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Being Aware of Internet Safety for Children & Keeping Them Safe

Children are gaining their own digital independence from as early as the age of 10, a recent study by Ofcom states, so keeping an eye on your child’s internet usage is key when it comes to their safety. More children are gaining access to the net earlier than ever before and sometimes this can come with risks for their safety and wellbeing. Our lives heavily depend on being able to go online, so here are the things you can do to make sure your children are staying safe when using the internet.

1. Communicate and set boundaries

It’s important to be clear with your child what you are and are not happy for them to do online. Being positive about certain restrictions and explaining that they are set because you care and want to keep them safe can help them to understand why these boundaries are in place. Empowering your child to make safe choices online rather than banning them from certain websites will help them to feel more confident in their own decisions. Having an open discussion with your child about the websites and apps they are accessing can help you both feel comfortable talking about any issues that may arise in the future.

discussing online safety for kids
Asking your children what they like to do online can open a positive discussion.

2. Be informed and stay up to date

Being able to stay up to date with new apps and social media is an important aspect of children’s online safety. It may feel difficult to ask a teenager about their social media usage as they want to feel more independent, but they will be savvy with their socials, so checking in with them can help to make it a conversation rather than interrogation. Consent about sharing information is an important aspect of social media, 68% of young people have stated that they would report something that had been shared about them without their permission, and 63% would report it if it happened to a friend of theirs. It can feel like a game of whack-a-mole, once you think you have one social media sussed, another two pop up. Other caregivers can be a great resource, talking to parents and teachers in schools can be an effective way to stay in the loop. Following informative pages on your own social media can keep you updated in real time.

3. Let them know the risks

As a caregiver you won’t always know exactly what your child is accessing online. Being as open as possible around their internet usage is key, along with letting them know the risks having a presence online pose to them.

  • Self-image and identity issues can arise because of their exposure to certain content on social media.
  • Do your children know who they are interacting with? Online relationships should be navigated carefully, they should only interact with people they know e.g. family and school friends.
  • Encourage young people to think carefully about what they post online; pictures and videos are difficult to completely wipe out once they’ve been posted.

GOV UK have a handy framework for adults to share with young people covering many parts of educational online subjects.

online safety for kids
Its’s important not to scare young people away from being online, letting them know the risks to be aware of can help to empower their experience online.

4.Encourage healthy surfing habits

Having a positive attitude towards your child’s internet usage will help you both be able to have open discussions about what they’re getting up to. Make sure to not block access to technology, help your young people to learn how to use their devices in a safe, non-judgmental environment to not discourage them from communicating with you.

Children’s screen usage is not harmful in itself so banning certain devices won’t be too helpful. Instead, having rules about usage before bed, during the school week or timing limits can help to create a healthy attitude towards their device(s) and establish trust between you.

5. Make use of parental controls

Parental controls are typically used for young children and help you to filter or block any content that you are uncomfortable with your child accessing. Certain websites can be inappropriate, offensive or hurtful for young people, to adjust what they can access you can:

  • Make sure geolocation is turned off on their devices.
  • Plan when your child can go online and how long for.
  • Search engines have parental controls to filter appropriate results.
  • Find out what games/ social media/ websites you child is accessing and talk through the privacy settings for each one as these can greatly differ.

The NSPCC have a parental control guide for an array of devices that can be linked online.

e safety for kids
Sharing resources with young people can even help them to stay up to date on what to be aware of online, too.

It can be quite difficult to keep up with online trends and behaviours, along with finding a balance between giving young people privacy and their own freedom. There are plenty of resources for both adults and young people giving tips and helpful advice:

For adults

For young people (primary and secondary ages)

All children need to be protected when it comes to them being online, at Compass we equip our carers with the knowledge and tools to help keep young people safe and away from harm, both in the real world and online. If you think you would like to learn more about fostering with us, please get in touch and we will answer any questions you may have.


How to Encourage your Child to Read for Pleasure

Significantly less children are reading for pleasure; The National Literacy Trust has found. In 2019, just over half of 8 to 18 year-olds said that they read for fun, and only a quarter of young people read daily. It can be difficult to encourage your child to read when seemingly everyone around them isn’t doing it- some kids love it, whereas others feel like they can’t get much out of it at all. We know how important engaging reading from a young age is, so we’ve put together a list of 7 easy ways for you to help your child find the fun in reading.

