Local students help develop online safety system

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A group of Ballyclare High School pupils have created an innovative online reporting system, which they have called ‘StepUp’, which stands for Safety Through Empowering Pupils.

Launched by the school to celebrate Safer Internet Day (February 7), this online safety tool is believed to be the first of its kind to be created by pupils for their peers. Having identified potential flaws in current reporting systems, the pupils developed a bespoke online tool that pupils can use to alert designated staff to concerns they have for themselves or for one of their peers.

Dr Michelle Rainey, principal of Ballyclare High School, comments: “The ‘StepUp’ button has been designed by our pupils who had felt that existing reporting mechanisms could be improved.

“It is aimed at protecting pupils who can report any issues, worries or concerns they have through an online button. This will then allow staff to deal with the issues which have arisen, for example, the posting of something undesirable about another pupil on social media.”

Mrs Mhairi Hill, the teacher in charge of online safety in Ballyclare High School and a pioneer in this area for schools across Northern Ireland, states: “We have a strong focus on safety across all aspects of our pupils’ lives and social media is becoming increasingly prevalent, showing no signs of abating. Our Digital Leaders team wanted to encourage students to develop a new online safety protocol, a system which would empower their peers. This inspired our ground-breaking initiative ‘StepUp’ which is all about equipping our pupils with appropriate tools to promote student welfare and safety.”

David Andrews, a Year 10 pupil who was integral to the development of ‘StepUp’, has an interest in both web design and online safety, and has represented young people across Northern Ireland on the National Children’s Bureau NI e-safety youth panel.

David explains: “We really enjoyed taking part in this project and designing the concept, web page and logo for ‘StepUp’. Our School is very good at dealing with any bullying issues, whether they happen online or in the real world, but it can be the case that students could come across something unpleasant online about someone with whom they go to school.

“Bullying is never acceptable and the sooner someone steps up, the sooner it can be sorted out. I hope that all students will use ‘StepUp’ if they see anything negative about a fellow student.”