Supporting young people who experience online sexual harassment

Posted on 10 June 2021

Today (June 10th 2021), Ofsted has published a review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges in light of the recent Everyone’s Invited campaign which encouraged children to report their own experiences with sexual harassment. In response, the Government ordered an urgent review of sexual abuse in schools.

Ofsted's inspectors visited 32 state and private schools and spoke to over 900 young people.

  • ‘Nearly 90% of girls, and nearly 50% of boys, said being sent explicit pictures or videos of things they did not want to see happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers.’
  • ‘92% of girls, and 74% of boys, said sexist name-calling happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers.’

The report found that children "often don't see the point of challenging or reporting this harmful behaviour because it's seen as a normal experience". These reasons for not reporting were something that we at Childnet also observed during our work on Project deSHAME, a multi-year project aiming to help tackle online sexual harassment among young people.

Deshame 1 video here.

Resources to help start conversations around online sexual harassment

Just a Joke? resources for 9-12 year olds

We have produced a range of resources to support educators in tackling peer-on-peer online sexual harassment with their pupils in an appropriate and engaging way. The Just a Joke? Toolkit is designed specifically for use with young people aged 9-12 years old.

This toolkit explores problematic online sexual behaviour, with a focus on online sexual harassment e.g. bullying or harmful behaviour online based on gender or sexual orientation stereotypes, body-shaming, nudity and sexually explicit content.

In resources that are used or seen by children, we use the term ‘cyberbullying’ and refer to the specific type - cyberbullying that uses gender stereotypes, body shaming or nude images. This is because we know the words ‘sexual’ and ‘harassment’ may not be understood, used or appropriate for 9-12 year olds.

Step Up, Speak Up! Resources for use with 13-17 year olds

The Step Up Speak Up! resources encompass three main toolkits designed for different audiences; a teaching toolkit with activities to run with young people, guidance and training for schools and professionals, and information for the police.

This blog focuses on the teaching toolkit that includes the following:

  • 4 lesson plans - These cover ground rules, recognising, responding and reporting, with additional quick activities
  • A teaching guide – With advice on how to deliver the sessions, what to do about disclosures and more
  • An assembly presentation and guide – Looking at different scenarios and reporting routes, with a guide to help educators deliver the presentation
  • A peer led workshop – Which your students can use to educate their peers around online sexual harassment
  • 2 animated films – These give short pieces of advice about recognising and responding to online sexual harassment
  • Posters – to display in your education/youth setting
  • A quiz – tests students’ knowledge on how the law applies to online behaviour

Resources for parent or carers

For parents and carers we have a range of new leaflets and films to help you explore the issue around online sexual bullying with your children whether you are a Parent or Carer of 9-12 year olds, Parent or Carer of 13-17 year olds, or are a Foster Carer.

Places you can go for help

If you are a professional working with children or young people and have an online safety concern or safeguarding question, you can phone for advice from the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.

If you need to report indecent images of children online, you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation.

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