Online safety

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Claire.
Categories: e-safety.

So we have all heard about the issues surrounding internet safety, however (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong) internet safety does not form part of the ICT curriculum for Primary education.  Learning about staying safe does appear in KS1 PSHE in the form of rules for staying safe (3g) and  different types of bullying (4e) although there is no direct reference about this relating to being online.  The same can be said for KS2 PSHE. There is mention of antisocial behaviour (2c), recognising and dealing with risks (3e), resisting and reporting pressure to conform (3f) and finding information and advice (5h).  But nothing points directly to teaching children about the risks of the online world.  So is it therefore the role of schools to be teaching children about staying safe online or should that be left to the individual parent?

My take on online safety is that, if we, as teachers are encouraging pupils to make use of the online world then we need to also ensure that those children do so safely and securely.  It is not enough to simply restrict their viewing to protect them from inappropriate material because what happens when they go home and there are no restrictions in place?  The same applies for social networking sites.  Many children now have access to the internet in their bedrooms or on their mobile phones and other internet enabled devices.  Rules are put in place to try to protect children, for example only those over fourteen years of age are supposed to create Facebook accounts, but how can this be enforced and regulated.  Many of my friends’ children now have Facebook accounts and some of them are not even ten years of age yet.  We hear on the news about those who predate innocent children who easily fall victim to the lies and twisted truths.  Surely then as educators we must ensure children are aware of the risks the online world can pose.

It isn’t just strangers who pose a threat online either.  More and more cases of online or cyber bullying are now being reported.  Once upon a time, children subjected to bullying could go home and shut the door on it so to speak.  That just isn’t possible anymore.  Cyber bullying is a constant and very real issue in many children’s lives, so much so that some children have found suicide to be the only means of escape – if only they had known about the wealth of support and advice available and how to access it.  Just because the bullying isn’t face-to-face, it doesn’t make it any less real, painful and important. So where then can you (and by you I mean anyone; child or adult; son or mother; friend; auntie; cousin or teacher) go for advice and support on cyber bullying?  The bullyingUK website offers support and advice on all aspects of cyber bullying to children, parents and schools as do Childline, , Beatbullying and Kidscape

Teachers can find resources to use in the classroom or assemblies etc from organisations such as the Anti-Bullying Alliance and Teachtoday which equate to more than just pupils producing posters.  Pupils could even role play and digitally record a cyber bullying situation, editing the footage to produce an anti bullying film.  This makes use of their skills in ICT as well as providing links to the Literacy curriculum, and as seen on the video shy pupils do not even have to be seen on screen if they do not wish.

But what about the more general aspects of online safety such as protecting yourself and your personal information.  Surely this is just as important as dealing with the cyber bully.  Many adults – and teachers are no exception – fall victim to privacy scams which may entail losing your life savings to a complete stranger on the other side of the world or losing your job through not being secure enough with your Facebook visibility settings.  Surely children need to learn the importance of the various aspects of online safety as they are the next generation of online users and who knows what that world will be like.  Ensuring you are safe online needs to become almost ‘second nature’ to children in order that they can be successful in this continually growing and advancing online world.

Teachers therefore need to be aware of the issues surrounding online safety.  Training packages such as those offered by eyepat can equip teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure that pupils are well educated in this area.  The ICT curriculum as it was, has now been disapplied, however ICT remains a compulsory subject.  This means that teachers are now free to deliver ICT teaching as they see fit and teach the elements that they and their pupils deem to be important.


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