Online safety has been even more in the spotlight than usual thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which has made us all more heavily reliant on technology than ever before. As the NSPCC highlights, the enforced switch to online learning and socialising has placed children at greater risk of threats such as online bullying, exploitation and even radicalisation. So, what can international schools do to help keep their students (and staff) safe online?

To address this complex subject, which follows this introduction, today’s post comes to us from Jonathan Taylor, an independent online safety consultant and founder of both Besafe Online UK and the Online Safety 4 Schools website. Jonathan spent ten years working as an Undercover Online Investigator in the Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command, putting him in a unique position to be able to share valuable thoughts and advice on how best schools around the world can improve online safety in their communities.

Having delivered online safety workshops extensively in international schools in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, I have a wide-ranging knowledge of the technological context in which international schools work. This has given me a unique insight into international schools and the possible online safety issues faced by the schools and their staff and students.

Accompanied with my unique experience and advanced knowledge of online behaviour, this has allowed me to speak with authority on online safety and the dangers of social media and gaming. Traditionally part of child safeguarding in schools, online safety is certainly now very much a standalone area that requires specific training and workshops for the whole school, including staff, pupils, and parents.

Online safety affects everyone, everywhere

Here in UK, it is now mandatory for schools to have online safety training, and this includes British international schools and those teaching the UK Curriculum. However, online safety is of paramount importance regardless of which country the school is in, as geographic location has no bearing on the fact that all children, teenagers, and young adults use devices, social media, apps, online games, and gaming communities.

It is also worth remembering that students’ online behaviour can have a massive impact on their future goals and aspirations, particularly as a result of the cybervetting of applicants by employers and universities. This means that online safety is not just about stranger danger it has moved on, and up-to-date guidance and awareness has never been more important.

The impact of online games and social media

Regardless of a school’s location around the world, today’s children grow up with access to computers, laptops, tablets, and phones – all with access to the internet. This makes the internet more accessible than ever before. What is more, most students love to explore and experiment, as children have always done; it is an essential element in learning.

Unfortunately, that exploration and experimentation can lead them to virtual ‘places’ that are legally off-limits, inappropriate or that can damage their ‘online brand.’ This inappropriate behaviour can easily occur without them even being aware that they are doing anything wrong – in other words, they can become unintentional victims.

With unlimited access to the internet, children must be aware of the abundant risks – some of which can lead to danger and harm. These risks will change for children as they grow and develop through different age groups.

Social media platforms, and more importantly apps, are the ‘game changer.’ Despite these platforms having age restrictions, these get ignored, and the result is a total lack of protection in these areas. Direct messaging through apps is commonplace, and this has seen a rise in interaction between strangers masquerading behind the title of ‘contact’ or ‘friend.’

However, it is an illusion: Fortnite is just a game, Xbox 1 and PS5 are just types of consoles, and iPhones and Androids are just smartphones. Harm and exploitation can occur because of inappropriate, unacceptable, or illegal use of social media, apps or gaming communities that allow random play and interaction with other gamers. This sadly paves the way for the potential exploitation of young users, putting them at risk of anything from mental health issues to grooming or bullying.

A ‘Whole School Approach’ to online safety

As the world comes out of lockdown and gradually returns to normality, it is more important than ever to adopt a ‘Whole School Approach’ to online safety to keep students, staff, and the whole school community safe. A ‘Whole School Approach’ can be described as creating a culture that incorporates the principles of online safety across all aspects of school life.

This approach is important in creating a safe environment in which pupils feel comfortable enough to say what they feel. In some cases, for example, a pupil may want to make a disclosure following a lesson or activity. It also means modelling the online safety principles consistently, which we will come onto shortly. This includes expecting the same standards of behaviour whenever a pupil is online at school – whether it is in class, logged on at the library or using their own device in the playground.

Including online safety in the promotion of safe practices in schools

Online safety is about behaviour. It is about the informed use of devices, sites, apps, and gaming. And online behaviour must be appropriate and acceptable to make for a safe online environment. These are the core pillars:

  1. A consistent ‘Whole School Approach’
  2. Robust and integrated reporting routines
  3. Whole staff training, including governors
  4. Online safety and acceptable use policies
  5. Education and awareness
  6. Infrastructure
  7. Monitoring and filtering
  8. Student and parent workshops
  9. Awareness raising via themed days

Fundamentally, schools must keep pupils safe – protect educators – safeguard schools – involve parents and carers. To do this, they must now ensure they receive online safety workshops and advice from qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable trainers, to keep students, staff, and the whole school community safe while using social media, gaming communities and other online platforms, both on school devices and their own.

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About the author


Jonathan Taylor MSc


Jonathan is a renowned Online Safety & Social media Awareness Consultant for all Schools, nationally and internationally, continuing to deliver leading Online Safety Workshops for Staff, Students and Parents.

Jonathan spent 30 years in the UK, Metropolitan Police Force, specialising in Child Safeguarding and spent 10 years as an undercover Police Officer identifying Online Predators. This unique experience, accompanied with his advanced knowledge and qualifications, allows Jonathan to offer and deliver the most exclusive, progressive, and requested Online Safety workshops.

As an Independent Online Safety and Social Media consultant ( ) Jonathan delivers Online Safety workshops to Schools specifically supplying Online Safety awareness for pupils, parents, and staff. Jonathan advises and assists schools in the importance and creation of robust Online Safety and acceptable use policies. Jonathan also speaks to Child Safeguarding Professionals on how to recognise and understand Online Child Sexual Exploitation and what tools are available to help keep their children safe.