It is clear that we need to raise young children with a safety-first mentality towards the internet, but data from October 2017, released by Facebook in partnership with Childnet International and The Diana Award, has shown that teenagers also want more information about online safety. Teachers are“Teachers are working in a minefield of websites.” working in a minefield of websites and forums that have the potential to lack any meaningful regulation. The good news is that the government has stepped in by making internet safety a compulsory part of the Computing curriculum and, while it is up to many providers to update their products to be accessible to all age groups, they are increasingly being held accountable for creating a safe space.
Educators and carers are responsible for priming children for these dangers by teaching them how to recognise and avoid them. Schools are integral in protecting children online from risks of radicalisation and cyber bullying. Many schools have put programmes in place to teach pupils about the risks and how to protect themselves. But in an area that is constantly evolving, what can school leaders do to keep up with the changes?
Top tips for leading the pack in online safety
1. Take advantage of free tools: My top advice over anything else is to make the most out of free resources, such as the auditing tool from South West Grid for Learning. I really recommend it for senior leadership teams and governors wanting to build strategic action plans.
2. Do not limit teachings to Computing lessons: Embed teachings on online safety discretely throughout all areas of the curriculum, Computing and otherwise. And teach it to all ages. Do not assume that your digital natives are fully equipped, or that young children are immune to the risks of the internet. Some academics have recently called for Internet Safety to be taught in crèches!
3. Involve parents in online safety teaching: School is not the only place where children will be accessing the internet and it is important that the strategies learned in school are supported at home. Children are often way ahead of their parents in the tech realm, but parents can keep up by using built-in features on most devices and social networks to monitor and limit what children have access to. A bit of guidance sent home can go a long way in protecting children online.
4. Utilise online resources to develop age-appropriate content: Websites like digital-literacy.org.uk and childnet.com/resources provide free content on topics that will be relevant and digestible for different age groups. Approaching topics like identity theft and the effects of social media can be difficult, but when experts have broken it down for you, why not take advantage?
5. Take charge of your own knowledge on these topics: With new technology developing all the time, it is essential for school leaders to be proactive in educating themselves on potential risks, as well as staying up to date on the potential rewards of new technology. This can include attending events on the topic, tuning into special reports, or engaging in social media conversations.
6. Put the students in charge: Many schools are experimenting with digital ambassadors or e-safety Cadets schemes to bring students into the conversation and empower them to safeguard their peers. These initiatives can lead to practical improvement in how the school tackles online safety issues by promoting peer-led efforts.
We are working in a world where children are increasingly entwined with technology and the internet; teaching them to work with it safely and appropriately is one of our biggest tasks as 21st Century teachers. Rest assured that we are all learning how best to do this together, and that there is an abundance of resources available!
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