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New digital ambassadors help keep North Derbyshire children safe online

A ground-breaking project appointing school children as digital leaders to champion the online safety of their peers has been celebrated during a special event.

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa met project leaders at the Casa Hotel in Chesterfield in recognition of the Chesterfield Locality Children's Partnership's achievements to tackle online risks such as "sexting" and wider issues of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The Online Safety Support project, which brings together a number of agencies, received £13,500 from the Commissioner's Community Action Grant towards the training of 97 young digital leaders across 22 of Chesterfield's primary schools, two secondary schools and Ashgate Croft Special School.

Training coordinator Traci Good from esafetytraining.co.uk, who is an online safety specialist and assessor working with schools, was appointed to train professionals from a host of children's welfare organisations, health organisations, police and schools on safe internet use and current risks including live streaming.

In addition, she delivered a host of training mornings to the new digital leaders and teaching staff to prepare them for their new roles, provide more information about their responsibilities and to increase their understanding of the legalities of sharing indecent images online.

At the end of the sessions, students received their Digital Leader badge in a special presentation ceremony while teaching staff were provided with a wealth of support material and resources to further raise awareness of online safety in their schools.

Mr Dhindsa said: "This is a fantastic project which puts young people in the driving seat of online safety in their schools, giving them responsibility and authority to tackle the online risks that threaten the safety of their peers.

"Many of the new leaders have hit the ground running, developing new projects within their schools to increase pupils' awareness and knowledge of social media risks and how to protect themselves online. 

"Young people have an important voice and can have a powerful influence on their friends.  I'm very grateful to everybody involved in this project - their efforts are clearly reaping dividends and I'm looking forward to reporting progress in the future. I hope that the local authority will join with me to see how we can extend this imitative so that other children across Derbyshire will benefit."

As part of the project, digital leaders have been tasked with producing a film to be published on their school's website to support parents and carers to understand the highs and lows of internet gaming and also rewriting their school's acceptable users policy in child-friendly terms.

Other tasks include writing an article for the online safety squad magazine and developing a display in school where students, teachers, carers and parents can access help and support with online safety worries.

Traci Good said: "The response from young people and school staff in the borough has been incredibly positive. I have visited each school to provide digital leader training and this has been followed up with monitoring and support. The children across Chesterfield have been inspirational in response to their new roles.

"Parents and carers have also been engaged with the subject matter - our young people are keen to teach their guardians about the online world from their point of view.

"Digital Leaders were tasked with making a film focusing on the positives and negative aspects of gaming online, how we set parental controls and how to block and report troublesome content. The films were shared in assemblies for peers to learn from and on school websites for parents to view.

"Writing, directing and producing a film not only consolidated learning around online safety but also provided cross-curricular links to ICT, English, PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) and SMSC (Spiritual, Moral and Cultural Development).

"Using children's knowledge to empower themselves, their parents and each other is a positive and sustainable approach that has been very well received by all involved."

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