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About Us

Why we made @FirstSite

The International Foundation for Online Responsibility is a not-for-profit organisation that produces policies and research on online content.

We began developing the @FirstSite course in 2015. It started as a best practices guide for businesses when it came to online sexual content.

As part of that work, we spoke to relevant professionals in the field and it became clear very quickly that there was a much bigger issue.

Teachers told us that they were facing an enormous challenge when it came to the online content their younger students were seeing – everything from sexualised imagery to commercial pornography – but that there were no good courses to help and they were worried about teaching on the subject without one.

They needed a structured way to educate students on the impact of sexual and sexualised online content.

Research

And so we decided to create one. We spoke to dozens of educational experts, teachers and students to get a sense of what the issues were and produced an infographic outlining the results – which you can see it on this page.

Then we hired PSHE specialists to develop a course to meet teachers’ needs, finishing up with a four-lesson draft that we then ran through a series of pilots held in schools across the UK. As a result of those pilots, the course grew from four to seven lessons.

Revisions

Since our first complete course was released in 2016, we have now revised it three times. First, in 2019, we added an eighth lesson and expanded on several themes including consent and pornography.

We revised it again in 2021 and 2023 when we took feedback from teachers and the PSHE Association to do a complete refresh, with academic, legal and cultural references updated, an end to gender stereotyping, sharper teacher’s notes, clearer activities, and an updated design with the course made available in a single interactive PDF with an accompanying single-file Powerpoint file.

Government legislation

Around this time, the UK government responded to a growing chorus of voices from teachers and educational specialists and decided to make relationships and sex education (RSE) a compulsory part of the curriculum for younger children: a huge step in the right direction and one that has see the creation of dozens of courses that deal with issues ranging from healthy relationships to body image and consent.

However, the government has been wary about tackling the issue that both teachers and parents have told is their biggest concern: sexual content, including pornography. The RSE and PSHE curriculum has also overlooked a critical component of how young people learn about these topics: the internet.

Easy access to harmful material

There have been years of efforts to pass greater controls on the type of content that young people are able to see online but as of 2023 – and eight years after we started our work on @FirstSite – nothing has succeeded in preventing easy access to content that young people are not adequately equipped to deal with.

And while there are now many free resources available to help schools and parents deal with this complex area, none manage to address the full scale of scope of the problem and address in a way that equips young people with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to navigate their digital world.

From commercial to free

Which is why we continue to update and expand @FirstSite and why, after years of selling the course commercially, we decided in 2023 – with the issue only growing worse thanks to limited school budgets and the impact of the Covid pandemic – to make it available for free in the hope that it will achieve as wide a distribution as possible.

The end result is an eight-part educational course aimed at 11-14 year-olds that breaks down critical, current issues in a safe and age-appropriate manner. We hope you are able to make the most of it.


Related work

We undertook some related work as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in an estimated 1.2 billion children carrying out some kind of online learning.

It meant that young minds were often left unsupervised online for long periods of time and there was a significant amount of concern over whether they were effectively protected. As such, we looked at the complex world of parental controls. 

A majority of parents use parental controls to deal with their concerns over what remains a largely unsupervised activity. By far the greatest concern across all age groups was that children will see inappropriate content, followed by talking to strangers. But there were a number of other significant concerns, which varied widely depending on the age of the child. 

The absence of standards in both software and terminology, combined with a huge array of devices, apps and services, has created a level of complexity in the parental controls market that defies easy explanation. Parental controls are not static and change constantly as technology companies update their software. This has the knock-on impact that guides to parental controls quickly become outdated. Such changes have been especially significant in recent months as a result of the huge increase in online learning. 

We published our findings as a long-form report and in an infographic, which you can access here.


About IFFOR

IFFOR was established as an independent policy body to develop registration and abuse policies for the .xxx registry and continues to review those policies on an annual basis. You can read our bylaws here.

We develop and published guidelines, policies and educational material around the topic of online sexual content. We also run an annual grants program.

IFFOR is funded in large part by through a contract between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and ICM Registry. That contract is currently held by GoDaddy, a publicly listed company and the world’s largest domain registrar.

IFFOR comprises a Board and staff that work together in developing and approving IFFOR’s work. The staff comprises an Executive Director and Manager of Public of Participation, and an Ombudsman.