We hope that Bishop’s Stortford College pupils will make the most of the wonderful opportunities offered online to better understand the wider world, engage with issues that affect them and access a wealth of learning resources. However, we believe that staying safe online and protecting personal online reputations should be a priority for all.

We aim to equip College pupils with the resilience, skills, knowledge and support they need to navigate any online risks they may come across through ICT/Computing lessons and regular information sharing within the PSHE programme and assemblies. We also run Digital Leaders, a peer-to-peer education programme where pupils themselves champion digital citizenship and digital creativity across the College. 

We encourage parents and carers to maintain an open and honest dialogue with their children about their online lives, by supporting them with their personal development online and helping them to deal with any concerns or issues. Parents can help to respond to the negative by staying engaged with their child’s online activity (as appropriate to their age), by modelling positive online behaviours themselves, and also by reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find.

The links and resources below aim to support our community in using technology safely, responsibly and positively. These include our Digital Parenting guide written by Dr. Neelam Palmer; please feel free to download a copy for your family.

E-Safety Guidance for Parents and Carers

CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency and is dedicated to tackling the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people. CEOP helps children and young people under the age of 18 who have been forced or manipulated into taking part, or are being pressured to take part, in sexual activity of any kind. This can be both online and offline. The CEOP Safety Centre offers information and advice for children and young people, parents and carers and professionals. You can visit the CEOP Safety Centre and make a report directly to CEOP by clicking the Click CEOP button below.

Click CEOP

Please note: Online bullying or other online concerns should not be reported to CEOP and children and young people should be directed to speak to an adult they trust, and/or referred to Childline, if they would like to speak to someone about how they are feeling.

Thinkuknow is an education programme from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command and aims to keep children and young people safe by providing education about sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. It is underpinned by the latest intelligence about child sex offending from CEOP Command. It gives practical advice should you need to report concerns about online grooming and sexual abuse.

Parent Info
Parent Info is a collaboration between CEOP and Parent Zone. In recent years, Parent Zone's work has focused on the impact of digital technologies on families. In line with CEOP’s Thinkuknow programme, some of the content covers internet safety, but it all starts from the assumption that young people make little distinction between their online and offline lives and the issues for parents are often the same. The aim is to help parents help their children be discriminating, web-literate and resilient.

Common Sense Media
Common Sense helps families make smart media choices. They offer a huge library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.  Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.

Digital Parenting Magazine
This online safety guide for families is a partnership between Parent Zone and Vodafone. The annual magazine combines practical information with the latest research and expert views.

Internet Matters
This website contains a lot of information and advice on internet safety issues together with news and advice from industry experts. There is guidance on setting parental controls and filters plus reviews on the latest technology and apps.

UK Safer Internet Centre
A partnership between Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and South West Grid for Learning, with one mission - to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people. Their Awareness Centre provides advice and support to parents and co-ordinates Safer Internet Day across UK.

The Internet Watch Foundation
An anonymous and safe place to report and remove online child sexual abuse imagery and videos, wherever they are found in the world. It can also be used to report obscene adult content (hosted in the UK only).

A Parents’ Guide to Online Safety

Parentsguideonlinesafety activities 1

It may not be easy to talk to children and young people about technology and the internet - especially if you are not confident with these yourself. This guide includes a collection of activities to help families to talk about the sometimes tricky topic of online safety.

Cyber Bullying: The Complete Resource Guide
This comprehensive guide offers important and useful information for parents, teachers, and family members on cyberbullying, what it is, the laws around it, and what adults can do to help prevent cyberbullying from happening.

E-Safety Guidance for Young People

CEOP helps any child or young person under the age of 18 who is being pressured, forced or tricked into taking part in sexual activity of any kind. This can be something that has taken place either online or in ‘the real world’, or both. The CEOP Safety Centre has clear information and advice on what can be reported to CEOP, the reporting process and what will happen if you do decide to make a report. You can visit the CEOP Safety Centre and make a report directly to CEOP by clicking the Click CEOP button.

Click CEOP

If you are experiencing online bullying or something else online has worried you please speak to an adult you trust, or visit one of the websites below.

Having a mobile phone and going online is great for lots of reasons. But it's important to be aware of the dangers too. Learn how to stay safe online by reading Childline's practical guides or visiting their awesome YouTube channel. You can talk to Childline about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Call them free on 0800 1111 or get in touch online. However you choose to contact them, you're in control. It’s confidential and you don’t have to give your name if you don’t want to.

