The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme is a youth leadership training programme empowering young people to educate their peers about online safety. Nearly 900 schools have already signed up to the programme, and have reported that it is  helping them to meet their safeguarding needs and keeping young people safe online.

Childnet is a leading online safety charity with a mission to make the internet a great and safe place for children and young people. We work directly with children and young people aged 3-18 on a daily basis, finding out about their real experiences online as well as sharing advice, top tips and information. We also work with parents, carers, teachers, and professionals from across the UK.

Since 1995, Childnet has sought to keep children and young people at the heart of all that we do. In all our work we seek to respond to the risks that children and young people may encounter online. Our aim is to make the internet a great and safe place for children and young people.

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme

Childnet is the only online safety charity in the UK delivering an online peer-to-peer training programme that directly helps education settings embed a comprehensive approach to online safety.

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme began in 2014, engaging young people in online safety education in a new and innovative way. Young people told us that they found online safety education more valuable and relevant when it came from people their own age. By directly consulting with young people, teachers and educational settings we created the programme to help make online safety education impactful.

What happens on the programme?

Schools or groups joining the programme have access to an interactive, informative and fun online platform for either primary or secondary schools. Schools recruit a team of Digital Leaders who go on to complete training on the gamified platform. As they work through the modules, young people build their knowledge and understanding of online safety, as well as focus on the skills and competences they need, empowering them to lead peer education and awareness raising projects in their school. The programme has modules which cover topics such as cyberbullying, digital health and wellbeing, and fake news. Via these modules and with Childnet’s expert guidance, the programme provides a comprehensive package for online safety education.

Once qualified, Digital Leaders receive badges and certificates, and go on to plan and lead online safety education in their school or community. As a result of the programme, Digital Leaders have been empowered to run lessons and assemblies with their peers and younger children, set up weekly ‘surgeries’ to support anyone experiencing bullying online, and lead activities for Safer Internet Day in their school. The programme also helps young people and schools to involve families in online safety, with nearly half of teachers saying that parents and carers are more engaged as a result of the programme.

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme delivers real and lasting impact in schools. Recent research found that 85 per cent of teachers who have taken part in the Childnet Digital Leaders Programme said that it has helped their school fulfil their safeguarding duties, and a similar proportion have noticed safer online behaviours from young people as a result of the programme.

Digital Leaders can visit the online platform for help and support through the safe and moderated online community. The community provides a strong support network of Digital Leaders across the country, where young people can go for advice, suggestions and a discussion of online safety topics.

With their voices at the heart of the programme, young people also have opportunities to feed in their thoughts about technology at a national level – whether that’s by telling the world’s biggest tech companies about the challenges young people encounter on their platforms, providing tips about staying safe online to their peers across the UK, or influencing policymakers by contributing towards government consultations. There are also regular Digital Leaders Regional Events where they can come together and work on team challenges to build their skills further.

How we address the issues affecting young people

We regularly add new modules to the training programme, ensuring that the content keeps up with the ever-changing technology landscape, and that we are responding to what Digital Leaders want and need. In 2019 for instance, young people in primary schools told us they were unsure how to support their peers who have concerns about online gaming. We have been able to support them directly, as well as to plan a brand new module focusing on gaming which will launch in 2020.

As a result of listening and responding to young people’s needs, more than 9 in 10 Digital Leaders say the training makes them feel more confident about educating pupils in their school, and their teachers agree; one teacher said, “the scope for the children to take ownership of the education of others within school is a real boost to their confidence”.

The programme enables and empowers young people to have a say in creating a better internet for the future and is helping educational settings work towards an outstanding approach to keeping everyone safe online.

Find out more about the programme here.