Dot Com Digital: A 2Simple Safeguarding and Wellbeing product

Jan. 19, 2020

Ahead of the launch of Dot Com Digital at the Bett Show, we sat down with its creator Sharon Doughty, a former news presenter and crime reporter who was herself the victim of violence and abuse, to find out more about the programme. If you're at the show, Sharon, children who have benefitted from the programme and Police Commissioners will be talking about how the Dot Com Digital approach helped give children a voice at 2pm in the Bett Arena on Thursday, 23rd January.

dot_com_logo.png

What is Dot and the methodology behind it?

Dot is a cartoon character who's a friend to children. She speaks to children in their own language as she's a child who is 9, nearly 10. Dot's learning about life and children can learn with her. She shares her worries, concerns and her strategies for dealing with life particularly if she doesn't feel safe.

The Dot Com programme has been created in partnership with the police and emergency services so teachers can be certain that they are delivering appropriate safety messages. The programme is constantly updated to reflect current threats that emerge. Through Dot's real-life stories children can learn about risks they might come across in life and how they can deal with them in a safe way. Dot also talks about her feelings and so models to children ways that they can share their own worries and concerns. Dot was created by myself and is the friend that I 'd have liked to have had in school when I was feeling frightened and alone and had no way of telling anyone in school that I was the victim of abuse and violence at home.

What does Dot help children with?

Dot Com Digital supports the new statutory Relationships and Sex Education Guidance as well as being cited in DFE Online Safety Guidance as a tool to prevent online harm.

Dot's a safeguarding and wellbeing resource with a values-based approach that empowers children to develop confidence and make safe choices. As we all know children learn from a consistent approach and this is just as important when it comes to teaching children how to stay safe and well. Children need to practice communicating their worries and concerns and learn an emotional vocabulary. We can't make assumptions about what children might learn at home emotionally and so children must have the opportunity to develop and practice these skills in the classroom. Dot provides a safe mechanism to do this and Dot Com lessons are fun and a safe place for children to talk about emotions and issues which might frighten or worry them.

Each child has their own Dot journal which used to be paper-based and is now a very exciting e-journal where children can learn about the world and record their feelings. Through what the children write or draw the teacher can develop an insight into where the child is emotionally and if there are any safeguarding concerns. The technology also provides children with the opportunity to ask for a Dot Minute if they feel worried or frightened about an issue and this means the child can ask for help without fear of judgement from their peers.

The Dot Com Digital programme educates children to help prevent them from becoming victims of crime

How could Dot be used in school? What impact has Dot had?

Dot Com Digital is an enhanced digital version of the Dot Com programme which was developed over 15 years with children, teachers and the police. The resource is supported by the Home Office as it educates children about serious issues like grooming, county lines and child abuse helping to prevent them from becoming victims or perpetrators.

The Dot programme can be taught one hour a week across a term although many schools use Dot across the school year and link it to other themes such as Internet Safety Day, Anti-bullying Week, World Book Day or Black History Month. The programme helps children understand behaviours such as bullying and grooming and gives them the skills and confidence to speak up if they're worried about anything.

The greatest impact that teachers report is that the children become more confident and have the skills and the knowledge they need to believe they can manage risks and difficult situations. Teachers report an increase in disclosures and this leads to a safer and happier classroom as children are not carrying around problems which make them feel unhappy, anxious or aggressive.

The programme can be delivered by the teacher or teaching assistants and learning mentors. Many schools use the programme during PPA time and staff report that they feel Dot gives them a safe structure and the right language to deliver lessons about difficult issues. All schools report that the children enjoy their learning and say that Dot lessons are fun and everyone is calmer and happier after Dot sessions.

Why should schools make use of Dot in the classroom?

Dot Com Digital will ensure that children have skills to deal with emerging threats to their safety and that the school is prepared for and meeting the new statutory Relationships and Sex Education Guidance.

Dot's a mechanism to ensure that children have all the knowledge they need to deal with real-life and teachers report that it's a tool which gives children the confidence and skills to manage their own mental health and safety. It also gives them an emotional vocabulary and space and time to practice talking about their feelings and understanding their own behaviour and the behaviour they might experience.

Children must be safe so they can be happy and happy children are able to learn. It's easy to focus only on behaviour and the impact that this might have on the class. With Dot, staff are able to identify the cause of a child's problems and once this is addressed this will result in improved behaviour.

Dot

What are your top tips for teachers?

  • Create a safe space for the children when they're doing a Dot lesson. Explain you will not be marking their work.
  • Let the children know that you will be reading their work and if you feel worried about anything that you read and you feel like they might need some help you'll arrange a Dot Minute to discuss this. Be clear that if you think the matter is very serious you might have to ask other adults to help. The children do not have to share their work with anyone else unless they choose to do so. If they want to, they can invite other children to see their work otherwise everything is completely private.
  • Explain the Dot Com Minute button is there for them to use if they feel frightened or worried about anything and if they request a Dot Minute that you'll make a time to speak with them privately as soon as possible and nobody else will know about this in the class. Explain to them that the Dot Minute is not about little things that might annoy them, it's for times when they feel really upset or worried and need help.
  • Make sure the children know that there are no right or wrong answers in a Dot lesson, it's all about what they think and feel.
  • Share some stories of times when you've been frightened or worried and how you dealt with them so that children understand that everyone has problems and has to learn strategies to overcome them.
  • Create different rules for a Dot lesson. Some teachers allow children to choose where they want to sit, allow them to remove their shoes or place a picture of Dot over the window in the door with instructions that there are to be no interruptions unless it's an emergency so the children know they will not be disturbed.
  • Explain to them that you want them to be safe and happy and the key to that is learning how to talk about how we feel and to know that we can always ask for help

We will also be hosting a webinar with Sharon on Thursday 13th February at 4pm to talk more about the Dot Com Digital programme, which you can sign up here.