This website gives loads of information on how to have fun, how to stay in control and how to report any problems when online. Simply choose your age group for relevant advice on keeping you and your friends safe.

Find the latest information on the sites and services that you like to use, plus information about mobiles, gaming, downloading, social networking and much more.

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #7

So the summSkin Bettinger holidays are here and for pupils all over the land, school will be a distant dream (for a few weeks at least) whilst they begin to fill their days with leisure activities. Holidays, trips out with friends or simply chilling at home on the Xbox are all popular pastimes which will no doubt be enjoyed throughout the next month or so. However with the Fortnite craze, gaming addiction classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation, and the NHS funding its first internet addition clinic, perhaps it is important for families to consider how playing computer games can remain a form of entertainment and not verge into risky or unhealthy behaviour.

One trend which has hit the headlines recently is ‘Skin Betting’. Skins are virtual items that can be won or purchased within certain video games to decorate and customise weapons. They are mainly aesthetic but, due to their popularity, a marketplace has developed for the trading of skins. The problem lies in that skins won in such games can be sold and turned back into real-world money. Additionally skins can be used as virtual currency to bet on esport matches as well as for jackpot games such as roulette and coin tosses. So long as players are over the age of 18 and websites which provide the games have a licence, skin betting is not ruled as an illegal gambling practice. However the UK Gambling Commission has warned some websites do not use effect age verification, and are not operating under any gambling licensing or regulatory bodies. In fact last year they prosecuted two YouTubers for breaching gambling laws over a website that allowed children to bet on Premier League football matches using a virtual currency earned in the video game FIFA.

In their recent ‘Skin gambling: teenage Britain’s secret habit’ report ParentZone state that 90% of 13-18 year-olds in the UK play games online with a worrying 10% having gambled skins in some form. Therefore it is really important that young people recognise the difference between gaming and gambling. This can be tricky but the general rule of thumb is if you play a game of chance for a prize that is money or that holds money’s worth i.e. virtual currency or an item which can be cashed out for real or virtual currency, it is gambling. The minimum age for gambling in the UK is 18* so if you play these games when under this age, you are breaking the law. People of any age however need to be aware that irresponsible gambling can lead to other issues such as money problems and addiction.

If you are a parent, talk to your child about the kind of games they are playing, check that they are age and content appropriate (CommonSenseMedia is good for reviews) and clarify that any money spent is on suitable in-game purchases. If you do discover that your child is participating in illegal gambling, you can inform the Gambling Commission via their confidential intelligence line to help them crack down on unlicensed websites. You could also review your family’s internet and device parental controls to manage what types of games and websites can be accessed – Internet Matters has a range of step-by-step guides to help with this. Lastly agree on what you feel is a healthy amount of screen time when playing computer games or using the internet in general.

If any of our young people feel they may need to talk to someone about gaming addiction or about any issues relating to gambling, email talk@bishopsstortfordcollege.org or speak to any member of staff. Alternatively you can visit the Childline or BigDeal websites for more information and support.

Miss Brook
Digital Learning Support Advisor

*Excluding the National Lottery and scratchcards, you are allowed to participate in from 16 years of age.

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #6

As Ms Daly highlighted in last week’s newsletter, it is Mental Health Awareness Week which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. Studies from the organisation has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, so being aware of our mental health and how we can look after our wellbeing is really important. Unfortunately all too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Whilst the conversation on mental health is changing with help from initiatives such as Heads Together (spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry), there is still much to do. Their research has found that whilst half the country is now talking about mental health, men are still less likely to have a conversation or get professional help. Alarmingly 3 in 4 suicides in the UK are by men so the earlier we can encourage boys to start talking about their mental health, the more likely they are to seek support when they need it most.

