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1.9.1 Online Safety (E-Safety)


This guidance is for employees who work with children and young people and must be read with the following policies and procedures:

West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures - Child Abuse and Information Communication Technology Procedure: Action to be taken where an Employee has Concerns about a Colleague

Email Code of Practice


Caption: Contents List
1. Aims
2. The Work Environment
  2.1 Using email, mobile phones, instant messaging and social networking sites
  2.2 Using social networking sites as a source of information
  2.3 Photographing and video
  2.4 Issues of Consent
  2.5 Storage
3. Personal Environment
  3.1 Keeping Safe
  3.2 Behaviour on the web

1. Aims

This guidance aims to:

  • Ensure safeguarding children in the digital world is a priority
  • Assist employees to work safely and responsibly within a framework of best practice
  • Set down the standards of behaviour that CSWS expects from it's employees
  • Minimise the risk of allegations being made against employees about inappropriate behaviour
  • Project a clear message that unlawful or unsafe behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Establishes a culture that safeguards children, young people and CSWS employees

Using technology to facilitate 'every day communication' is now the 'norm' for most employees and young people. However, within this scenario the practitioner will have a dual 'persona'. An electronic self that is personal and an electronic self that is 'at work'.

This guidance sets down the standards of behaviour that are expected from the 'at work' persona and gives advice on how to keep the personal private. Any breaches of this guidance could result in an employee being referred to the disciplinary procedure.

2. The work Environment

2.1 Using email, mobile phones, instant messaging and social networking sites

The following points must be adhered to when communicating with a child or young person using information communication technology:

Only use devices contracted to / provided by Leeds City Council e.g. mobile phones, office phones, pc's / tablets.

Only use email addresses, instant messaging identities or social networking accounts that have been formally established and approved by Leeds City Council for professional purposes.

Young people might prefer to use text messaging to report their experiences rather than arranging a face to face discussion e.g. reporting an incident of bullying or they may prefer to arrange appointments and visits with their key worker by text rather than letter.

Friendly banter between an employee and a young person is not necessarily inappropriate, but it can look very different if carried out using email, text messaging or instant messaging and might lead to difficulties if misinterpreted, forwarded or used out of context.

Employees must be careful not to take risks in their communications with children and young people so as to avoid any possible misinterpretation of their motives or any behaviour which could be interpreted as grooming.

Your personal e-mail addresses, instant messaging identities, social networking accounts or home / mobile telephone accounts must not be used to contact children or young people without the explicit agreement of your line manager. All details must be recorded in Mosaic and 'signed off' by your manager with a logged Activity Decision.

Employees should be aware of and comply with the Leeds City Council policy on the use of email, text and instant messaging.

In all instances where email, text or instant messaging is used by an employee to communicate with a child or young person, it must be recorded electronically on Mosaic as an Activity.

Take care when establishing user names and automatic signatures to ensure that they are appropriate for communicating in a professional setting.

Some instant messaging applications have a facility to record a log of conversations which could be used to protect an employee in case an allegation is made.

2.2 Using social networking sites as a source of information

Social networking sites can also be used to obtain valuable information about a person's contacts and activities. Where a member of a social networking site has not used the site's security and privacy settings, to restrict visibility of the information associated with their profile, then that information is openly available in the public domain. It is therefore available for others to view and use without restriction.

Social networking sites can be used forensically to help provide more information in certain situations:

  • Service users contacts with ex partners re domestic violence
  • Threatening behaviour towards employees by service users
  • Assessment of prospective foster carers / adopters

2.3 Photographing and video

There are many situations where it is normal for employees, children and young people to take photos or make a video to record an event e.g. birthdays, holidays, school and sporting events. This should be encouraged, however there are potential dangers.

The safest approach is to avoid using personal cameras and mobile phones and use CSWS equipment instead. One potential danger is an allegation that an employee has taken an inappropriate photo. With a personal camera it would be more difficult for the employee to prove that this was not the case. With CSWS equipment there is at least a demonstration that the photography was consistent with CSWS policy. In all instances where the employee undertakes photography it must be recorded electronically on Mosaic as an Activity.

