A photo posted on social media has reached more than 19,000 people and travelled as far as New Zealand, demonstrating to students the far-reaching power of the internet.

Staff and students at specialist Derwen College, in Shropshire, learnt first-hand how far an image can travel on social media when they shared a photograph online for Safer Internet Day.

Derwen College posted the photograph of Personal Development and Online Safety teacher Teri Ann Burgoyne and student Courtney Battams on to Facebook to see how many people in how many different countries would view the image in just five days.

The photograph was seen by more than 19,000 people, and was shared over 350 times across the world. People commented and shared from Australia, Abu Dhabi, Spain, Singapore, Mexico, Caribbean and New Zealand, as well as across England and Wales.

Derwen College – a residential and day college for students with learning difficulties and disabilities – marked Safer Internet Day on 5th February. Students also took part in a poster competition and workshops during the day.

Retail student Courtney Battams, from Oswestry, who has an aunty living in Las Vegas, America, said she had hoped that the photo would be shared widely in the USA. She said she was surprised by how many other countries also saw the photograph.

“I use Facebook and Messenger to contact friends and family. I can’t believe that the photograph went so far around the world. It shows that you have be careful and be smart online. The internet can be used for bad things as well as good. It is important to lock your Facebook page so that only friends can see it, and that you are only ‘friends’ with people that you know,” she said.

Teacher Teri Ann Burgoyne said: “At Derwen College we take on-line safety very seriously every day. We wanted to mark Safer Internet Day by showing how powerful the internet can be. It can be an invaluable tool when used sensibly but everyone needs to be aware of how quickly information can pass to thousands or more people.

She said: “We will use the journey of the internet photo as a resource in our continuing online safety programme. During our IT sessions we cover basic online safety, relationships online and the importance of a good digital ‘footprint’, especially regarding future employers. It is important that our teaching is student centred, and we try to tailor advice to the individual to create age appropriate information that is accessible.”

As part of Safer Internet Day, students designed posters offering tips and advice on keeping safe online. Student Bethan Charles won first prize, Sophie Bulaitis second and Thomas Price third.