Previously in 4th Form PSHE, we have explored how social media can have an impact on our wellbeing. One aspect in particular we discussed was how the constant barrage of imagery we are exposed to can affect our perceptions of body image, and in-turn self-esteem and mental health. Whilst commonly associated with girls, boys are increasingly recognising body image issues as a challenge for both genders. UK advertising think-tank Credos, have published a research report titled ‘Picture of Health’ which focuses on how male models are portrayed in advertising and the media – and in particular, whether boys are aware of digitally enhanced imagery and whether this is impacting their attitudes and behaviour. The research found that the four biggest sources of pressure on boys to look good were; Friends: 68%, Social media: 57%, Advertising: 53% and Celebrities: 49%. However when you think that actually social media feeds are predominately made up of content posted by friends, brands and celebrities, it demonstrates what a profound influence it has on our perceptions and values, especially when we have access to this 24 hours a day. The report also found that there was a general naivety about when advertising is being used and a low awareness of digital manipulation of male images in in the media – many boys associate extreme ‘airbrushing’ with female images only. Almost half of the boys in the study said they would consider exercising with the specific intention of building muscle and bulking up and a fifth having already done this previously, suggesting a staggering 69% aspire to a muscular physique. Worryingly, 10% claim to have previously skipped meals and a further 19% would consider this as an option to change how they look. Even more concerning is that 10% would consider taking steroids to achieve their goals and a slightly higher proportion would even consider cosmetic surgery.

To help combat this worrying trend, Media Smart and First News have come together to create the Boys’ Biggest Conversation – a campaign to encourage young men, across the UK, to talk about body image and the effect it has on their mental wellbeing. With the help of TV doctor and youth specialist, Dr Ranj, they have made a short film featuring boys from schools around the country, which you can watch on YouTube by clicking here. They have also produced a free guide for parents and guardians on body image and advertising which can be accessed here.

For any of our young people that feel they may need to talk to someone about body image and esteem, or about any issues relating to mental health, email talk@bishopsstortfordcollege.org or speak to any member of staff. Alternatively you can contact Childline or visit the YoungMinds or Mind websites. More information is available to you on the Digital Awareness pages on Firefly too.

Miss Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

Prep School E-Safety Summer Term Bulletin

Towards the end of this term I will be giving an e-safety talk to the Lower 3rd and Upper Third with the focus on my hopes for the future of technology as well as my concerns. It will be the last e-safety talk for this  academic year and I feel that it is important to discuss with the next generation how technology will shape the world we live in. When asked for my own personal opinion about the best ways to embrace technology the only answer I can give is to model good habits for the benefit of those around me. For instance to not  stare at my phone whilst talking to others or not to browse Facebook/Instagram for lengthy feeds before I get out of bed on the weekend and to stop watching Netflix while having dinner each night! It is too easy to just fall into these habits and not nearly so easy to break them.

Below are some key pieces of information to help guard against children spending too long playing the latest, addictive, online gaming phenomenon ‘Fortnite’. These tips may also be applicable to Social Media use too.

Useful guides for how to set time limits for device usage

  1. Windows 10 devices & XBox. This guide shows you how to set particular times children can use their Windows Device
  2. iPhone or iPad. This guide allows you to set time limits on apps/games pupils are using
  3. PS4. This guide goes through the parental setting and setting time limits


FortnitePrep School E Safety image continues to grow in popularity. Its impact has been discussed in a wide range of news media. At the College we have a number of parents who are concerned about this highly addictive game; this can lead to children experiencing high anxiety over not being included or feeling like they are missing out.

Fortnite has a PEGI rating of 12. Although there is no ‘gore’ it is still a game with the aim of killing other on screen characters. Children playing the game may be exposed to swearing and offensive language from strangers or peers through the audio or on-screen text chat. It starts as a free game but there are paid-for expansion-packs which give the player access to extensions, bonuses and weapons. There are also in-game purchases. There have also been news reports of children “skin gambling” (https://parentzone.org.uk/article/what-skin-gambling) using external sites.

It is worth having an open discussion with your child about who they are talking to online. There have been reported accounts of children being groomed using Fortnite (as well as other gaming platforms). The interaction children have with strangers/or peers could also affect their language and social interactions. In the game children may mock other players without being able to see the reaction their words are having and may continue this behaviour  outside of the virtual world. Children online can also be very impulsive and may do/say something that they would not otherwise say or do in the real world. 

In my last e-safety presentation I stated that ‘game addiction’ has now been recognised in the UK as a medical condition. Last month was the first time a British child was diagnosed with game addiction on the NHS (https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/boy-15-becomes-first-internet-12684718). Some of the telling signs of potential game addition are:

  1. Talking about the game non-stop.
  2. Playing for hours and getting defensive or angry when made to stop.
  3. Disruption to sleeping and eating patterns.
  4. Poor personal hygiene.
  5. Physical symptoms such as red eyes, soreness in fingers, back or neck, and headaches.
  6. The sufferer appears preoccupied, depressed or isolated.
  7. Lying to friends or family members regarding amount of time spent playing.

