Online Safety Weekly Update – 13th Sept 2023


  • Safeguarding and Immersive technologies.
  • Children using AI to bully others.
  • Fake calculator apps.
  • For parents – updated supervision features for FB Messenger and Instagram.
  • For parents – Discord Family Center.

Safeguarding and Immersive Technologies

The NSPCC have commissioned a new (fairly short) report into safeguarding and immersive technologies (e.g. virtual reality). The purpose of the report is to provide an understanding of some of the concepts in immersive technologies and the potential risks (unpacked in a different report). It’s an interesting read if you are new to this sort of area, especially given the fact that immersive technologies are becoming more popular with children and young people. For example do you know what ‘futas’ and ‘lolis’ are (I can’t explain them in this email).

There are two reports which you may find of interest, the one mentioned above is the key concepts report which you can download HERE, the second is an outline of the risks which you can download HERE.

Children Using AI to Bully Others

Sadly, it had to happen sooner or later. Although reports are currently coming from Australia it stands to reason that this is going to be happening everywhere.

The Australian eSafety Commissioner has called on companies to step up protections around generative AI which is being used by children to bully others by creating sexualised images of their peers. Although the report refers to ‘bullying’ I would say it is much more than this. If the person being depicted is a child (AI generated or not) then it is illegal (in the UK).

A small number of young people may see this as harmless fun, a laugh, but the trauma to the victim and the consequences to the perpetrator could be significant.

You can read more in THIS news report.

Fake Calculator Apps

Fake calculator apps, or what I prefer to call vault apps, are apps on a device that look like one thing (e.g. a calculator) but are actually something else. They have been around for many years with the calculator app being the most popular as it looks like just an ordinary calculator. The difference here is that you can enter a code and you will be presented with data that you have hidden, e.g. images and videos.

On occasion you may need to search a device, I have to quite often to search for illegal data. It’s pretty rare to come across a vault app but unless you know what they are you won’t know what to look for.

There’s a good explanation from Qustudio HERE along with a few examples HERE.

For Parents – Updated Supervision Features for FB Messenger and Instagram

In June 2023 Meta rolled out some new parental features for FB Messenger and Instagram. As of 30th August these updates are now available globally.

Specific updates for Messenger:

  • View how much time the child spends on the app.
  • Updates on their contact list.
  • Notification if the child reports someone.
  • View who can message their child.
  • View who can see their child’s stories.
Specific updates for Instagram:
  • Before being able to message someone who doesn’t follow them, people must now send a text only invite to connect (in other words, no more unwanted explicit photos from people you don’t follow). No further interaction can take place unless the recipient accepts the invite.

In all these are quite positive steps, there is further information HERE.

For Parents – Discord Family Center

Discord used to be popular with gamers, now it’s hugely popular amongst non-gamers too. Historically Discord has been very lax regarding features that are available for parents to help keep their children safe, but this has recently changed, albeit the changes are a minuscule step in the right direction, at least it’s something.

Essentially, like many other apps, Discord now has a Family Center. Once set up parents can see:

  • What servers (chat rooms) their children have joined or participated in.
  • Everyone they’ve messaged.
  • New users they’ve connected with.
You can read more about these functions and limitations HERE, and THIS page will show parents how to set up Family Center.

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