The online safety organisation Internet Matters has launched a new training course for foster carers to protect children from online harms.

The course was created in collaboration with The Fostering Network and digital expert Dr Simon P Hammond and comes as research reveals that children in care are more at risk from online harm than their peers.

The research, carried out by Youthworks in partnership with Internet Matters, found that nearly three in 10 (29%) care-experienced teens had received messages threatening to harm them or their family, compared to just nine per cent of non-vulnerable teenagers.

Furthermore, a third of respondents said they had fallen for an online scam, while one in six (16%) said this happened ‘often’ compared to just three percent of nonvulnerable teens.

Vulnerable young people are more likely to experience online harms

People with learning disabilities are similarly vulnerable to online harm, with nearly three quarters (73%) of people with a learning disability or autism saying they have experienced hate crime, according to Dimensions.

Another report, ‘A Life Without Fear’, uncovered number report of cases where people with learning disabilities and/or autism were deliberately targeted because they were seen as vulnerable or exploitable.

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters said she hopes the course ensures that vulnerable young people are able to have a “safe and positive experience online.”

The modules can be trainer-led or self-directed

The course is split into four modules and is designed to allow foster carers to improve their understanding of what children are doing online and have effective conversations with children in their care about how to stay safe and thrive.

The project is part of a UK-wide programme, funded by Nominet, which aims to improve the online safety of 65,000 young people by building their digital resilience and reducing their vulnerability online.

Foster carers can access the training through trainer-led virtual sessions led by The Fostering Network or through self-directed modules on the Internet Matters website, if they prefer to learn at their own pace.

Creating a better environment for children to be heard and supported online

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said the Network understands the importance of online connectivity and hopes the course will “create a better environment for children in care to be heard and supported online.”

“As a result, we hope young people in care will become independent digital citizens, ready to take advantage of the opportunities that being online can give them,” he added.

For more information about the course and how to sign up, click here.