Below are some links for further information and advice:

  1. ParentZone on Fortnite
  2. ParentZone on Game Addiction
  3. Safer Internet on Fortnite

Social Media

Children are being introduced to social media through one platform or another at very young ages. Although social media is widely enjoyed, it is also capable of causing a lot of distress and upset. It is easy for anyone to act in a way online that would be unimaginable in real life. The reason for this change in behaviour can be for a range of reasons such as peer pressure, or just a quick decision made with no thought at all. It is different for each individual.  Some children simply are not mature enough to recognise and distinguish positive external influences and/or interactions from the negative.  This is why monitoring and open conversations with your child are so important. The number of external influences on your child’s development (through what they read/watch and listen to) greatly increases with the introduction of social media into their lives.

Other factors that are problematic are that children can easily get access to strangers online and can over-share their personal information.

Many children want social media at a young age and it feels like everyone else around them has it. There is a strong pressure on parents and children to get onto social media; this can cause a lot of social anxiety. It is important to remember that the age restriction for social media is 13.

Below are some links for advice/help:

The most important advice I can give is to:

  1. Set boundaries early as it is harder to put them in place after a problem has arisen.
  2. Take an interest and have an open conversation about the use of the internet and the apps they are using. Start this early so that it is a normal topic of conversation.
  3. Demonstrate good practice and discuss how you keep yourself safe online.
  4. Discuss the YouTubers they watch & watch them with them.
  5. Ask their views on celebrities and find out who they admire online and what images these people portray of themselves. Remember that many children follow these people using social networking.
  6. Discuss relationships and social media and how to talk to friends. For instance, discuss what is acceptable not/acceptable to send/discuss via social media rather than in person. What is personal information and why we keep it safe.
  7. Talk about Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) and look at www.thinkuknow.co.uk. It is important that they know how to report suspicious activity.

Parent Zone

As a school we invested in the Parent Zone’s Digital Schools Membership programme, recognising our commitment to making our pupils safer online, and making sure we work with you to achieve this.

Our Digital Schools membership gives you free access to Parent Zone’s Parent Lounge with:

  • Online training
  • Expert advice and information on all things digital
  • Access to a free help service for all your tech questions

To get started, go to https://parentzone.org.uk/parents/discover-parent-lounge   


2. Click on the pink ADD TO CART button

3. On the next page click checkout. You’ll then be asked to enter your email address. 

4. On the next page, you will need to enter the coupon code DSP16 to ensure you have free access.  The code gives you a 100% discount.

Once you’ve completed the short registration you’ll receive two emails - one confirming your order and one with login instructions. After clicking the link in the email press the login button to set a password, then you’ll be directed to the Parent Lounge.

Once you have logged in the Parent Lounge will always be accessible via this link.

Have a wonderful, safe, summer!

Mrs F Sharpsmith

Prep School E-Safety Spring Term Bulletin

Allowing your child to be bored

In today’s digital age we, as a society, have almost developed a fear of being bored. We are constantly connecting to news, entertainments and social media without a second thought. We seem to see empty time as a hole that must be filled as soon as possible. But this constant need for digital stimulation and lack of boredom may leave us vanuable to a range of dangers such as online predators and identity theft. Part of e-safety must be to teach ourselves and children to embrace being bored.

Boredom stimulates creativity. I am sure if you look back you will see things that you did as a child when bored. I remember making up dance routines in front of the mirror, drawing in my scrap book or making up stories in my head. As an adult my most successful lesson plans are normally thought off during a time of procrastination. We also come up when plans when we are bored and can self-evaluate our day. That internal reflection could help up think about what is making us stressed or unhappy and cause us to reflect on how to improve improving our overall wellness.

We all could do some good with just allowing ourselves to be bored once and a while. But also it is important to teach pupils how to be bored. Also that boredom is nothing to be concerned or worried about or something that must be cured quickly. 

From the questionnaire covered last week it was clear that a growing number of pupils have mobile phones and social media from a young age. Pupils seemed to be having a real “fear” of missing out. Missing out on photos of peers, games, SnapChats etc. This fear is causing a lot of anxiety and stress and pupils feel pressured to be online and get likes and comments. This likes and comments can be reasons for boosting to peers and many pupils feel proud of a good photo that can resulted in likes. However these tools, mixed with not know how to manage their own boredom, can harbour dangers and lead children to run risks for their own, or peers, short time entertainment without giving their actions the thought required.

