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Blurring Boundaries- Exploring the rhetoric, realities and rights of a 'Safer Internet'

6 Feb 2018 3:45PM

For Safer Internet Day 2018 the University of Suffolk has hosted the Blurring Boundaries conference.

The conference brought together experts from across the country who addressed a regional audience of delegates from schools, colleges, healthcare providers, social services and safeguarding organisations.

The University has been recognised as a pioneer in research which addresses topical issues, particularly those affecting young people, such as peer-on-peer abuse, revenge pornography, sexual abuse online and cyber security. This work continued with the Blurring Boundaries conference which addressed these areas and more including online fraud, how to protect vulnerable adults, best practice for interprofessional working and online reputation and wellbeing.

Professor Andy Phippen, from the University of Plymouth, delivered the keynote address. He is regarded as a national expert when it comes to social responsibility in IT and is a research partner with the UK Safer Internet Centre and a Member of Parliamentary IT Committee.

Professor Phippen said “It is great to see a conference that attempts to address some of the more progressive issues around child online behaviour and how we, as stakeholders in their welfare, might better help them navigate the digital worlds in which they live and interact. For too long the policy direction has been one of prohibition – don’t look at porn, don’t sext, don’t cyberbully – and we know this plainly doesn’t work. Today I have suggested what we really need to be thinking about and how we might move the conversations about “online safety” forward.”

Professor Emma Bond, Director of Research at the University of Suffolk, said "I am delighted that we had over 160 delegates at the conference. The demand clearly demonstrates the need for information and advice about these issues and that safeguarding young people's wellbeing is of paramount importance.”

“The University of Suffolk has for many years been working in partnership with Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner and Suffolk Community Foundation locally but also in close collaboration with national leading experts and specialist organisations. As a result of the relationships we have nurtured, events like Blurring Boundaries provide a unique opportunity to bring together leading experts, policy makers and practitioners to critically engage with current debates and provide practical ‘best practice’ guidance on online safeguarding and security.”

Guardian Saints is a not for profit Community Interest Company that works exclusively with organisations and individuals responsible for Safeguarding Young people in care. Working in close partnership with both Fostering Services and Foster Carers they have a good understanding of the day to day issues and challenges they face in keeping this particularly vulnerable group of young people safe. 

Guardian Saints spoke about their work at Blurring Boundaries and how they plan to use a grant awarded by Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, to enable training and guidance for foster carers in the county.

Cam Keogh-Ly said “The Blurring Boundaries event gave us an opportunity to share on a platform with other like-minded organisations wishing to promote a positive internet experience for all young people.”

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, added “Keeping Suffolk’s youngsters safe online is a real issue of serious concern. While the digital world has brought many benefits, unfortunately this amazing innovation is increasingly being used to commit serious harm. Our young people are in grave danger of being groomed or bullied online, and they can be criminalised as a result of sharing explicit images. I introduced the £100,000 Stay Safe Online Fund to help charities and community groups support our young people and highlight the dangers.  This digital threat has shot up in recent years – and the only way we are going to tackle this is to work together.”

The conference was supported by Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Suffolk Community Foundation, Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board and Suffolk Safeguarding Adults Board.

Suffolk County Council used the conference to share the results of their 2017 Cybersurvey which showed almost half of 15 year olds in Suffolk are researching anorexia online and a third are using the internet to view self-harm sites. The results also showed there has been an 8% increase in the number of 15 year olds ‘sexting’.

Councillor Gordon Jones, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills at Suffolk County Council, said “Listening to, and understanding the online experiences of children and young people has been fundamental to the success of the Suffolk Cybersurvey, which is now in its seventh year. The research undertaken with Youthworks Consulting has resulted in over 11,000 responses, providing a wealth of data that has enabled stakeholders to respond to the digital lives of children and young people in Suffolk.”

Detective Superintendent Eamonn Bridger at Suffolk Constabulary said "Most of us use the internet every day and it is clearly important that we all do whatever we can to keep children, young people and their parents and guardians safe online, increasing awareness of the hazards and dangers. Safer Internet Day highlights that online safety #ItStartsWithUs and I fully support this day of action that brings many partners together to ensure that the message is heard and acted upon in our communities.”

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University of Suffolk Press Office
T: 01473 338476
E: press@uos.ac.uk