The internet is a wonderful place for children to learn and keep in touch with loved ones, but there’s always threats that are difficult to protect them from. We spoke to Rosalind Brookman of Broadband Genie about some of the steps we can take to help keep children safe online.
Online safety in schools
Technology is now an important part of a student’s learning experience, both at school and at home. Along with the many positives that this can bring, however, it also creates many areas of concern around exactly what students may be able to access.
Schools can ensure that their own devices are rendered safe for pupil use, by equipping their IT network with the correct filters and monitoring systems to prevent inappropriate content being viewed and which will flag up any concerns but students’ personal smartphones and tablets present a trickier problem.
Encouraging thoughtful online behaviour
Monitoring or removing personal devices from students is not an effective answer to keeping them safe on the internet. Pro-actively teaching them to demonstrate positive online behaviour is more likely to protect them in the long run and is something that can be incorporated throughout all aspects of the curriculum, not just during IT lessons.
Pupils should be helped to identify the boundaries (including the legal implications that could arise from inappropriate online actions) they should adhere to in terms of good internet practices and the consequences outlined in school policy if they deliberately overstep them. For their own safety they need to understand the potential ramifications of posting personal information online and can be reminded that their mobile devices should not be left lying around so that others can access their private data.
All schools should already have a tough anti-bullying policy in place, and it is vital that the whole student body is clear that this includes a zero tolerance approach to all forms of online harassment, or cyberbullying, as well. Students might receive threats of physical abuse or psychological intimidation; or the humiliation of somebody posting unwanted photos or derogatory messages on social networking sites. With practically everybody owning some sort of mobile device nowadays cyberbullying can become a continuous and inescapable pressure for its victims.
Teachers need to be vigilant for signs that a child is being bullied online: withdrawal from classroom interactions or social activities, the sudden drop in standards of school work, drastic changes in appearance or personality, signs of depression or self-harm and a greater obsession with checking their mobile device, followed by extreme behaviours could all point to potential cyberbullying.
There should be a transparent and robust strategy in place for those who are victims of cyberbullying. Teachers need to ensure their pupils know that any worries they have around this issue will always be taken seriously and that there is a defined action plan that can be used to help them deal with it. They should be advised to keep any evidence that they are being bullied (take screen shots etc.) and to report abuse via the specific buttons on their social media accounts as well as to a trusted adult. School can provide an anonymous drop box, email address or hotline for this if necessary.
Technology is a huge asset to education and a stimulating motivational tool for schools. A forward thinking teaching structure, along with support from parents at home, can help to foster a positive and confident online school community as well as creating a safe pathway for children to explore and assertively resolve issues around negative conduct.
Keeping children safe online is a paramount issue. We would love to hear your views on this below.