From a questionnaire taken last week SnapChat, Instagram and WhatsApp are the most popular social networking apps with pupils have access to them from a young age. Many stressed that they were only contacting their friends/family. However, SnapChat gets rid of the message after it is sent which makes it a perfect platform for peer arguments and instant reactions which can cause extreme emotional upset. It is also very hard to monitor as a parent as evidence, unless print screened quickly, it lost.  17% of pupils said that they had made mean comments said to them online. The certificates for all three apps are 13.

Instagram gives access to photos of people’s favourite celebrities but it can also be a boredom cure of going through random profiles which could be having a negative effect on people’s person wellbeing. 7% of pupils said they compare themselves to people online, 17% said they sometimes do. 12% said this made them feel negative while 12% said it sometimes did. We also need to support pupils so they understand that the need for likes and comments is unhealthy and can cause extreme behaviour. Also discuss that people online are not real. They have filters to make them look like they do and to make sure we know who pupils role models are.

Pupils are playing a lot of games and need to be reminded of the possible dangers involved such as online predators, game addition & over stimulation. Statistics from the questionnaire state that 16% of prep pupils have spoken to strangers using a game console and 22% sometimes have. In January this year it was announced that Gaming Addition will be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation. The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes "precedence over other life interests". With the knowledge that this is a recognised condition it is important to monitor and limit children’s interaction so they have a healthy relationship with a fun pass time. Click here for the article from the BBC.  We also need to be aware of the age limits of games and the message it sends to the pupils playing it. There has been links with gaming and violent behaviour.

Parentsguideonlinesafety activities 1

Hope you all have a wonderful day dream this weekend. Turn off devices and screens, discuss internet safety with your family see what the rest of the weekend brings.  Open communication is key when it comes to supporting children through this digital world.

Mrs F Sharpsmith, Head of Computing/ICT Prep 

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #5

The good, the bad and the fake

Did you know that every 60 seconds on the internet 65,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram, 210, 000 snaps are uploaded to SnapChat and 400 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube? (i Newspaper, 2018). There is no doubt that the effect social media has on today’s society is inescapable. However as its most prolific users, is the impact social media has on young people positive or negative?

In a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), 95% of headteachers said that they felt the mental health and wellbeing of a proportion of their pupils had suffered as a result of social media use, with many saying more than half of their pupils were affected. 93% of headteachers had received reports of pupils experiencing low self-esteem as a result of seeing idealised images and experiences, and 96% had received reports of pupils missing out on sleep as a result of social media use (ASCL Online Survey, 2018). In fact more and more schools are having to deal with the consequences and effects of social media use to ensure their pupils are happy, healthy and thus able to learn productively. 

According to a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), high social media use (2 hours a day or more) is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, poor sleep and issues with body image and low self-esteem #StatusofMind Report, 2017).

Last week in Fourth Form PSHE, we discussed the positives and negatives of social media and explored how it can affect our mental wellbeing. We looked at examples, including the below images of bikini model Natasha Oakley, to discuss how people use techniques such as particular poses, camera angles, lighting, filters and of course ‘photoshopping’ to portray perfection.


(Mail Online, 2016)

We discussed how people’s lives online are often ‘curated’ and only show the very best snapshots, rather than reality. This can result in people having low self-esteem as they feel like they aren’t as attractive and/or their lives are not as interesting. It can also mean that people suffer anxiety or become depressed as they feel constant pressure to make their lives look exciting and gain as many followers or likes as possible.  

To combat this, it is important for young people to understand how unrealistic it is to compare themselves to others – especially when many images online are in effect fake! They must remember that everyone has flaws and nobody has a perfect life, which is often what is depicted on social media. Having a healthy balance with technology is also vital and pupils in the session were encouraged to set aside ‘no-tech’ times during meals and when spending time with friends and family. As poor sleep can lead to states of poor mental health, we also discussed how the blue light omitted from mobile phones and tablets can actually reduce the sleep hormone melatonin. Therefore it is always a good idea to turn off all devices at least one hour before bedtime. Lastly we explored how social media can be used to express creativity and promote positive change, rather than just being superficial. Movements such as #TimesUp, #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter really demonstrate how social media can be used for good and not just a mechanism for advertising or making yourself look popular.

