This month Nominet launches its new Children’s Online Safety programme, which aims to equip young people with the skills to help them navigate the challenges posed by being online. Initial funding of £250,000 will focus on improving the safety of young internet users though programmes in schools, supporting two leading partner organisations to further develop their activities in this area. These are the new Childnet and Nominet Digital Leaders Plus programme and SWGfL’s ProjectEVOLVE.

Nominet’s research into the sector has shown that many systems designed to help children are focused on adults conveying one-time lessons or messages that focus on restriction or withdrawal from the online world, rather than equipping children with the skills and capabilities to negotiate their own safe online experience.

Ellie Bradley, MD Registry & Public Benefit at Nominet says: “We strongly believe that finances should never be a barrier to learning about online safety. 59% of 11 to 12 year-olds are on social media, and over one in three internet users is a child. High levels of usage do not necessarily translate to high levels of skill or capability in using online platforms safely though, and that’s where our support can help established and credible programmes to amplify and broaden their reach with existing, high-quality resources with proven social impact. What’s key is that our partnerships in this space avoid further crowding of the online safety environment with new resources, and that we enable more children to access high quality guidance from trusted sources.”

The Childnet Digital Leaders programmeis a youth leadership training programme empowering young people to educate their peers about online safety. 70% of the schools or organisations that have tried Childnet’s guest login and not gone on to subscribe, say that whilst that they think the programme would be a fantastic addition to their curriculum, cost is the biggest barrier to subscribing. In response, Nominet is providing £125,000 of funding for a new bursary scheme, called Childnet and Nominet Digital Leaders Plus, to expand the reach of the programme into the 30 most disadvantaged areas of the UK, giving more young people the opportunity to take part without the budget of their school being a limiting factor. Nominet’s funding will also support programme-wide updates of core materials and systems.

Will Gardner, CEO, Childnet says: “Young people tell us that they want to be actively involved in online safety education, and that it is more effective when they can learn from each other. The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme is all about peer education, and we are thrilled that Nominet shares this vision and is getting behind this pupil-powered initiative to help it reach new parts of the country, and help those who haven’t yet experienced it. Building on our successes to create Childnet and Nominet Digital Leaders Plus we’ll be able to reach thousands more children across the UK and ensure our resources are working as hard as they can be. We know Childnet Digital Leaders keeps kids safer online, and we are excited about the impact this partnership will have.”

SWGfL’s ProjectEVOLVE is an engaging and easy-to use digital tool, created by specialists and alongside children to provide them with progressive digital skills. Nominet is providing £125,000 to support the development of course materials and assessments as well as to help the initiative broaden its impact and grow its audience. Covering every aspect of online life from ages 3 – 18 through eight strands – such as self-image and identity or online relationships – for every necessary digital skill and competency, it matches detailed age appropriate outcomes and discussion with fully resourced activities.

Ken Corish, Project Lead for ProjectEvolve at SWGfL says: “We hope to improve the overall baseline for online safety in the UK – by working through schools and evolving age appropriate resources we are helping ‘all boats rise’ in this area. Nominet’s funding to complete the remaining four content strands for ProjectEvolve, write modules and develop the assessment mechanism for teachers will help us achieve this and create tangible positive change for the programme and those who use it.” 

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By Editor