyone should be who they want to be'- Rowan (14)

Creating an online identity is a part of our culture and indeed, as for adults,  young people enjoy having a presence online and creating an image of themselves they control and present to others.  The internet, and in particular social networking sites, blogs and vlogs become  ‘identity spaces’ for young people to express themselves.       

Although research suggests this ability to shape and control one’s identity can be incredibly empowering for adolescents in a time of flux and uncertainty, we must be aware of those vulnerable groups of young people who may feel exposed, find the process worrying, or feel pressure to fit into societies complex norms.

'It’s risky in terms of people committing fraud... pretending to be who they aren’t... we share so much of ourselves and our information online and I think sometimes we forget that nearly anyone can access it and its hard to understand what people might do with ur info because i would never dream to do bad stuff.' - Jen (22)

 

Links and resources

DigiLit Leicester: Online resources on Identity

Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years

Internet Society: Understanding Your Online Identity

Self esteem

Self Esteem'It can be downgrading and it can do brutal things with what comments people can put it can be emotionally damaging and draining, it could make you feel bad about your self although you might feel a raise in confidence'- Tasha (15)

  • Young people’s self esteem can be boosted greatly from the opportunities the digital world offers.

  • Self esteem can also be lowered through social pressures to conform to ideals around beauty, body image or lifestyle.

  • If a young person has low self esteem, they can be less likely to demonstrate resilience online.

I think social media is both good and bad for your self esteem because some people put horrible comments which make you feel bad, but sometimes people put nice comments like 'beautiful' or 'stunner'’- Jyoti (12)

Young people’s self esteem can be boosted greatly from the opportunities the digital world offers. Self esteem can also be lowered through social pressures to conform to ideals. If a young person has low self esteem, they are less likely to demonstrate resilience online.

'i think a lot of people are too into "likes" and "comments" on pictures, and may feel if they dont get as many as their friends they arent worthy enough and things like that'- Pixie (18)

Young people face the impact of online sharing on self esteem. They often feel peer pressure to fit in with particular social expectations and to create an acceptable or even ‘perfect’ online persona. They must face the possibility of being rejected or ‘trolled’ by their online audience.        

Girls with low self esteem are 33% more likely to admit their social networking site image does not match their ‘in person’ image, compared with 18% of girls with high self esteem- girlscouts.org (2010 survey)       

Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager recruited  half a million followers on Instagram,  for her immaculate ‘selfie’s’, has called the phenomenon 'contrived perfection made to get attention'. She describes the insecurity, unhappiness and manipulation behind the seemingly perfect photos and admitted they were not a true reflection of her - physically or emotionally.  

Contemporary ‘selfie’ culture has provided additional peer pressure for young people to share photographs of themselves via social media, which could lead to low self esteem. On the other had, positive body image movements have utilised selfies and social media hashtags to share positive messages about young people’s bodies which could help build resilience.

         

Links and resources

Personal skills

  • Personal SkillsThe digital world provides a new context for the development of personal, technical and interpersonal skills and there is no going back.

  • Technology is developing so rapidly it is hard for even experts to keep up.

  • Professionals can help young people explore the benefits and drawbacks and create balance between online and offline hard and soft skills.

We have all heard stories in the media raising concerns about a generation of young people glued to screens and negative impact this has on their personal skills. Is the digital world negatively affecting young peoples ability to think, write, communicate? Some theorists suggest that the increased exposure to digital technology means more complex social skills are harder to gain. ‘Text speak’ and abbreviations are developing prolifically with fears younger generations will be unable to communicate using traditional methods1.         

Although valid points, it is also important to consider the positive aspects of online communication for young people.  How realistic is it to attempt to halt the development of new forms of communication in a modern world?         

Rather than having less time and space for personal reflection, the digital world may provide the opposite, taking time to communicate and build skills in new and different ways.  As a diverse group, young people’s interpersonal communication skills vary considerably offline.  Those young people who lack skills in the offline world, may carry this on to the online world and vice versa and it is these young people we must be watchful for.

        1 Michael Harris, in his 2014 book ‘The End Of Absence’       

'Its such a good way of getting information about stuff or finding out ideas of how to help yourself for example. In the past before the internet you couldnt look up ideas of how to do self help stuff in the same way you can now... or things like kooth... being able to communicate with other people in a way that some of us struggle in real life. Being able to share ideas and knowledge.  Also i think sometimes people can be a bad influence on each other or pick up negative coping strategies online in terms of mental health'- Jen (22)

Young people with disabilities can experience barriers as well as benefits to finding friends and a sense of community online, as well as being able to utilise the digital world as a method of communication, or a way to share their experiences with like minded peers.

