Andy Wood, E-Safety Consultant and Game On Project Manager
How Everton FC and the Internet Watch Foundation teamed up to safeguard young people online.
Keeping children and young people safe online is my passion. I’ve been working as a teacher and online safety advisor for over 20 years now, and felt honoured when the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) appointed me to develop a unique safeguarding project for football clubs.
Both the IWF and I believe that whilst all young people might put themselves at risk through poor choices in online behaviour, young elite athletes might be particularly vulnerable. We want to change that. The aim of creating new, fun and engaging workshops was to identify and mitigate inappropriate behaviours (online and offline) which could become harmful to young people and their relationships now and in the future.
An initial outline programme was put together at a project kick off meeting with partners from the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) and then taken to a Project Advisory Board for further suggestions. This inclusive approach helped us develop an interesting programme that attracts young people and is up-to-date with current topics and issues they might encounter online.
Earlier this year, Everton FC signed up to trial the Game On workshops. Each of the 25 workshops given was accompanied by at least one person from the Everton safeguarding team. All sessions were led by real-life scenarios that challenged the young players’ understanding of legal vs illegal, or appropriate vs inappropriate online behaviour. Many workshops included valuable debates and discussions. Encouragingly, many players shared their thoughts and some disclosed their own (good and bad) experiences. This shows that our Game On workshops are relevant and it gives young people the confidence they need to speak up, get help, and stay safe online.
Each workshop was evaluated by an external agency, and feedback from the young men and the safeguarding staff formed the content of subsequent workshops. This has resulted in a range of high quality, effective and field-tested safeguarding resources which can – and should – be used across the broadest range of sports in the UK.