1. Make books readily available

Framing reading as a choice rather than a chore will be an important start to encourage reading for fun. Being surrounded by reading materials gives young people the choice to pick up a book at their will. Making sure you have books in your home, in their bedrooms, scattered around on coffee tables, sides or even in the bathroom will encourage your children to see reading as a key part of their environment. A recent study found that having books in the family home can positively impact a young person’s abilities in school, along with future job prospects- time to display the exciting, enticing book covers as soon as possible!

2. Find out your child’s interests

Your children won’t want to read books that they have no interest in, so finding out their favourite genres; for example, fantasy, sci-fi, adventure etc. can encourage them to pick up a book if they have the basic curiosity there already. Fiction or non-fiction could be favoured, and if they watch certain TV programmes do these relate to a preferred genre? Maybe your child’s favourite film was originally a book – this could be a starting point by reading a story they are familiar with. If your child enjoys watching certain YouTubers, a lot of ‘vloggers’ are publishing their own books now, too. This can be a great source of reading material as they are already heavily invested in the person writing it.

Boy with e-reader learning to read

3. Make plenty of time for reading

We are creatures of habit, so setting aside a specific time for your children to read can encourage them to create a healthy attitude towards it. It’s important to not make reading feel like a burden, so if your child struggles to read or really doesn’t enjoy reading, try to have a conversation with them about why. Talking to their teacher to get some information about their reading level and what type of books your child could and should be reading will also help. This should be a fun leisure activity for them- if you’re rushing story time or don’t care much for it, they will pick up this attitude and may mimic it.

4. Read to them and read together

Younger children typically love story time, so if you must read The Tiger Who Came to Tea for the 6th time this week you may just have to grin through it! BookTrust found that ‘90% of foster carers who read with their child reported that it had made a positive difference to the relationship between them and their child.’ Making sure to include your young children in day to day chores and creating a game can encourage them to read themselves. Asking kids to read aloud traffic signs, recipes or even words on packaging can help them to familiarise themselves from a young age.

5. Set the scene

Making reading fun can be affected by something as simple as your surroundings. When you read stories to your smaller children, think of the theme of the book or even the time of year/season you’re in. If it’s a spooky book, read with them in the dark with a torch or if it’s a story like The Gruffalo, why not take a trip to your local woods with a blanket and lunch? Being inventive with the ways you interact with books and turning stories into experiences can pique an interest in reading early on.

Teaching young child how to read

6. Use screen swipers and page turners

Older children and teens will likely be taking their phone with them wherever they go, and we’ve all seen the advice about bright screens before sleeping; even younger children now use tablets more regularly. Encouraging your child to have a dedicated hour of reading before bed can help them get better sleep and allow for plenty of time to get invested in their books. Technology can often be demonised – but eReaders are a great piece of kit for older children who are reluctant to read, and experts say that they don’t physically change or damage young people’s eyesight.

7. It doesn’t have to be just books

Books can often be daunting for a child that hasn’t started reading for pleasure yet. Magazines, graphic novels, or even newspapers may tempt a reluctant reader to pick up a copy and get invested. Their vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking can all be improved via the different avenues of reading. Listening to audiobooks together in the car or around the home can be a fun way to spark inspiration for young people to read themselves. You could try starting a book series and encourage older children to read the sequels themselves if they are invested in the stories!

With the right mindset and allowing young people to have the choice of materials, they should be reading for pleasure in no time. Let’s get them saying ‘I saw the film, but the book was way better!’ See below for some resources for young people, as well as parents and carers.

Younger Children:

  • CBeebies: storytelling app for
  • Epic: digital library for children 12 and under
  • MeBooks: interactive storytelling app

Teens:

Parents and Carers:

  • Action for Children: Storytelling and reading guide for foster carers
  • BookTrust: tips, news and all things literature- getting families reading
  • CoramBAAF: books for advice about fostering and books for young children in care

If you would like information about supporting looked after children, please get in touch with us, our team of specialists are on hand to answer any questions you may have.


