Internet safety for children and young people: national action plan

Refreshed action plan on internet safety for children and young people to ensure appropriate training, support and information is in place.


UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

This action plan will also assist the Scottish Government in taking forward the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's Concluding Observations [1] for the UK State Party as these relate to Scotland. The action plan will contribute towards:

  • developing and implementing comprehensive multi-sectoral strategies on child exploitation and abuse, including online, to ensure effective prevention, early detection and intervention, at national as well as at devolved levels;
  • further developing comprehensive services to support children who are victims or at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse;
  • training children, teachers and families on the safe use of information and communication technologies, raising awareness among children on the severe effects that online bullying can have on their peers, and increasing the involvement of social media outlets in the efforts to combat online bullying.

Child Protection Improvement Programme

Internet safety for children and young people, along with eight other key areas of work, has formed part of the Child Protection Improvement Programme.

On 25th February 2016, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced a formal review of the child protection system in Scotland alongside a programme of improvement, with a view to identifying both strengths and weaknesses in existing systems. The programme's core objective was to deliver recommendations for sustainable improvement, building upon the observable improvements in practice that have already taken place in recent years and seeking to further embed Scotland's unique approach to child wellbeing: Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC). This work has been delivered in partnership with stakeholders and an external advisory group was set up to support the improvement programme. In addition we have sought to ensure that the voice of the child is heard in the work that is taking place across the programme.

The report from Catherine Dyer, Chair of the Child Protection Systems Review, was published on 2 March 2017 alongside the Child Protection Improvement Programme report which included the following actions on internet safety:

  • We will publish an action plan on child internet safety by March 2017
  • We will work with the UK Safer Internet Centre to deliver online safety briefing sessions across Scotland
  • We will continue to participate in the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety ( UKCCIS) and explore with social media providers and industry how we can improve child internet safety in Scotland

Legislative landscape

Internet safety is largely a reserved matter, meaning that any decisions about the regulation of the internet would be a matter for the UK Government. However, Scottish Ministers do have significant scope to develop and implement policy relating to child internet safety as a direct result of their devolved responsibilities for education, policing and child protection. There are a number of pieces of Scottish legislation concerning offences that can be committed using the internet and these are listed in Annex A.

Scottish Government policy landscape

There are also a number of existing strategies with the Scottish Government that have an internet safety element. These are outlined below.

  • Child Sexual Exploitation ( CSE)

The sexual exploitation of children and young people is an often hidden form of child sexual abuse, with distinctive elements of exploitation and exchange. CSE can begin with grooming online -or even stay wholly online - but can also lead to a meeting in person with a perpetrator, putting the child or young person at further risk. CSE is a complex issue and children and young people may initially believe perpetrators to be peers or friends. Examples of online exploitation can include the sending and sharing of indecent images, including self-produced images, and once the child or young person begins to participate in such activities they leave themselves open to being blackmailed into further participation. This coerciveness might not always be obvious to the child and young person as the grooming is so powerful that they can come to believe it is acceptable behaviour, or they make a decision to participate because they think it (whatever the exchange is) is worth it to them. In March 2016, the Scottish Government published an updated National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation and a National CSE Group are working with the Scottish Government to deliver its 44 actions.

  • Digital Participation Strategy

Digital Participation: A National Framework for Local Action was launched on 24 April 2014. This strategy sets out how the Scottish Government is working in partnership with private, public and third sector organisations to ensure that all sections of Scottish society are able to make confident use of digital technologies and the internet. The strategy makes it clear that digital technology cannot be allowed to reinforce social and economic inequalities. The strategy is underpinned by a national movement based on collaborative working with those organisations and agencies closest to the people who need help to get online. This approach will stimulate demand for internet access and increase digital literacy amongst vulnerable groups and marginalised communities.

  • Scotland's Digital Strategy

Scotland's Digital Strategy, published in March 2017, features actions on improving digital connectivity, supporting our digital industries, building digital public services, expanding our pool of digital skills, ensuring we are a cyber-resilient and secure nation, and ensuring everybody can share in the social, economic and democratic opportunities of digital. It also recognises the challenges that digital poses for work, society, and our economy; and that collective action will be needed to ensure nobody is left behind

  • Cyber Resilience

The growth of digital technology has brought speed, efficiency and access to the way we do business, socialise and provide key services. Unfortunately internet users are also experiencing cybercrime at an unprecedented rate. The Scottish Government published Safe, Secure and Prosperous: A Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland in November 2015. This strategy sets out the actions we need to take to make Scotland a cyber resilient place to live, work and do business. It focusses on themes of leadership and partnership; awareness raising and communications; education, skills and professional development; and research and innovation.

  • Equally Safe

Equally Safe is Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. Education on online safety, content ownership and guidance on how to identify unhealthy online relationships is relevant to achieving this aim.

  • Prevent

The objective of the Prevent strand of the UKG's Counter Terrorism strategy is to safeguard people from becoming terrorists. We continue to work with partner agencies and communities to implement a balanced and proportionate approach to safeguard vulnerable individuals from radicalising influences. Our approach is part of Scotland's wider work to deliver a community-led approach to building stronger, more resilient communities and is reflective of the specific challenges faced by Scottish communities.

At the forefront of our concerns is the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people. Working alongside key partner agencies, including Education Scotland and local authorities, the Scottish Government has agreed the strategic approach to deliver Prevent which has the best interest of our young people as its primary focus. The ways in which people are becoming radicalised are constantly evolving and we are acutely aware of the role the internet can play. Terrorist groups are adept at using social media and the internet to engage with young people and therefore we continue to work alongside communities and partners to raise awareness of these risks and of the need to stay safe online.

  • Human Trafficking

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent on 4 November 2015. It introduces for the first time a single offence covering the trafficking of both adults and children for all forms of exploitation with a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment

We have worked with a range of partners, through the Child Trafficking Strategy Group and though public consultation, to develop the children's aspects of Scotland's first Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, to be published in 2017.

The Strategy will set out how we can get better at identifying and supporting victims; at identifying perpetrators and disrupting their activity; and in raising awareness across the board.

  • Mental Health Strategy

The new Mental Health Strategy was published in March 2017 and continues the focus on early intervention and on improving access to mental health services, including CAMHS. It also protects the rights of people with mental health problems, including children and young people.


Email: Jennifer Stenton

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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