Safeguarding in Education Blog 1st September 2022

Social Media, Misogyny and Statutory Guidance for Schools

Welcome to the new academic year 2022-23!

As adults it can be difficult for us to navigate social media platforms and to keep up with the latest influencers and trends. For children it is more difficult to understand and address the effects of damaging social media patterns. It can sometimes mean they run into material which can have a negative influence and impact and sometimes it is used to abuse them or others. During the summer break you may have heard of the influencer Andrew Tate, who has been actively advocating extreme views on misogyny and sexism on social media platforms. Recently these platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram (where it is reported he had more than 4.7 million followers), have banned him for his extreme misogynistic views. Social media companies are working to remove videos containing his views and violence.

It is his influence on boys and young men that is very worrying as well as his rise to notoriety for his derogatory views about women and toxic beliefs about masculinity. It has been reported that many young people follow him and that boys as young as 11 are attempting to emulate him. Many parody social media accounts have been set up, each one receiving money through Tate’s ‘affiliate’ programme. Parents may not be aware of what their children are watching on screens behind closed bedroom doors. This is something the DfE have asked schools to address in one of the latest updates to statutory guidance.

What does statutory guidance expect from schools?

It is important that schools raise awareness and educate parents about online harms – paragraph 139 of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 states that schools should reinforce to parents:

  • the importance of children’s safety
  • inform them of the filtering and monitoring systems used
  • what the school is asking children to do online outside of the school
  • the sites you are advising they access and
  • the staff they will be interacting with

There is a big emphasis this year on keeping parents informed and educated about online safety. This can be done through newsletters, workshops, information evenings and the school website. Use drama productions and open evenings where children play a big part in educating their parents, to engage and help parents to keep their children safe online when they are not in school. Governing bodies should review incidents and the effectiveness of online safety systems including the PSHE curriculum, healthy relationships, respect and consent.

Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice

  • Ensure children feel comfortable and confident in sharing concerns about themes they encounter in the online world, encourage children to share their experiences and anything that could be troubling them
  • Remind children of the importance of critically assessing all the information they see online, even where accounts appear verified and have many followers
  • Make staff aware of ‘alpha male’ influencers who advocate misogyny and an anti-feminist community on the internet – also known as the ‘manosphere’ a term also used by INCELs (involuntary celibates)
  • Ensure staff listen out for potentially problematic discussions inside and outside of lessons and engage children in conversations about what they see online
  • Make parents aware of how dangerous Tate’s content is and educate them about recognising the signs of hate – ensure there is a collaborative process between school and home, to keep abreast of developments about what is happening online
  • Use LGfL’s ParentSafe which includes top tips for parents, including parental controls, screen time and reporting concerns, to raise awareness and educate parents about online safety
  • Safeguarding and online safety should be a standing item at governing body meetings
  • The effectiveness of school filters and monitoring systems should be reviewed regularly by the safeguarding team, considering the ages of the children and likely contextual risks
  • Review the PSHE curriculum in relation to healthy relationships and consent and teach children about respect and tolerance as part of the RSHE curriculum
  • Ensure staff have awareness of systems and how to escalate concerns
  • For governors to fulfil their responsibility to ensure children’s exposure to online risks are limited, there should be regular reviews of online safety systems and trends and patterns in relation to any online safety incidents
  • Each review should trigger discussions about identifying trends and learning lessons