We are already aware of the impact that the internet is having on our lives. As student teachers, we have learnt recently how easy it is to access information online and have been told to protect our personal information on the social networking sites we use. This awareness made me realise that there are a lot of risks to using the internet safely. Knowing these risks made me apply higher security settings on my personal social networking sites. I then realised that it is just as important for us, as teachers, to ensure that children know how to use and navigate the internet safely.
We need to teach children the appropriate tools and rules they need to ensure they stay safe online. I know that there is a lot about the internet and the new ways that it is being accessed that children can teach me! So it is also important that we listen to children’s concerns about using the internet and that we keep up to date with the latest advances in technology, to know where the potential dangers are. Through reading reports like Safer Children in a Digital World and the subsequent Byron Review Action Plan, I can see that teaching children how to keep safe online is not about excluding them from using it. It is about empowering them on how to use it to enrich their lives and education, whilst also highlighting and exploring potential risks.
The 3 C’s
After a lecture that featured e-safety, I realised that when I thought about the topic I only really considered things like cyber-bullying, online grooming and social networking as being topics that were important to talk about and be aware of. It is here that I would like to direct you to my blog post discussing the issues arising from the before mentioned lecture. Of course, these are extremely important but there are other issues to consider when teaching children how to use the internet safely. A summary of these, provided by Childnet, can also be found here and can be used as a helpful resource.
We will start with this as it is a topic that we see featured in news reports frequently. There is a constant fear surrounding the use of the internet of online grooming, particularly now with the introduction of social networking sites. It is a real and horrific issue that, unfortunately, many children have encountered. I think the important issue here is to make children aware of who they are talking to online and be vigilant. Sadly, it is not something that we can eliminate, but talking about it as a real issue will help children to understand it more and will give them the tools they need to seek help if they feel they are in danger.
Cyber-bullying is becoming more and more of an issue. This, in my opinion, makes bullying all the more terrifying as it does not just stop in schools, it affects children’s lives at home through constant messages and can, in some extreme cases, end in tragedy. Charities like the NSPCC and Childline are aware of the increasing trend of cyber-bullying and have set up advice and guidance for parents, children and teachers on how to tackle these issues. It is vital that we talk about these issues with children so that they feel they can talk about their own experiences and put an end to the abuse they are suffering.
Children will need to understand the limitations of the internet in terms of research. It is important to teach them to read any websites that they look at and check the sources and information carefully. Inaccurate content could lead to plagarism and mistakes in their work. Teachers need to be aware of certain websites that give inaccurate information and encourage children to use Google filters to help with their research.
Making children aware of what they are posting online is also important. Learning platforms such as DB Primary allow children to communicate with each other within a safe and controlled environment. Posts and messages are monitored by teachers and parents and students are encouraged to be whistle-blowers, reporting any messages which have offended them. If they are made aware of their own online identity they can start to be made accountable for the posts they upload. Teaching children how to blog and communicate successfully online is a good way to introduce this topic. Allowing and encouraging students to come up with their own code of conduct for blogging is an effective way to do this, as it will empower the children to think about what they are writing and set rules and boundaries for their posts. Recent reports have stated that boys are struggling with their writing. It has been suggested to give them topics that they enjoy to encourage them to write. Perhaps encouraging them to use blog posts as a way of expressing themselves could give them the outlet that they need and also tackle the need to get them writing.
Teaching children about how to set up privacy settings and junk mail filters is another important tool to keep them safe online. Making them aware of spam mail and getting them to see the pit-falls of e-commerce will make them more savvy internet users. I have heard stories of children downloading free apps onto their parents mobile or tablet devices. All fairly harmless, until the company wants you to download “additional” features and asks for credit card details. The child, already absorbed by the app, raids mummy’s purse or daddy’s wallet and gives the company all the information they need!
Making children aware of the information they give online and keeping passwords protected is also a good way to ensure safety online and I have seen this addressed in schools through the introduction of learning platforms. Children are encouraged to not give out personal details on the internet and to not share any passwords or protected information with anyone.
This cartoon from Childnet is a fun and infomative way for teaching younger children about the information they should not share online. It shows real children telling of their experiences online and will encourage conversation in the classroom.
What can we use to help us?
I think it is important for schools, teachers and children to work together to make sure that children can explore the benefits of new technologies safely in school and at home.
Here are some examples of posters and displays we have seen in our placement schools that promote e-safety.
Below is a video which I think could be useful to use as a starter to a discussion about e-safety in the classroom or as part of a teacher’s discussion for appropriate training. It was produced by Safeguarding in Schools, who offer training for schools about safeguarding in schools and online.
Thinkuknow is a website made by CEOP. It is split into helpful categories for teachers, children and parents. The children’s links are split into age appropriate resources, games and activities. The resources on here could be a helpful tool for getting children to think about being safe online and could be set as a homework task or introduced in a lesson. Among these is a cartoon called Hector’s World which is aimed at 5-7 year olds. These cartoons are entertaining and educational and cover every aspect of staying safe online. My particular favourite is cartoon 6: You’re Not Alone about cyberbullying. This is an interactive cartoon, where you can pause at various stages and ask the children questions related to the cartoon.
Childnet International aim to make the internet a positive and safe experience for children. Their aim is to highlight certain risks that children may come across and equip children with how to deal with them. I think this is a strong and powerful message for teachers as well as young people. When something is labelled as “dangerous” our immediate response is to run away or hide from it. Especially with the concerns surrounding the new ICT curriculum, which involves children and teachers taking risks and learning something new and challenging. By placing the power in the hands of the children, organisations like Childnet, CEOP and Kidscape hope that they can help children to explore the opportunities that the internet has to offer whilst also knowing where to go or who to tell if something goes wrong.
Through this webpage I have explored the various aspects of online safety and how to teach it by selecting various resources that can help. I have felt that this has informed my knowledge of e-safety and is something to consider when teaching computing and using technology in the classroom.
Resources and related articles.
http://www.kidsmart.org.uk/ – another really helpful resource with information if you work with or have children.
http://www.kidscape.org.uk/media/77835/ksdon_tbullyme-feb13.pdf – this is a helpful resource for dealing with bullying and has links to other helpful sites.
http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/safeguardingchildren/b00222029/child-internet-safety – useful information and articles on best practice.
http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/ – advice, tips and guidance for keeping children safe on the internet.
http://kidslearntoblog.com/blogging-for-kids-resources/ – excellent resource with links to get children blogging.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/9929832/Meet-the-children-blogging-about-their-world.html – stories from children who blog.