 

Links and resources

Boundaries

  • BoundariesAs digital use increases young people can find it hard to balance this with face-to-face life.

  • There is pressure on young people to be available, to respond, to have a digital presence.

  • Conversations around how young people can set boundaries for themselves is essential.

‘I don’t feel pressured to go online. I only go online when I’m bored and when I have had enough I put it down’ Jamilla 12

Mobile technology offers young people the world at their fingertips, 24 hours a day . They are connected to the world and each other in ways we would have never considered in the past. Technologies develop at a fast pace and many young people are savvy consumers of new apps, networking sites and devices.

Not all young people have the luxury of being able to keep up and this can have an effect on anxiety and self esteem.

‘There’s a lot of peer pressure when someone expects you to be on a social media site. I make up excuses, like my parents won’t let me, in order to avoid getting it’- Joe (15)

Some young people talk about the pressure of being always available and accessible which can cause some stress and anxiety. There can be pressure to be present on particular social network sites as friendships are forged and maintained increasingly here.

'we are willing to take any risks to make friends'- Zak (14)

Professionals must be mindful of those young people most likely to be negatively affected by these personal boundary risks and unable to moderate digital use - young people experiencing low self esteem, mental ill health, social exclusion or isolation, lack of community connection, or family support are all at risk and may find it hard to resist peer pressure to be present and available at all times, on the right sites and using the right technology.

 

Links and resources

Childnet: Safety Tips for Social Networking

Help Guide: Smartphone Addiction

Internet Matters: Managing a Teenager's Digital Life

UK Safer Internet Centre: Specialist advice for foster carers and social workers

Social impact

Social Unicersal Imapct'It’s not all negative on our electronic devices (phones, laptops etc) sometimes it can be really positive, we can learn about other people and cultures, opinions or viewpoints. We can communicate and connect with school friends easily’- Maryam (14)

  • The digital world can present risks of disconnection from the offline world or make finding a balance between offline and online activity challenging. The relationships young people make online can present as risky.

  • Young people see the opportunity of the digital world to connect with others both online and face-to-face in ways which can be moderated and safe.

  • Young people with disabilities can experience barriers as well as benefits to finding friends and a sense of community online.

There is growing evidence to suggest young people are using the Internet, not to disconnect from ‘real life relationships’, but to strengthen and manage offline relationships, keeping in touch with friends and communicating freely and frequently.

'It’s not all negative on our electronic devices (phones, laptops etc) sometimes it can be really positive, we can learn about other people and cultures, opinions or viewpoints. We can communicate andconnect with school friends easily’- Maryam (14)       

Young people tell us one of the key positives of the digital world is the ability to create, sustain and manage friendships. Although they can discover new friends from all over the word, the majority are keeping in touch with their offline friends- continuing conversations, arranging activities together and supporting one another.       

Rather than damaging young people’s social skills, it seems there are opportunities for social skills to be honed and developed in more nuanced ways.      

Risks may exist for those who are unable to create a balance between online and offline activity. Often young people who are not connected in the offline world with strong familial or peer support take solace in the online world. They might seek friends in risky ways, and be unable to monitor or moderate risk. Perhaps the relationships they create online become unhealthy and isolating. Arguably, finding friends and communities online can help build confidence and self-esteem during times of personal struggle and loneliness, however. We must be mindful of who these young people might be and how we as professionals can help young people create balance and build resilience to risk.

         

Links and resources

Human Kinetics: Impact on social interaction

Teen Ink: Young people’s perspectives

UCLA: Reduced social skills in young people

Cyberbullying

CyberbullyingBullying, including cyberbullying, online harassment and threats are in the top ten of issues presented by young people on Kooth.com (source: Kooth.com)

  • Young people have highlighted that cyberbullying is a major risk within the digital world.

  • The impact of cyberbullying can be dependent of the resilience of young people, with the most vulnerable to risk offline being most vulnerable online.

  • Professionals can help young people build resilience to online risk rather than avoiding it entirely.

As with all of the engagement with KOOTH, the majority of young people presenting with bullying as their issue are female (84%) but we feel that this is more an indication of their willingness to talk about it than a true reflection of the gender split of young people actually suffering from bullying- (source: kooth.com)

'If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all'- Ali (15)     

Young people have highlighted cyberbullying and ‘trolling’ as a major risk within the digital world. Being teased, humiliated and even threatened is common place. There are varying responses to this from a resilient shrugging off, blocking or reporting to feeling totally overwhelmed and powerless.         

Cyberbullying thrives in a context where internet use can be anonymous.

