New safety app launches as online abuse soars

A FREE mobile app aimed at protecting children against online dangers has been launched in East Sussex.

The Safer Schools app will provide information and advice for maintained schools and families about sexting, bullying, mental health, media literacy, gaming and sexual exploitation online.

Its launch comes amid a worrying rise in cases of online abuse, with COVID restrictions leading to more online activity among children.

Figures from Sussex Police show a total of 92 reports in April 2020, 40 per cent more than the same period in 2019.  Of these, 19 related to sexual grooming and abuse of children through sexual exploitation and the creation of child sexual abuse images, while 73 related to offences involving indecent images of children.

Cllr Bob Standley, East Sussex County Council lead member for Education and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability, said: “The rise in reports of online abuse is extremely worrying and something that urgently needs addressing.

“With outdoor activity limited due to COVID restrictions, and school learning taking place at home for much of the past year, children have spent considerably more time online than usual.  While the internet can be a great tool for learning and socialising during these difficult times, unsupervised it can also be a very dangerous place.

“We hope this free app will give teachers in our maintained schools, parents and carers the information and advice they need to keep children as safe as possible.”

The app, designed as part of the Safer Schools initiative, will allow teachers, school staff and safeguarding practitioners from other sectors access to information and a range of resources addressing issues.

Staff will also have access to accredited courses, appropriate use of social media and managing mental health in schools.

Available free for East Sussex maintained schools insured with Zurich Municipal, the Safer Schools app offers critical advice regarding image sharing, online bullying and safer gaming. For more information visit www.oursaferschools.co.uk