Online Safety Weekly Update – 21st June 2023 for Schools and Colleges

Online Safety Weekly Update - 21st June 2023

Updates this week.

  • W Anonymous App.
  • Project Evolve report.
  • “Don’t click on bad links” – it doesn’t work.
  • For parents – the impact of dual screening.


W Anonymous App

“Who thinks teachers are hot?”

Over the last week I’ve had a couple of schools ask about an app called ‘W’. I had to do a little bit of digging and there is very little information apart from the fact that it is an anonymous poll app. One of the polls given on the website home page is “Who thinks teachers are hot?” This got my attention.

I decided to install the app onto my phone and what I found is concerning. I input a false name and gave my age as 51, at which point the app used the GPS on my phone to show me all the primary and secondary schools in my local area, as well as how many students in those schools were signed up, and the app then allowed me to connect to ‘my school’, as a 51 year old!! Notably, the primary schools seemed to have more users than the secondary schools.

You are then invited to allow access to contacts on your phone (which I didn’t do), at which point you can then start taking part in polls.

  • The Terms state that you have to be 13 to use the app. There are no age verification or assurance processes.
  • The app only works with notifications turned on, and there are A LOT of notifications.
  • Polls can be shared on Instagram and Snapchat (the website also refers to TikTok but that isn’t available in the app).
  • Without taking part in any polls, I was receiving notifications stating that someone had picked me in a poll.
  • When you have completed a poll you are invited to play again, but you have to either wait an hour or invite friends, which means giving access to your contacts and sending an alert to others. This creates curiosity (what am I missing out on?), it is persuasive design at its worst and is the means by which the company are gaining traction quickly.
  • You can send anonymous voice memos and create anonymous polls.
  • At 2350 on Saturday evening I got a notification stating “this is the most active time for Year 8 students’.
  • On their FAQ page Slay (the developers from Berlin) state:
    • We only let friends, contacts and classmates vote for each other. Never strangers. Yet I was able to sign up to a school.
    • We do not allow adults to join schools. Yet I signed up as a 51 year old and chose a school.
I’m not sure what to make of this app just yet as there is so little data, but the signs are not good. As yet I’m not hearing of any specific concerns (other than those above) so if you do hear anything let me know so that I can pass this onto other schools. You can view the app web page HERE.


Project Evolve Report

You will no doubt be aware of Project Evolve, the platform of thousands of free online safety resources for all key stages. 

A few days ago SWGfL put out their annual report concerned with the current state of online safety education with those schools using the platform.There are some interesting findings in the report, including consistent knowledge gaps and strengths. For example, there are consistent strengths in understanding online relationships, self-image and identity, but there are consistent weaknesses in security, privacy and managing online information. Personally I think one of the reasons for this is that there has been a significant focus from Govt., DfE and others into relationships etc. (with good reason) but there has been very little focus on security, yet security is vital to understand. Usually when I’m talking to students in secondary/college I will focus on various aspects of security yet within those topics I can also ‘inject’ safeguarding information. The reason for this is that students are much more likely to listen and take note if something is going to affect them personally (e.g. theft of data).

“Ask what they want, give them what they need,” is a mantra that I always use. In other words hook students in with a topic they are more likely to be interested in, and use that subject to inject information that you know they need to know.

You can find the full Project Evolve report HERE.

Staff Annual CPD

As I’m sure you’re aware it is a requirement that all staff have good, annual online safety training and many schools carry this out at the beginning of the school year. I will be writing and recording a brand new staff online safety video in August, one for infants/primary and one for secondary/college. I have been doing this for a few years now and it has become very popular due to the low cost and the flexibility of a video.If you would like to receive the video ready for September just drop me an email, I will send you a quote and ask you to raise a purchase order. Once the video is ready the link will be sent to you straight away along with the invoice.

Cost (12 month licence):

Per site (not per person) – £95.00 plus VAT
Multi-site (e.g. MAT) – send me an email, let me know how many sites and I will offer a significant discount.

I will also be updating/re-recording all my other videos: governors, parents and secondary students.

“Don’t Click on Bad Links” – It Doesn’t Work

Staying on the topic of security for the moment, one of the most common pieces of advice I see given to students and staff is “Don’t click on bad links.” This is usually referred to in relation to emails and social media links. The problem is, how do you know if it is/isn’t a bad link (e.g. a phishing link)? This advice creates a problem, if you click the link and something bad happens it’s your fault. I also know of schools who deliberately send a false phishing email to all staff in order to ‘educate’ them. I don’t agree with this, all it does is shames staff who do click on it, meaning they are unlikely to report if they accidentally do something in the future.What prompted this update was an article from the National Cyber Security Centre explaining why organisations should avoid the blame and fear, and instead use technical measures to manage the threat from phishing and it may be worth sending this article to your IT team, whether in-house or outsourced as ultimately the responsibility is theirs to have the correct, up to date security measures in place, backed up with good education because IT security measures are never 100% effective.


For Parents – The Impact of Dual Screening

Dual screening  is when someone uses multiple devices or screens at once. For example, quite often when talking to students about gaming, they will say that they play their online game on one screen and have Discord open on the other screen to chat with their friends. The concern is in relation to attention, in other words is the use of multiple screens (e.g. looking through your phone whilst watching TV) having a negative impact?I think the jury is still out on this one, different research projects have given different results but what does appear to be common is the increasing use of screens for any purpose is leading to greater health issues due to a more sedentary lifestyle. I’m not sure we need research to tell us that, but what we do need to understand more is whether dual-screening is having an impact on concentration, e.g. multi-tasking. Lots of people think they can do two things at once but the reality is that only a tiny percentage of the population can multi-task effectively, for example doing homework whilst watching or listening to the TV.

Internet Matters have put together a good article with some advice which you may find useful to send out to parents. You can view the article HERE.

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