The impact of cyberbullying depends on how resilient the individual. Again, research shows that those most vulnerable to risk, are those with low self esteem, mental ill health, social exclusion or isolation, lack of community connection, or insufficient family support.     

Professionals can help young people build resilience both off and online and therefore reduce risk. Resilience building, rather than avoiding risk entirely, but empowering young people to develop coping strategies from passive to active responses.

         

Links and resources

Cyberbullying.org: Identification, prevention and responseCyberbullying.org: Resources and research

Cyberbullying.org: Warning Signs

NHS: Information on Cyberbullying

TES: Cyberbullying resources

Pornography

Pornography1 in 3 10 year olds have seen pornography online 81% aged 14-16 regularly access explicit photographs and footage on their home computers. (source: Psychologies Magazine 2010) 

  • The subject of sex and relationships can be challenging for professionals and parents to tackle with young people, often due to lack of confidence or restrictions on content that can be discussed.

  • The digital world provides easy access to sexualised content such as pornography and can act as a medium for the development of sexual relationships through behaviour such as ‘sexting’.

  • As a result it, is important for professionals discuss sex and relationships with young people, especially in the context of relevant online behaviour, to enable them to have an awareness of safe sex and relationships.

61% of children aged 7 -16 have a mobile phone that can access the internet, rising to 77% among 11-16s (ChildWise Monitor 2012).

Nearly 9 out of 10 children had no security settings on their phones and only 46% of parents were aware that they were even necessary (YouGov Carphone Warehouse Jan 12.

Some parents and carers feel confident to talk openly with their children about sex and relationships, however some lack confidence, other do not tackle this subject at all. Many teachers are restricted in what they can discuss, with the option of students being removed from sex education, some too do not feel confident about exploring this subject. Identifying who is most vulnerable to problematic pornography use, gaining a distorted view of sex and relationships, grooming or sexual exploitation online, is incredibly important. Young people experiencing low self esteem, mental ill health, social exclusion or isolation, lack of community connection, or family support are all at risk and must be acknowledged.         

It is important for professionals to be open to the existence of behaviour such as ‘sexting’, accessing pornography and consider the motivations of developing sexual relationships and seeking information on sex online. Professionals have a key role in discussing sex and relationships and extending the conversation around what influences problematic online behaviour. Awareness of sound sex and relationship advice and services is important in order to provide help and support for young people.

40% of 11 - 14 yr olds have used their mobile phones or computer to send pictures of themselves or receive naked or topless images of friends (SW Grid for Learning Mar 11). The single largest group of internet pornography consumers is children aged 12-17.

         

Links and resources

IPPR: Research on young people’s use of pornography

Stop It Now: Support around problematic behaviour

Online gaming

Online Gaming‘kids that are like 10 are playing violent games then becoming abusive towards parents and friends’- Ferdi (14)

  • This relatively new phenomenon largely concerns more young men than young women. There is often concern around obsessive use, addiction, the length of time spent gaming, effects on interpersonal communication and social isolation, underage use, abusive behaviour including cyberbullying, ‘trolling’ and offensive content.

  • Research has shown that some games may increase skills and concentration as well as reducing social isolation in young people.

  • Young men are particularly at risk of mental ill health, social exclusion and social isolation; meaning online gaming may be a positive tool to improve their resilience.

This relatively new phenomenon largely concerns more young men than young women. Although some research indicates gaming has positive effects, there is often concern around obsessive use, addiction, the length of time spent gaming, effects on interpersonal communication and social isolation, underage use, abusive behaviour including cyberbullying , ‘trolling’ and offensive content.    

Online games can be single player or multiplayer online games which can host many players at once. There can be many positives to online gaming . Some games increase skills and concentration and the association aspect of meeting like minded gamers can increase confidence and self esteem. There are some pitfalls associated with online gaming particularly around addictive behaviours, exposure to unknown players who may be older, breaches of privacy, inappropriate behaviour, such as trolling or cyberbullying, inappropriate or explicit gameplay content.     

'Some games educate you and strengthens hand to eye co-ordination'- Finn (11)

PEGI (Pan European Gaming Information) offer tips and advice as well as classify games into age appropriate categories. They are keen to state each individual child or young person has different capacities to cope with game content and age classifications can only be a guide . Discussions and conversations around each young person’s approach to online gaming is important.        

In terms of resilience young men, particularly experiencing low self esteem, mental ill health, social exclusion or isolation, lack of community connection, or family support are all at risk of problematic gaming behaviour. It is useful for professionals to recognise the links between disconnect and disadvantage which increases online vulnerability amongst young people and work to overcome these barriers both offline and online as both are deeply interwoven.

