It was while working as a Regional Adviser for the Anti-Bullying Alliance across 14 local authorities between 2004-11 that I became aware of the need to understand young people’s experiences online and using mobiles. We realised when cases of cyberbullying began to emerge that there was no data in the region, nobody knew the scale of it or how we could help. So the Cybersurvey was born in 2008 and my consultancy, Youthworks, has run it annually ever since. The insights it brought and the democratic way it evolved, took my work into all aspects of online behaviour and of course, risk and harm. But it did not overlook the enabling, exciting aspects of technology as we were all captivated by new devices, apps and skills.
Looking back, I think it was the range of local authority services and the participation of young people that enabled us to gain such an understanding of the fluid and fast changing digital experience of our young people in England. Together we developed and tested the questions for the survey. I became a CEOP Ambassador and over time the messages from the survey and my training programmes have changed – it is exciting to be able to deliver up to date messages from the frontline to teachers, care managers and children’s services.
We saw that while the majority of young people were developing digital skills and could problem solve – they ‘re fairly resilient – there is a sizeable minority who are increasingly at risk both on and offline. Online safety education did not help them in its current form.
I formed a research partnership with Dr Aiman El Asam, of the Department of Psychology at Kingston University and we have focused our work on these vulnerable children and their experiences of online risk for the past three years. Our study was published in March 2018 in the journal Human-Computer Interaction. Now I am hoping to achieve change and action for vulnerable children.
I act as external evaluator for ‘Make A Noise’, a DfE funded project and for an FE College. With my colleague Dr Cathy Street I’ve explored how local authority agencies respond to cases with an online component. Youthworks is developing new guidance for schools in Wales with an online Toolkit of resources to support it.
The Cybersurvey data set has led me to write three books and many reports and briefing papers. Visits to schools and workshops with young people give us the opportunity to explore their views further. My colleague John Khan does the school visits and workshops. I love delivering training and learn from every session or parents’ evening.
Where is online safety going? Should it even be a separate subject? Is it fit for what is needed now? and what do young people think of what they have been taught? These questions are challenging. I hope to make a small contribution to this debate.
Adrienne Katz FRSA
CPD accredited trainer, Director of Youthworks Consulting.