Online Safety Newsletter  – April 2024

We like to support our parents and carers in Online Safety matters.  Each month we will post a new newsletter with the most up-to-date information to keep your children safe online.  Modern technology and the internet are wonderful tools if used correctly.  For many young people with SEND, the internet can be a place where they feel safe, calm and in control.  Whilst we need to embrace the many benefits brought by the internet, we need to make sure that children can use it safely.  

There are a number of resources available to help parents and carers address any concerns you may have or guidance you require around children’s online activity and presence.

West Sussex Digital Safety Team – Staying Safe Online  The West Sussex Digital Safety Team are an integral part of the Community Safety & Wellbeing Team in west Sussex.  Their role is to raise online awareness and they offer lots of tips and advice to help all of us stay safe online, not just children.  For example, if you follow the link, you will find up-to-date leaflets about current scams, safety resources for businesses, protecting yourself from viruses in addition to lots of useful information on keeping children safe online as well as advice for families of children with SEND

Internet Matters – A not-for-profit organisation offering child internet safety advice parents, carers and professionals.  They also have a range of guides and advice hubs available for parents of children with SEND.

CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) – support if you are worried about online abuse or the way in which someone has been communicating online.

Ask About Games – a good online resource for gaming guides and recommendations, with advice on parental controls and the best games to play online as a family.

As adults, we can help set the best example for our children about online safety.  Sussex & Surrey Police have The Little Leaflet of Cyber Advice with their top tips for staying safe online for all of us:

  • Have a strong password – your password is the lock on your door. Make it strong.  Make sure you have a separate password for your email.
  • Have antivirus – antivirus is your building’s security guard. Viruses and malicious software (malware) can infect any device. Once it’s there, it can lock you out, steal your information or even watch you in your home.
  • Always update software – vulnerabilities are holes in your walls. Updates and patches fill the holes in.
  • Back up data – make copies of things that are important to you. Keep them safe.
  • Don’t click on links and attachments – you wouldn’t let a stranger into your home. Why let them onto your computer?
  • Don’t share anything on social media – you wouldn’t take an advert out to say you’re going on holiday and your house is empty. Why tell the world via social media?
  • Don’t use free Wi-Fi for everything – public or free Wi-Fi isn’t secure. It’s like someone is looking over your shoulder watching everything you do.  Never use free Wi-Fi for anything you don’t want a stranger to see.

Always report fraud and cyber-crime to Action Fraud, either online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by telephone 0300 123 2040

Poppy Playtime

Whilst the name and characters suggest an innocent, playful game, it is a survival horror game with graphics that may not be suitable for your child.  It includes characters such as ‘Kissy Wissy’ and ‘Huggy Wuggy.’ Please view this game before allowing your child to play it as it may not be appropriate for them.  Children may be playing the game or just watching videos of it on sites such as YouTube or playing replicated versions on Roblox for example.  Due to the name of the characters, videos are often ‘slipping through the net’ of platforms safeguarding measures like content filtering and age-restrictions.  It is available on almost all platforms.

Huggy Wuggy is one of the game’s most popular and visually disturbing characters.  It’s a giant, horrifying blue creature with bulging eyes, wide red lips, and long limbs who actively follows you around as you try to complete the game.  He appears in the dark unexpectedly to try and catch you.  If you get caught, Huggy Wuggy bears his wide and sinister grin and eats you.

Police have reported that some schools have seen children recreating scenes in the playground, hugging and whispering “nasty things” in the recipient’s ear.

The second instalment of this horror franchise is called “Fly in a Web” and the third instalment was released earlier this year called “Deep Sleep.”  A fourth instalment is also planned.

There are multiple risks that can arise from children and young people being exposed to frightening content before they are prepared:

  • Added anxiety and stress – children are still growing and learning. They may not be at a level of emotional maturity that would be able to process frightening content, even if it is intentional.  Horror games could hamper that growth by creating unnecessary anxiety and stress
  • Intrusive thoughts – everyone has the ‘thing that goes bump in the night.’ If children play this game or watch it, the Bogeyman could easily be replaced with characters like Huggy Wuggy. This could cause children to lose focus or sleep and could interrupt family rest cycles
  • New fears – the manipulation of child-friendly items into threatening characters exploits the sense of security a child would feel around these things. They may suddenly be terrified of something that had never been a worry before

Online challenges

Children have not developed the skills and ability to critically analyse all situations, therefore when hoaxes and challenges appear on the internet, they can pose a real danger.  Some challenges are fun and provide no risk at all, however, there will be challenges that are risky, dangerous and have the potential to cause actual harm. Just recently, a child in Lancashire sadly died after participating in a challenge.   Challenges can also be extremely upsetting for children.  Many are created with the sole purpose of instilling fear in an individual in order to coerce them into doing things that have a long-term emotional effect on them.

We would always advise that if your child has not heard about an online challenge, do not draw their attention to it as this may pique their curiosity.  However, if your child sees certain challenges online or talks about friends or other children completing challenges, make sure they know that they should talk to you about what they have seen/heard.

This link provides further information as well as content to help you to talk to your child or visit www.internetmatters.org/?s=online+challenges

TikTok have also produced resources to help when talking to your child about challenges and the potential risks.  Visit www.tiktok.com/safety/en-sg/online-challenges

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