         

Links and resources

Reachout: Understanding online gaming

Safe Network: Good practice

Radicalisation

Radicalisation32% of parents are concerned about radicalisation (Cybersafe, 2013)

  • People are less afraid to share offensive opinions online rather than face-to-face.

  • Concerns exist over the number of young people being radicalised by political extremists via the internet and social media.

  • Professionals must be mindful of potentially vulnerable young people and support them to build resilience to become resistant to these online hazards.

People are less afraid to share offensive opinions online rather than face to face. 32% of parents are concerned about radicalisation¹. 308% increase in Google searches related to ‘radicalisation’ between Dec 14 and Jan 15². 1 in 10 children knows a gang member ³

1 Cybersafe, 2013.

2 Google keyword research (Internet Matters)

3 ONS, Crime Survey for England and Wales

There is a growing concern over the number of young people being ‘groomed’ and ‘radicalised’ into terrorist activity by political extremists such as far right groups. This is a small number of vulnerable young people who are exploited and recruited by groups using the internet and in particular social media networks as platforms for their messages.         

When considering who is most at risk of accessing damaging ideologies, we can identify similar indicators to those young people less resilient to online hazards. These include those vulnerable to social isolation or exclusion, experiencing a time of personal or identity crisis and as professionals we must be mindful of those young people whose offline vulnerabilities can impact their online activity and work to support these young people to build resilience.

         

Links and resources

Radicalisation Research

Radical Research: What causes radicalisation

Gov.uk: Good practice around risks of radicalisation

Internet Matters: Information for parents

Access to information

Access To Information'I know I have support, people to talk to online and I am not alone with this'- Brad (17)

  • Certain risks exist where young people may access damaging information or advice online such a pro-illness or self harm sites.

  • Mental health continues to be a taboo subject and access to services can be limited for young people. The digital world fills this gap as a space for young people to share ideas and receive information, support and guidance.

  • The digital world can provide a connection between young people and the support they need when most vulnerable. Professionals can support young people to approach support and information in a moderated way to reduce potential risk. 

The digital world helps young people connect with others when they are at their most vulnerable. They can access a wealth of information and advice to answer questions or explore problems. This process can be empowering particularly for those who are experiencing disadvantage or isolation, having a positive effect on their well being, gaining positive reinforcement as well as a sense of competence or capability.         

Mental health in particular, continues to be a taboo subject and although young people see it as a major cause of unhappiness, services are regularly cut and support can be non existent. The digital world fills this gap becoming a space for young people in a changing context, a place for young people to be heard, to share ideas and support each other.        

Certain risks exist where young people access online information in relation to emotional wellbeing. How do young people navigate this wealth of information and decide what is reliable and safe? There are websites which offer sound advice and support, however, others promote unhealthy and damaging reinforcement such as pro anorexia or self harm sites. Whilst these pro-illness websites have been a focus of research and media attention, more recently the benefits of pro-recovery social media have been identified. Recovery focused online environments can provide young people with support, information and guidance on managing mental health conditions. Whilst it has been identified that moderation of such communities is important, professionals can support young people to self moderate and seek beneficial rather than potentially harmful content which could be reported.        

When considering who is most at risk of accessing damaging information and advice, we can identify similar indicators to those young people less resilient to online hazards. These include those vulnerable to social isolation or exclusion, experiencing a time of personal or identity crisis.

         

Links and resources to positive sites

Ayemind: Mental health resources for young people

Kooth.com: Online counselling and support for young people

NHS: Mental Health Advice

Young Minds

Online CSE

Online CSE'OSCE includes the much broader threat from online communication between an adult and a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation' (CEOP, 2013)

  • A potential harm arising from young people’s engagement with the digital world is online child sexual exploitation (OSCE). Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition e.g. through the use of the internet or mobiles.

  • Whilst the internet can be seen as a rich commodity connecting young people globally, this potential is extended to OCSE which through ‘the dark web’ and cloud computing offers potential for perpetrators to exploit children and young people transnationally.

  • It is important for professionals to promote safe internet usage and help young people to identify potential signs of online grooming or exploitation.

One potential harm arising from young people’s engagement with the digital world is online child sexual exploitation (OSCE). Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition e.g. through the use of the internet or mobiles.

Whilst the internet can be seen as a rich commodity connecting young people globally, this potential is extended to OCSE which through ‘the dark web’ and cloud computing offers potential for perpetrators to exploit children and young people transnationally.

It is important for professionals to promote safe internet usage and help young people to identify potential signs of online grooming or exploitation.

         

 Links and resources to positive sites

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