However there are positive impacts on users of social media too. The pupils in the session were able to identify lots of advantages to using social media such as being able to communicate with friends and family across the globe, and having a way of understanding what is going on in the world. The RSPH report also recognises the benefits of social media including improving access to expert health information, other people’s experiences of health and enabling young people to be more emotionally supported through their contacts.

Hence like many things in life, the best guidance for using social media seems to be ‘everything in moderation’.

Meryem Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #4

Teenage Kicks

‘Kids these days!’ is a phrase often muttered by older generations who are trying to get to grips with new-fangled attitudes and happenings. However underneath it all, are our young people so different to us when we were teenagers?


Last week I attended the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) Ambassador Course with Miss Ward from the Pre-Prep. One of the key modules that we looked at was titled ‘Nude Selfies’ and covered young people’s relationships, sex and the internet. Nude selfies or ‘sexting’ as it is also known, are self-produced naked or semi-naked images or videos of children and young people i.e. young people sharing videos or images of themselves with other young people. What was apparent that whilst the technology to enable young people to do this has only recently become available, the motivations behind sharing this kind of imagery is actually very characteristic of teenagers in general. Some young people may think it’s funny, some may do it to show off. Some young people may do it to flirt, whilst others may do it as part of a trusting relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend. And some young people maybe influenced by that timeless teenage tactic – peer pressure.

Whatever the reason, it is important as parents and carers to understand the risks and what to do if things go wrong. CEOP has produced a fantastic series of short animations to provide guidance on nude selfies. Watch below or find out more information on CEOP's ThinkYouKnow website.


At this time of year when a lot of our young people will be receiving new devices for Christmas, cease the opportunity to start some open, honest discussions about how they behave when using technology. Being a teenager will always be about being curious and pushing boundaries; being a parent or carer, will always be about providing them with the guidance and support to do so safely.

Meryem Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #3

Social media; how, what, why?

A recent Ofcom report highlighted that children aged between 5-15 years old are spending a whopping 15 hours a week on the internet. Much of this time is spent on social media but how are children using social media and why? Last week, Ms Daly and I ran an information session for 4th Form parents. We aimed to answer these questions as well as provide some practical advice on how to support our young people in using social media safely and responsibly. The full presentation can be viewed below, however here are some key points from the session:


Our survey sample of approximately 140 pupils here at the College shows that the most popular platforms are Instagram, YouTube and SnapChat. Results show that our young people are using on average 4 different social media platforms on a regular basis –with some using up to 10 per week!

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube now all have live video streaming capabilities which allow users to broadcast live, unscreened videos on social media. Periscope, Live.ly and Twitch are specific live streaming apps. Twitch is gaming focussed, allowing users to share on screen gaming in real time. During 4th Form assembly last week nearly all of the pupils said they had watched other people’s live videos whilst around half of them said they had posted live videos themselves. So this is definitely a trend to be aware of.

There are some social media apps to be cautious of, although in our survey very few pupils said they used these regularly;

  • House Party - a video calling app that allows up to 8 people to chat at the same time, however anyone can be added to the chat, unless they are ‘locked’.
  • Yellw - a social network which allows users to find ‘friends’ based on age and location. Dubbed ‘Tinder for teens’, it is an easy way for young people to chat directly to strangers.
  • Monkey - similar to chat roulette when you are randomly selected to video chat with a stranger for 10 secs, however you can add more time if you want. 
  • Omegle - like Monkey, this service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions and video chats. It's tag line is actually 'Talk to strangers' and you do not have to create an account to start chatting.

There were two recurring themes when our pupils were asked why they use social media; 1) communicating with friends 2) learning about what’s going on in the world.

Generally young people are using social media in a safe, positive and often creative way. Unfortunately there are however issues caused by its rising popularity. Problems with inappropriate content, sexting, cyberbullying, online reputations, tech addiction, mental health and self-esteem, and even fake news are all generated by the use of social media. In addition there are a small minority of people who want to exploit the technology and the vulnerability of children to groom or radicalise them.

There are lots of settings and controls that you as parents can set up to filter inappropriate websites, content and games as well as help to protect your child’s privacy on social media. One of the most important settings to look at is how location data is being used on your child’s mobile devices so that their whereabouts is not inadvertently recorded on social media. The following pages on Internet Matters provide some really useful guidance on how to set these up;



Most social networks allow you to report individual users, posts and comments within the app or website. It is worth familiarising yourself with this process for the social media platforms your child is using. If you have any child online sexual abuse concerns, you can report these directly to CEOP – the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre via their website www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/. It is also advisable to talk to your child about Childline to explain that they can always be contacted if they feel they cannot talk to you or another trusted adult. All pupils have the Childline details printed in their planner.

