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Project protects school community from dangers online

Young people in Waltham Forest are being taught how to protect themselves against potentially harmful information or views being presented online, as part of a school based ‘Digital Resilience’ support project.



The Council-funded project, which is free for secondary school and college staff and students in the borough, aims to build resilience so that no-one becomes vulnerable to radicalisation.



Digital Resilience coordinators believe that if young people can develop a critical mind-set when accessing information in an increasingly digital world, they dramatically reduce their vulnerability to potentially harmful information and agendas, which can be presented in a very persuasive, yet misleading, manner.



The approach is part of the Council’s Prevent programme of work, which aims to stop people from supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists.



The Digital Resilience project includes lesson plans and classroom activities, multi media education sessions, guest speakers, opportunities to take part in youth-led projects, governor and parent engagement and staff training. It can be delivered by individual schools or by the borough’s dedicated Prevent schools officer.



Sessions run as part of the Digital Resilience project allow staff and students to discuss topics such as ‘what is radicalisation’ in a safe environment, with experts who can offer insight and reassurance to everyone involved.



The project has been designed with input from school staff, who were keen to ensure it was framed in the wider safeguarding work schools carry out. This approach ensures staff are well placed to support young people in becoming more careful and discerning users of the internet and social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We know from student focus groups that more than 60 per cent rated YouTube as their first port of call for reliable information.



All of this work has been approved by a local panel of independent professionals and community members working in education and for the Council.



Cllr Liaquat Ali MBE JP, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion, said: “We have seen first-hand the important role that Prevent has played in ensuring the safety and resilience of all members of the school community in Waltham Forest.



“Our Digital Resilience project has really helped to improve knowledge and understanding of the risks we face, and has served to reassure residents that the borough’s Community Safety team is committed to doing all it can to protect the local area.”



For young people and parents, there has been an increasing demand for information and guidance on how best to approach internet dos and don’ts given the potential dangers that users have to navigate.



In response, the Council’s Digital Resilience coordinators have ensured that parts of the programme cover social networks, learning how to check online sources of information and e-Propaganda – as well as online parenting programmes in various languages.



This helps to ensure the families and younger generations in the borough are able to make safe and sensible choices about how they interact with the vast and influential digital and online community.



Cllr Ali continued: “One thing has been apparent throughout all of the work that has taken place as part of this Digital Resilience project; professionals, parents, community leaders and young people all recognise the need to support one another to build a sense of community and belonging, and to safeguard against the risks that exist for most of us in modern society.



“This project has helped so many of our residents to do just that, and will continue to do so.”



To find out more about the Council’s Digital Resilience project, visit https://thehub.walthamforest.gov.uk/policy/schools/safeguarding/digital-resilience-package

If you would like more information about any of these press releases or have a different media enquiry please contact us at media@walthamforest.gov.uk or on 020 8496 3000.