Educating about online abuse and internet safety through our innovative ‘Speak Out’ app

We know that children and young people can become victims to online abuse and bullying, and the promotion of false or misleading information, sometimes with devastating consequences, and that such abuse is growing as young people are spending more time online.

The Cyber Trust was created to help children become safer online. Initially, the Cyber Trust’s work was restricted to Gloucestershire, however after growing demand the decision was made to develop an app for Android, iPhone and iPad devices. Known as ‘SpeakOut!’, the app covers a range of relevant subjects, specifically for pupils transitioning from primary to secondary schools which is seen to be a critical time in the development of young people.

Many of the schools which would benefit from using such our app are finding it difficult to raise funds for such learning, so we decided to make it free.

The Cyber Trust has worked collaboratively with various partners including schools, statutory and business organisations, and with a group of computing technologies and gaming research students at the University of Gloucestershire to develop the app, initially concentrating on the topics of bullying and grooming. Storylines on body image and fake news were subsequently added, and most recently on racism and sexting.

We have undergone rigorous testing as the app is developed; it has been trialled with young people in a school setting at Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre and Guiding for Gloucestershire, and has been well received. In fact, many pupils commented that they liked the innovative approach and did not have experience of any other such material. We have had some informative feedback, and have decided that the app would best be used in a classroom/group setting with an accompanying ‘Teacher’s Pack’ / ‘Leaders Pack’ for use by facilitators.

Having market tested the initial app we are now keen to develop a second phase with new story lines and more features, and are also promoting the app nationally through The Cyber Security Challenge‘s partnership with The National Crime Agency in Cybergames. The app is available through the Google Play and Apple App Stores, and we are hoping as we further develop the initial version that we could update it to reflect sponsors, donors and supporter’s logos.

We have involved the Gloucestershire Constabulary Cyber Protect Safeguarding Team, the NPCC and Child Friendly Gloucestershire in providing advice and the rollout will be supported by these and other supportive organisations. Gloucestershire Guiding has partnered with The Trust and will work with us on developing new scenarios, and have created a Badge called the SpeakOut! Challenge badge.

The challenges faced by young people are complex and the threats are growing, so finding ways to inform young people and prepare them for what they might face in the future is why the Trust started this project – to put a safety device into their hands, on their own mobile device.