More than anything, just be parents! Strip away the technology. If your child is going out, you ask where they are going, with whom, why and tell them when they have to be home by. It is no different when they are using the internet. Talk to them openly about the different apps they are using and why they are using them. Internet Matters also has some useful tips on how to talk to teens about their social media usage;


 Just like in the ‘real’ world, set rules and boundaries; agree limits for screen time, put in place routines – especially at night time. A recent survey by the Journal of Youth Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 5 teens are waking up in the night to check their social media!  My last E-Safety bulletin on digital detoxing has some good tips on how to combat tech addiction or download a free copy of our Digital Parenting Guide for some expert advice from Dr Neelam Parmar. 

We aim to run some further  information sessions for parents in the future however if you have any questions regarding social media or safeguarding, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me or Ms Daly initially via e-mail at meryem.brook@bishopsstortfordcollege.org / jane.daly@bishopsstortfordcollege.org .

Meryem Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #2

Does your family need a digital detox?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Digital Wellbeing conference and one of the big issues of the day was tech addiction. In a recent poll by Common Sense Media , 50% of teens say they feel addicted to their mobile device whilst 28% of those teens also believed their parents were addicted. It's a growing problem amongst all age groups with a whopping one in three UK adults - and half of 18-24 year olds - checking their phones in the middle of the night, with instant messaging and social media the most popular activities (Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2016). And it's no surprise with FOMO on the rise (Fear of Missing Out) and tech companies 'brain-hacking' your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked.

HMC (Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference) recently teamed up with Digital Awareness UK to gather feedback from over 5,000 pupils and parents in a bid to better understand attitudes and behaviours relating to mobile device use. The survey found that children’s biggest concern about being online is lack of sleep (47%) whilst parents’ biggest concern is the impact on their social skills (32%), followed by addiction (26%). To help families to use digital devices more responsibly, they have produced this video on digital addiction which was shown in a Senior School assembly earlier this term.


So what practical measures can you put in place to tackle this issue? Well, like many things, it's about striking a healthy balance. Technology and social media can and does improve our lives in lots of fantastic ways, we just don't need it to do this every hour of every day. A quick win is to simply swap phone alarms for an alarm clock, allowing mobile devices to be charged away from the bedroom. This will stop them being the last thing your children see at night and the first thing they look at in the morning (as well as removing temptation to check it throughout the night). During the day, apps such as ShutApp - Digital Detox allow users to set a timer to block other apps for a certain amount of time. Moment enables parents to monitor the whole family's iPhone and iPad use and enforce limits when someone - including you - is using their device too much. If you are not sure how much time, is the right amount of screen time read chapter 2 of our Digital Parenting guide.

Since it's not just young people who use are active users of technology, it is really important that parents are good role models. As leading social enterprise ParentZone advises it’s very difficult to encourage your children to cut down on the time they spend online if you are constantly updating your Facebook status or checking how your current eBay auctions are doing on your phone in front of them. Interestingly over a third of children in the HMC survey say they have asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices whilst under 10% of parents thought their time spent on devices was actually of concern to their children. The video below gives three top tips to tame parents' device use.


Or if all else fails, why not book the family onto a digital detox retreat?

Meryem Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

Senior School E-Safety Bulletin #1

Being social, being safe

‘Make new friends’ is the description for new social media app Yellow. It sounds straightforward and pleasant enough, does it not? But what if the friends you are making can easily lie about their name, age, and appearance, and by becoming friends you can instantly swap videos and photos of yourselves with the click of a button? Oh, and did I mention it captures your location data and shares your whereabouts too?

The premise of Yellow is that users aged 13-17 find friends by viewing profiles and swiping right to like and left to pass (which may sound familiar to some - there is a reason why the app has been dubbed ‘Tinder for teens’). The fact that it encourages young people to select friends simply based on their appearance is shallow and depressing enough, yet the app takes a more sinister turn as, once you are matched as a friend with someone, you can instantly start messaging via Snapchat. 

