Keeping young people safe from online harm

Person sat on laptop on their bed.

Project Orpheus aims to help keep the city’s young people safe from online violent political extremism, hate crimes, misinformation and cybercrime.

  • 04 February 2022
  • 5 min read

On Safer Internet Day (8 February), the University of Portsmouth and Portsmouth City Council have joined forces to help keep the city’s young people safe from online violent political extremism, hate crimes, misinformation and cybercrime.

The two organisations are the UK lead on Project Orpheus (Offline and online Radicalization Prevention Holding back Extremism and Upholding Security). The project provides training and support for youth workers, teachers and other professionals working with children and young people.

Project Orpheus is a three-and-a-half year project (launched in 2019) with eight partners from the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, funded by the European Union Commission Intereg2Seas.

The University’s Cybercrime Awareness Clinic has co-developed two training programmes with project partners Ceapire in Antwerp and Greta Grand Littoral in Calais. The first, focusing on media literacy, is aimed at helping professionals acquire the skills and confidence they need to be able to support and empower the young people they work with to stay safe online. The second provides cyber awareness and online safety training directly to young people. Topics on both courses include how to identify false information, how to assess online content, the impact of personal views on information interpretation and fact-checking tips. The programme also provides safe space events where young people can discuss topics and address grievances they can't talk about anywhere else.

Picture of Dr Vasileios Karagiannopoulos

In order to build resilience to these risks, it is vital that professionals develop their online media literacy. This means developing their skills and confidence to help young people effectively evaluate information online and to be able to identify misleading or manipulative content.

Dr Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, Director of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic

In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, the training is being delivered through a hybrid approach, with a mixture of online and in-person sessions.

Dr Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, Director of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly increased the rate of cyber-related threats, which makes it even more crucial for young people and the professionals who safeguard them to be aware of the possible online threats.

“In order to build resilience to these risks, it is vital that professionals develop their online media literacy. This means developing their skills and confidence to help young people effectively evaluate information online and to be able to identify misleading or manipulative content.”

The Clinic team has delivered the training sessions to professionals working with young people in Portsmouth, in collaboration with project partners from Portsmouth City Council’s Hidden Harm and Exploitation team.

Charlie Pericleous, Hidden Harm Coordinator at Portsmouth City Council, said: “Internet Safety Day is an important opportunity to promote the use of digital technology in a safer and more responsible way, we have been working with local partners to deliver interactive training sessions to young people and staff across Portsmouth. The Orpheus training package provides online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe online.”

Safer Internet Day is an important opportunity to promote the use of digital technology in a safer and more responsible way, we have been working with local partners to deliver interactive training sessions to young people and staff across Portsmouth.

Charlie Pericleous, Hidden Harm Coordinator at Portsmouth City Council

Hayden Taylor, Managing Director of Unloc, who are helping to deliver the training sessions to young people, said: "It's vital that young people are vigilant when using digital devices and accessing information online and through their phones. It's hard to tell what's real and what's not these days, images, video and information is so easily manipulated. This programme allows us to make sure education professionals are well prepared, and young people themselves are also aware of the risks out there, and are ever careful to take all the steps they can to protect themselves and each other."

The training is now being piloted in each of the project’s European regions and its finalised version will become part of Project Orpheus’s downloadable toolkit for professionals later in the year.

It's vital that young people are vigilant when using digital devices and accessing information online and through their phones. It's hard to tell what's real and what's not these days, images, video and information is so easily manipulated.

Hayden Taylor, Managing Director of Unloc

Top tips for staying safe online

Dr Annie Kirby, Research Associate in the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic, gives her top tips for staying safe online:

• Avoid clicking on links in emails / texts - find websites by typing the URL into the browser instead
• Use strong, unique passwords for all online accounts
• Activate 2-/multi-factor authentication if available
• Review your privacy settings on social media sites
• block and report bullies / abuse
• Once you've shared information or an image online you've lost control of it - so think before you share

Dr Kirby also suggests the following advice for verifying online information:

• Check the URL to make sure it’s not mimicking another reputable news site
• Check the ‘About’ and ‘Contacts’ pages of the website for information about who works there and how the organisation is funded
• Search the name of the author / journalist to find out what else they’ve written
• Is the story meant to be a joke, parody or satire?
• Do the images in the story actually show what they say they show? (Reverse image search)