Three e-safety aspects pupils need to know

Keir McDonald

Keir McDonald MBE started EduCare thirty years ago with just a handful of talented people. At the time, he had little idea that his company’s learning programmes would end up teaching more than three million people about duty of care issues. In acknowledgement of his work and achievement in safeguarding children, Keir was honoured with an MBE for Services to Children in 2012. EduCare's newest training programme is on child exploitation and online safety.

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We teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, not to talk to strangers and what to do if they get lost in a shopping mall, but how much time is spent telling kids how to make safe choices online?

For today’s generation of children, making safe choices pertains to physical as well as cyber environments. Children today do not know of a life before the internet. It is more important than ever that our school pupils are informed about the inherent risks of going online.

Here are three ways for teachers to bring e-safety into the classroom.

1. Making Safe Choices About Sharing on the Internet

It’s important for children to understand that the internet is a public domain. Many children don’t understand the consequences of sharing inappropriate information on the internet. The ideal time to begin this conversation is around seven-to-eight years of age, when they’re in Year 3.

An effective way to teach children about appropriate sharing on the Internet is to use real-life examples. Teachers can begin by sharing with students a specific example where someone shared something inappropriate on the internet. Perhaps cite mistakes made by public figures such as one of David Cameron’s many Twitter gaffes or Miley Cyrus’ numerous online mistakes.

Older students can also write or talk, maybe with a partner, about a time they shared something online and regretted it. For all ages, it’s important to also discuss the consequences of these actions.

After sharing, follow up with some role-play identifying things that are ok and things that are not ok to share online. This is simple but extremely effective in that it gets kids thinking about the fact that it’s not safe or smart to share some things online.

2. Understand What Information to Share and With Whom

After introducing children to the concept that some things, such as photos or content that could be hurtful to someone else, should not be shared online, spend time talking to students about confidential information like passwords.

Children create online usernames and passwords for things like school programs, game websites, social networking, and posting photos every day. Because teachers often monitor these passwords, children don’t think twice about sharing these passwords with parents and even friends. It’s important for children to learn when it’s okay to share passwords and make sure kids know that the first rule of internet safety: keep passwords secret.

Here teachers can role-play scenarios like sharing passwords with friends, discussing where passwords get written down or when and what it’s okay to share via email.

3. Identifying Safe Websites

Part of teaching kids e-safety includes introducing them to vocabulary like ‘download’, ‘computer virus’, ‘block’, ‘stranger’, ‘personal’ and ‘cyber-bullying’. Teachers can then initiate a classroom discussion about specific websites that students visit while in school.

Consider keeping a list of safe websites to create a resource that kids can use when they browse the internet. If possible, photocopy the list so that students can take them home to share with their families.

How do you introduce your pupils to e-safety? Let us know in the comments.

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