2.4 Issues of Consent

Photographers must ask for permission to take a photo to ensure compliance with data protection legislation. This is because an image of a child is considered personal data for the purpose of the Data Protection Act and it is a requirement that consent is obtained from the parent, carer, guardian or corporate parent of the child or young person under the age of 18 years (or the child themselves if deemed competent from 12 years old as suggested by the Information Commissioner) for any photographs or video recordings for purposes beyond a school's core educational function. It is also important to ascertain the views of the child. Parents retain the right to withdraw consent at any stage and this must be made in writing. In each case the consent of the line manager must be given and recorded before taking images or videos of children and young people.

Where children are looked after, schools must check consent on the corporate parent's behalf with the social work practitioner.

There will be many situations such as adoption placement or resettlement from domestic violence where a child or young person's security is known to be at stake indicating the need for extra care where photography / video could end up on display.

2.5 Storage

Care must also be taken that photos and video are stored appropriately. For instance, to copy the images onto a personal pc as oppose to a work allocated pc might make it difficult to retain control of how a picture is used or who has access to it. Secure memory cards, memory sticks and CDs provided by work must only provide a temporary storage medium. Once the images have been uploaded to the appropriate area of the council's network, those images must be erased immediately from their initial storage location.

It is not appropriate to amend or manipulate images (exceptions may be to brush out anything that can identify where a child or young person lives or which school they attend or to crop a picture to fit).

3. Personal Environment

3.1 Keeping Safe

Employees working with children and young people must take extra care in establishing, managing and using their profiles on social networking sites. Strong passwords should be used and security and privacy settings should regularly re-applied so that you can control all access to your profile and any personal information that you publish.

Once 'out there' published, personal information such as photos and blog posts can be impossible to control and could potentially be manipulated without your consent or knowledge, used in different context or distributed. Joining specific online games or face book groups could also be misinterpreted. A good guideline is only publish content that you would be happy to share with parents, children and young people and your employer.

UK Safer Internet have produced guidance for teachers and social workers on how to protect their own online reputation, particularly when using social networking sites.

False social networking profiles can be set up by young people, parents / carers and even colleagues to spread false or malicious information about employees. Few social networking sites authenticate their member's offline and generally they use automated registration systems which can only provide limited checks. You need to know who you are talking to online, people are not always who they say they are.

The use of social networking and instant messaging is often conversational with a rapid interchange of remarks. It is easy to stray from a non-work conversation between friends to professional matters which could be seen as a breach of professional confidentiality. Employees should either be fully conversant with the security and privacy setting for the site in use or should avoid posting any information that could compromise their professional integrity.

Individual social networking sites publish their own guidelines on how to manage privacy settings and restrict visibility from other web users. It is recommended that these are accessed and used on a regular basis to prevent your private information and comments becoming published in the public domain and available to all including other employees from Leeds City Council.

There are a range of offences regarding the incitement of hate, harm and harassment on the basis of race, religion and sexual orientation. The harassment or threatening of individuals includes online bullying by mobile phone, social networking sites etc. It is an offence to send indecent, offensive or threatening messages with the purpose of causing the recipient distress or anxiety.

3.2 Behaviour on the web

Inappropriate behaviour

Think about this in respect of professionalism and being a role model. The scope here is enormous bearing in mind that actions outside of the workplace could be considered a fundamental breach of trust and confidence placed in the employee and may constitute gross misconduct. Examples include:

  • Posting offensive or insulting comments about Leeds City Council or CSWS
  • Accessing adult pornography on work computers
  • Making derogatory comments about children or young people or colleagues on social networking sites
  • Trading in sexual aids, fetish equipment or adult pornography

Inappropriate material

Inappropriate is a term that can mean different things to different people. It is important to differentiate between inappropriate and illegal' and 'inappropriate but legal'. All employees need to be aware that in the former case investigation may lead to criminal investigation, prosecution, dismissal and barring. In the latter it can still lead to disciplinary action, dismissal and barring even if there is no criminal prosecution.

Illegal material

Accessing (viewing) making, storing (possessing) or disseminating indecent images of children on or off the internet, whether on or off work premises is illegal. If proven this will lead to criminal proceedings and the individual will be barred from working with children and young people. Sharing adult pornography with children is also illegal.

Possessing or distributing indecent images of a person under 18 can include viewing such images online. This may also constitute possession even if they are not saved.

See West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures - Child Abuse and Information Communication Technology Procedure: Action to be taken where an Employee has Concerns about a Colleague.