Tips for Children and their Safety Online

We all have a role to play in helping to make sure that the internet is a safe, fun place for young people to explore. This Safer Internet Day, we’re celebrating children being able to express themselves online, whilst being SMART.

It’s important to let young people navigate the world wide web on their own terms, whilst being there to help with anything they may be unsure of. Being able to have a conversation with them about their safety is key to opening a dialogue with them about their online life. #Freetobe is the theme for 2020, looking at how young people manage their online identity and how being online can shape their views of themselves. We’ve put together some main points for young people on how they can be safer online.

Safer Internet Day 2020

Resources for young people:

At Compass, we encourage every young person to explore their identity in a positive, healthy way. We offer our foster carers an extensive array of training for safeguarding young people both online and in person. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about fostering.


How to Help Transgender Children

We are not born knowing what it is to be a boy or a girl; whether we like pink or blue or cars or dolls, but we are encouraged into a binary from a very early age. If your child begins to continually reject their gender’s stereotypical traits, it can be surprising and sometimes unexpected.

Understanding and supporting young people through this confusing time will be something that shapes both of you for life. Transgender issues are still widely misunderstood, so approaching support in a holistic and considerate way can help you tackle the unique challenges that you will encounter.

What is gender dysphoria?

What happens when we look in the mirror and our body doesn’t match the image we have of it in our mind? Specifically, gender is not defined by what our physical bodies look like, it’s how we feel on the inside. A person’s biological sex is assigned when we are born and our gender identity comes later when we develop our own sense of self.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person’s own gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. This can cause feelings of upset, discomfort and confusion. They could feel like a female in a male’s body, a male in a female’s body, have no connection with either gender (agender) or feel they are in-between or beyond both genders (non-binary). The NHS have a helpful guide about the condition here.

How would I know my child is Transgender?

If your young person isn’t comfortable disclosing these feelings outright, there can be some signs to look out for. UK Trans Youth charity Mermaids say that showing non-conforming gender traits can be a sign, ‘along with a persistent, insistent and consistent cross gender identification’.

A child trying to express their identity can come in the form of:

  • Saying that they don’t want to wear clothing specific to their gender
  • Having a preference of /desire to own toys designed for the opposite gender
  • Being uncomfortable having certain styles of haircut
  • Being visibly happier when allowed to do something related to their aspired gender
  • Continually referring to themselves as a different gender

Showing a few of these traits does not mean that your child is definitively trans, but being able to see the signs and trying to keep in tune with their behaviour can help any transition for a child. It is always positive to allow your child to explore these feelings in a safe and supported way. Try not to reject any behaviours that you see, as this may be a difficult time for everyone involved.

The AllSorts Youth Project sate that reaching out for support online is a very good way to find more information on how you can help your child and can often be a positive ‘turning point’. Raising a gender variant young person comes with unique challenges, the most important thing you can do is be there for your child. Accepting that this is how they feel and showing them the love and care they need at this confusing time will help them to come to terms with their feelings in their own time.

Listen

Sometimes acknowledging and listening to your child when they open up to you can be the most important first step in navigating this unknown territory. If your young person has expressed to you that they feel different, let them lead the conversation.

  • If your child states that they’d like a different name, try this at home and with family.
  • Asking your young person how you can help to open a dialogue for both of you.
  • If they want to start using different pronouns allow for this, equally using gender neutral pronouns they/them may be preferred.
  • Be open and accommodating at home, let them choose clothing to wear around the home if they aren’t ready to do this in public.

Listening and acting on ways to make your child feel more comfortable is a vital step in understanding and helping their voice to be heard.

Advocate

Being able to support your young person unconditionally will strengthen your relationship and their confidence. Action for Children suggest that challenging transphobic behaviour from other family members or friends is a good start, backing children at meetings and at home or at school will show them that you are there.

Not everyone will be as understanding as you, so being able to use opportunities to share what you know can help to enlighten others who may show intolerance. Asking whether your child would like their school to know can be helpful, if they can have adults who they can confide in may make them feel more comfortable at school.

