What do primary pupils get up to online? The results may surprise you in this survey, from Traci Good.

I am proud to run the online safety peer-led digital leaders’ programme that I have been funded to work with every primary school across Derbyshire and Derby City. We are online heroes, making the connected world a safer place! The programme lasts for an academic year and we have 2 tasks to complete each term – with a few secret missions thrown in for good measure. One of the tasks is a whole-school survey and, this year, we had over 4,700 responses. We use these replies to shape and change the education we give students in each individual school.

In this article, I wanted to share with you some of the results and highlight the importance of having open, safe and non-judgemental conversations with your learners about what they are really doing online – and not just what we presume.

If we know and understand the risks our learners are actually facing, we are in a far better position to support them, we can change the education we give in the classroom and we can share information with parents and carers so that safeguards can be put in place at home, too.

What did the survey reveal?

  • Over 1,300 children said they had seen something that upset or worried them, and we uncovered some significant safeguarding concerns, including watching beheading videos, watching people commit suicide and child sexual exploitation. Whilst this may make uncomfortable reading, it is our pupils’ reality.​
  • 30% of children said they sometimes go online when they should be asleep. We know that tired children do not learn as effectively as well-rested children, so this gives cause for concern. A significant number of KS2 children also admitted to making or receiving video calls from friends between midnight and 4am, with WhatsApp being the preferred app for this. The majority of children said their parents never check their conversation or call histories, so parents are often blissfully unaware.
  • 48% of children said they know how to get around some or/all parental controls on their devices, or that there were no controls in place. Engaging parents and carers around online safety can be tricky, especially when they feel they have already put safeguards in place. We need to remind them of the importance of checking what their children are accessing and ensuring the parental controls are still in place and effective. Keeping Children Safe in Education DEF, 2023,  asks us to engage with the wider community. If we can share meaningful data with parents, they are far more likely to engage and make changes to ensure their child’s safety.
  • 27% said ‘I have friends online that I game with/talk to that I have never met in real life.’ That’s strangers to you and me! We saw significant numbers of children in both KS1 and 2 who play games against people they don’t know using Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft to name but a few.

Equipping parents

If the standard educational response to the children in your school is ‘Don’t talk to strangers online,’ we are not effectively equipping them with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to stay safe. Children will game and chat to people they don’t know, so we need to give them the skills to do this safely and to know when to block and report.

We should ensure they know that there are always adults around them that can help if they are unsure of what to do, or if someone says or does something that makes them feel sad, scared, upset or worried.

I think it is vitally important that we listen to what children have to say and ensure we are giving them the tools to be safer online – after all, the online environment offers amazing benefits to children and young people; we just need to ensure they can navigate this space in a careful and considered way. The online world needs heroes: let’s be heroes together!


Read the follow-up article to see what happened when Traci surveyed parents about their children’s online activity and compared this to what their children said about their own online experiences!


  • Traci Good

    Traci is an online safety consultant, specialising in the education, safeguarding and policing sectors, with a particular interest in supporting vulnerable and SEND students online. She is currently running the i-vengers programme, which is a positive, peer-led, digital leaders programme, jointly funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire and Derbyshire County Council.
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