Safeguarding guidance for online activities and services to children
We are both legally obliged and committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of those who are under 18 years of age, or who are adults at risk, within our University community. These obligations extend to all who participate in our activities, services or facilities, whether they are staff, students or visitors and regardless of whether they take part in-situ or virtually through online communication systems.
Online services and activities include, but are not limited to, instant chat and messaging services, live videos and webinars, mentoring, one-to-one activities such as interviews, tutorial meetings and group discussions and may be delivered by any University department or service, including Outreach, Make Happen and Student Recruitment; Sports Development including CHUMS holiday camps; Lakeside and Clifftown theatres; and academic research projects.
It is important that we understand how to effectively and proactively safeguard those children who may be participating in these activities.
A risk assessment needs to be undertaken prior to any activity involving children, including an online activity. This is so that those responsible for an activity can assess risks that might occur during the activity, the likelihood of their occurrence and the steps that can be taken to manage and minimise the risk. It’s important that the risk assessment is signed off by the relevant manager and you should share this with all members of staff and volunteers involved in the activity so that they are aware of any risks. The risk assessment should include details of training and other information provided to staff and volunteers.
It is not always necessary for everyone involved in delivering an online activity to children to a have enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check carried out at the start of their appointment, however this is required for some activities. Your risk assessment will help you to determine the need for staff or volunteers to have a DBS check, and where necessary, the level of check required. Colleagues in People and Culture can provide advice and guidance on which roles require a DBS check.
You will need to consider data protection, including GDPR obligations, as part of your risk assessment, and this may vary depending on the type of activity that you will be providing. As you are providing activities for children you should consider:
whether you need consent to enable the participant to join the session. For an online service provided by the University, in the UK children aged 13 and over are able to provide their own consent for you to process their information; parents and guardians must give consent for children aged 12 and under.
whether you want to include a privacy notice when asking for consent. It’s important to ensure that a privacy notice tells the person what personal data is being processed, for what lawful purpose, how long it is being kept for and what you will be doing with it.
if you are planning to record the session, then it’s important that you tell all participants and let them know why it’s being recorded, if the recording is being shared and who with, and how long the recording will be retained for.
All online activity should only take place on University approved platforms and more information is available from ITS. Staff and volunteers should only use University of Essex user accounts for any service or activity (no personal accounts to be used).
It’s important that all staff and volunteers involved in the delivery of an activity are familiar with the platform being used, the security measures in place for the activity (e.g. use of password, waiting room functionality, automatic moderation) and the way in which participants will engage with this safely.
With the help of the Outreach team, we have put together a useful guide (.pdf) to the different types of online activities and the key things you’ll need to think about.
It’s important that everyone has a positive experience during your online activity. Your activity should be adequately staffed and supervised and it is generally good practice that there are always a minimum of two members of staff available. Not only is this a great way to ensure we are effectively safeguarding everyone who is participating in the activity, but it also helps with monitoring messages, questions and moderate the meeting. Adequate staffing levels will vary depending on the nature of the activity and the level of engagement from participants, and should be considered as part of the risk assessment process. For example, an activity with large numbers of participants, but very low level of engagement (e.g. a presentation) may require fewer staff than a small interactive group discussion session.
Prior to your event it’s a good idea to share your expectations and information about how the online activity will be delivered; or if this is not possible, then this should be shared at the beginning of the session. For example, this may include the format of the activity, whether the participants cameras should be on/off and how participants can display their name safely on the screen.
Sharing a safeguarding concern
Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and so it’s important that all staff and volunteers know how to recognise and share a safeguarding concern or disclosure. The Safeguarding Team deliver ‘Safeguarding at the University’ training throughout the year and places can be booked through HR Organiser.