Do rather than don’t

We need to give young people the opportunities to be empowered digital citizens, says Will Gardner

Do you think most teaching and non-teaching staff can now recognise and are aware of e-safety issues? 

Childnet turns 20 this year and in that time we’ve seen levels of awareness about e-safety issues among school staff improve dramatically. The majority of schools now have policies in place to prevent and respond to e-safety concerns, and most will cover e-safety awareness too. It’s great that e-safety is now part of the computing curriculum for primary and secondary schools. However, technology is constantly changing, and it can be challenging for schools to stay on top of the latest trends. While staff may be aware of (and may have been affected by) e-safety issues, they may need support to have the practical knowledge to respond to these issues and to talk to pupils about their use of technology – particularly when it comes to challenging topics like sexting and pornography. This is why training for all staff is so important, though we know it is consistently one of the weakest areas for schools.

How can schools ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training?

There are many opportunities to provide online safety training to staff. Childnet has a free INSET presentation that schools can use to deliver online safety training by themselves, or you can book a training session with our team. As technology changes at such a rapid pace, it can be helpful to keep staff in the loop with bulletins about new apps and services. Why not subscribe to Childnet’s newsletter to stay up to date with the latest tech trends and resources? One helpful approach to staying up to date is to task young people with creating these bulletins, or getting them to help deliver staff training. Next academic year we’ll be launching our Childnet Digital Leaders Programme to support young people to become e-safety champions in their school, so watch this space!

Would you say that most children are now aware of the online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?

Many young people are aware of online risks, but there is a risk that some young people think that ‘it wouldn’t happen to me’ and so when it comes to how they behave online, they’re not always following the advice they know about how to stay safe online. That’s why it’s so important that we give young people realistic examples that they can relate to, to help them realise how easy it can be to trip up online and do something you might regret. To help young people stay engaged with the topic, our education team focus on the do’s rather than the don’ts and give young people practical and balanced advice about getting the best out of the opportunities that technology affords. We know that most young people want to help create a better and kinder online community, and we need to give them opportunities to be empowered digital citizens.

Is it important to involve students in the development of any new e-safety policies? How can we do this?

We think it’s essential to include young people in shaping all aspects of your school’s e-safety provision. Not only are Ofsted looking out for this to identify outstanding practice in schools, it means that schools will develop policies that are meaningful, alive and evolving – rather than collecting dust in a filing cabinet somewhere! As we mentioned earlier, we’ll be launching our Childnet Digital Leaders Programme to help schools use student voice effectively to transform their e-safety provision, but schools can get started now by having a pupil consultation and setting up a student working group.

How can schools educate and support parents with online safety?

Schools provide a hugely important role in helping parents to get to grips with their child’s digital lives. We have lots of great advice that schools can share with parents at www.childnet.com/parents-and-carers and www.saferinternet.org.uk/parents. Schools could send parents advice and reminders, run a parent session, invite them in to your school’s Safer Internet Day activities, or why not encourage pupils to host a drop-in social media advice clinic for parents? It’s a challenging area for parents and carers, but the most important thing they can do is have an open dialogue with their children. Schools can play an important role in providing the spark to ignite these conversations!

Will Gardner is CEO of Childnet, and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre.

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