Making information easily available to young people can be a way to build their confidence in their identity. Encouraging your child to attend LGBT+ youth meetings where they can meet others with similar experiences can help to feel less isolated.

Educate

LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall reports that 60% of trans youth have experienced physical assault. A lot of the time this is because of the reactionary nature of the general public. Verbal and physical abuse against transgender people is sadly common, so helping to educate those around you can be a good start to encourage tolerance. Acting as a role model for your friends and family can help to further inform, you’re trying to create an environment in which your child feels comfortable and this will start with those closest around you both.

Getting support for not only your child, but for yourself as well will empower you to advocate for them. Joining parent forums and support groups will be an effective way to make sure you’re also getting the support you need during this period. If you feel you are in the position to share your experience with others, joining online forums and attending meetings will provide support and resources that both you and your child will find valuable.

There is plenty of content online for you to research, learn new skills and read others’ stories. We’ve included a list of helpful websites below to help both you and your children through this journey.

Resources

Compass understands that every young person has their own diverse story, we provide support, resources, and relevant training for all our foster carers. If you’d like some more information about fostering with us click here.


What to do on results day – A guide for young people

What to do on results day

What to do on results day:

The night before you collect your results try to get a good night’s sleep. Getting your results can be both an exciting and anxious time.
Make sure you know what time and where to collect your results and aim to be on time.
Well done if you have achieved or succeeded your grades!
If you tried your best but haven’t quite achieved the grades you hoped for or needed for your next step whatever that may be – don’t panic!

College application
If you have applied to a college and haven’t achieved the exact entry requirements, contact the college in the first instance. Colleges can be flexible and depending on your grades it may not make a difference however it is advisable to call them. On some occasions you may be offered a lower level course which just means you have an extra year of study but this can be a good thing as you will gain more skills and knowledge along the way and give you a good understanding of your subject for the following year’s course.

Sixth form and year 13
For sixth form and year 13, if you haven’t achieved the desired grades speak to the post 16 adviser within the school, they may be flexible with entry requirements depending on your grades.
However if you do not have the desired grades for 6th form it is hoped you have a back-up plan of another school or college place. Call the school or college immediately on receiving your results.
Many colleges will accept applications on results day if they have the places available on their courses.
If all else fails and you find yourself without a post 16 or college place, there are other options such as apprenticeships and training providers offering courses which have start dates after September.
Most importantly speak to the adults around you who will help you to make decisions.

Unhappy with your exam results?
If you are unhappy with your results, speak to your teachers about the best options for you. You might decide to see your exam paper, go for a review, or re-sit your exam.
Further reading:
http://www.gov.uk/appeal-exam-result
http://www.gov.uk/guidance/appeal-exam-results-for-schools-colleges-and-private-candidates

University
Congratulations if you have achieved the grades you needed for your chosen University course.
If you haven’t achieved the grades you needed you can apply for other courses through Clearing.
Clearing is a service from UCAS which gives students a final chance to apply for a university course beginning in September. It runs from mid-July to September each year.
In Clearing you can see which courses have places remaining. You can use Clearing if you:
• have already completed a UCAS application
• apply after 30 June – You’ll automatically be entered into clearing if you apply late for your course (after 30 June)
• didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
• didn’t meet the conditions of your offers

Finding a course through Clearing
You can find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September. Not all universities or courses have vacancies, and some may be filled quickly.
You can contact universities and colleges about getting a place once you’ve got your exam results.

Learn how clearing works
http://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/no-offers-learn-how-clearing-works

Accepting an offer
You can only accept 1 offer. When your place is confirmed, you have to accept it and can’t look for another place.

Help & advice
Contact the UCAS Exam Results Helpline for free advice – 0808 100 8000

Useful websites and apps:
Apprenticeships – www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch
The Princes Trust – www.princes-trust.org.uk
UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Application Service) – www.ucas.com
National Careers Service – www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Child line (free 24 hour counselling service for children and young people) – www.childline.org.uk
Stop Breathe & Think. A free mindfulness, and meditation app aimed to reduce stress and anxiety – stopbreathethink.org
Calm. A free meditation app to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier – Calm.com