Since the advent of MySpace back in 2003, parents and schools have been quick to adapt the ‘stranger danger’ message for social media and most of the young people I have worked with seem to be quite aware that they should protect themselves online from people they do not know. Yet Yellow claims to have around 7 million users, all supposedly between the ages of 13-17 years old.  This poses two serious questions; 1) are these young people naïve enough to believe that all users of the site are the age they say they are? 2) do young people think it is ok to share contact details, photos, videos etc. with a stranger just because they are also a teenager and they kind of like the look of them? If the answer to either of these is yes (and Yellow’s numbers are pretty indicative of this) then the importance of E-Safety education and an open dialogue about social interaction on the web is as necessary as ever. 

Intrigued, I decided to investigate whether Yellow users were really between 13-17 years old as claimed. Within 1 minute of me downloading the free app, I was 13 year old Gemma from Bishop’s Stortford who was interested in making ‘friends’ with anyone in the UK. The age verification process simply involves entering a date of birth, real or fake. That’s it. 

Mel image

My profile settings as "Gemma"

Within two minutes, I was offered profile after profile of teenage boys and girls to review. A constant stream of photos, videos and Snapchat handles, which in truth all appeared to be from teenagers, but if I could lie about my age and upload a profile picture from Google with such ease, then who else has had the same idea? What was also quite clear (and potentially more worrying) was the provocative way in which many of the young people presented themselves. Girls seductively pouting at the camera, boys with their tops off, both using suggestive emojis to depict what interests them. And a lot of mention of ‘Nudes’, i.e. sharing naked or sexually graphic images of themselves. 

Gemma images
Some of the profiles that I was shown as ‘Gemma’

It seems that some of these teenagers believe that without the watchful eye of adult users and with the cloak and dagger of Snapchat’s self-destruct feature (shared content deletes after 10 seconds), their actions can be frivolous and without repercussion. Unfortunately, there are consequences and Yellow users need to understand what they are. This app is opportunistic for predators – young or old, male or female – who might want to target vulnerable, young people. It also promotes a jovial approach to online safety which coaxes users into forgetting that what goes online, can stay online forever. Remember, a simple screen shot can be the difference between anonymity and infamy in this digital age. 

So what can you do as a parent or guardian? Well the first step is to educate yourself about the variety of social media platforms and apps that are available. You will most probably have heard of, and use, networks such as Facebook and Twitter but are you aware of Kik, Tumblr or Yik Yak? A good place to start is to visit www.net-aware.org.uk, a guide to over 40 popular social networks compiled by the NSPCC who have worked with parents, carers and young people to review the apps that children use. Common Sense Media also provides age ratings and reviews for a range of apps and web sites as well as games, movies and books. If your child uses the Google Play Store, check out their Parent Guide where they explain how to find family-friendly content and restrict mature content on their store. 

Most importantly, be open with your child;

  • Ask them what it is they like about the social media and apps they use.
  • Discuss if they think there are any risks involved with using them, giving them clear, age appropriate advice on what the risks might be.
  • Explain how they can conduct themselves responsibly and show them how they can use privacy settings to stay safe whilst still having fun on the app. This article from CEOP and Parent Zone lists how to control safety and privacy settings for the most popular social media platforms.
  • Ensure your child knows they can always come to you for help. Tell them that if anything ever happens that worries them, it is not their fault, and they should tell you so that you can help them.
  • Make certain they also know how to report concerns directly online. Share with them Childnet’s How to make a report web page which provides links to a range of reporting tools.

If you want to actually block or limit specific apps and features on your child’s personal devices, there are often parental controls that you can utilise. These will be different depending on the type of device they use, however here are some guides that may be of use;  Using parental controls on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, How to set up parental controls on Android smartphones and tablets and Microsoft Family Account settings.

At the College, we are committed to ensuring our pupils have the ability to make smart, safe and ethical choices when using digital technologies. As well as regular assemblies, ICT lessons, our PSHE programme and the new Digital Leaders initiative, pupils are required to conduct themselves in line with the College’s IT Acceptable Use Policy. All House social media accounts are also closely monitored by HSMs.

Social media can be a fantastic medium that allows young people to communicate, collaborate, be creative and discover new information. Let’s just make sure they know how to do so safely and responsibly. 

Meryem Brook, Digital Learning Support Advisor

For information on how to report an app that you believe to be a scam, or contain illegal or inappropriate content), please use the following links; Google Play Support, Microsoft Windows Support, Apple iTunes and App Store Support.