Engaging with young people to help create the Safest Generation

By Francesca Kirtley-Paine

One of the main objectives of this office is to create the Safest Generation. To achieve this we want to highlight potential dangers that young people are facing today, such as staying safe online and issues within intimate relationships, and understand the broad range of situations that young people are encountering. We recognise that no one understands the issues that affect young people more than young people themselves.

In 2014, the Police and Crime Commissioner published a report on Online Safety following a large-scale consultation of 13,000 children, young people and adults to understand the issues and risks faced by young people online. The report highlighted some worrying statistics in relation to children and young people’s use and understanding of the internet:

  • 30% of children and young people are accessing material and content online for which they are underage, most commonly accessing games, music and television programmes
  • Pornography and material with sexual content are also referenced by around 6% of children and young people
  • Children and young people who say they are always online unsupervised are more likely to have accessed or downloaded inappropriate content (37% compared to 26% of supervised youngsters)
  • Over 80% of children and young people do not feel at risk online, many of whom do not fully understand security settings or why they are needed and some share passwords with people they have never met in person

Recently, the OPCC has sought to learn more about young people’s experiences in intimate relationships; what they understand to be a good or bad relationship and what more could be done to inform and educate them in order to stay safe.

We surveyed over 2,700 students across 19 main stream schools and four additional Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Special Educational Needs and Mental Health (SENMH) schools. Alongside this, we commissioned a drama presentation through the Core in Corby in partnership with Highly Sprung, that helped to depict how a relationship can become unhealthy. We then assisted students further through a workshop delivered by Service Six, a local youth service.

The final part of this project has been to give young people tools and techniques to help safeguard themselves in current or future relationships. We’ve found this to be extremely effective, with many students coming forward and disclosing their own personal experiences within negative intimate relationships, which has offered us a greater understanding around the problems that young people are facing and enabled us to provide help and support.

The findings from our consultation are now being analysed by the Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice, and our final report will be published in March.

Engaging with children and young people directly has already provided the Police and Crime Commission – as well as other agencies working with young people across Northamptonshire and parents and carers – a better understanding of what children and young people currently experience within intimate relationships and the difficulties they can face.

The final analysis of this work will allow us to accurately shape our support services for children and young people and move us further towards our goal of creating the Safest Generation.

Update: View the results of our consultation with children and young people, here.