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Harmful online challenges and online hoaxes - new DfE guidance

Monday 22nd February 2021

This month the Department for Education (DfE), in collaboration with partners in the UK Council for Internet Safety Education subgroup and the Samaritans, has published advice for schools and colleges to support their approach to harmful online challenges and online hoaxes. Other education settings may also find it useful.

Harmful online challenges and online hoaxes (DfE, February 2021)

A hoax is a deliberate lie designed to seem truthful, and online challenges generally involve users recording themselves taking a challenge, and then distributing the video through social media channels, inspiring or daring others to repeat the challenge.

The guidance emphasises the importance of safeguarding procedures, internet filtering and monitoring procedures, pastoral support and the benefits of teaching children about internet safety. The contribution that can be made by elements of PSHE education, to internet safety, is mentioned with links to some teaching resources.  

In responding to information about harmful content the guidance says:

"You should carefully consider if a challenge or scare story is a hoax. Generally speaking, naming an online hoax and providing direct warnings is not helpful. Concerns are often fuelled by unhelpful publicity, usually generated on social media, and may not be based on confirmed or factual occurrences or any real risk to children and young people. There have been examples of hoaxes where much of the content was created by those responding to the story being reported, needlessly increasing children and young people’s exposure to distressing content."

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