E-safety and the safeguarding of kids online is a top priority on all school agendas. As with most things in a digital world, it is an issue that evolves constantly. It simply wasn’t something people worried about 25 years ago, but with most people in the UK at all ages now having access to devices such as a smartphone and a tablet, it is now an issue that becomes more complicated with every new social media trend or device innovation. As difficult an issue as that it is, the education community needs to approach it in a more constructive and positive way and, most importantly, make it a learning experience for kids.
An alternative to the ‘cotton wool’ approach of overprotecting kids
Keeping kids safe is not all about putting up layers of protection. Although powerful tools such as internet filtering to block certain types of pages or apps have been effective, they can easily be bypassed or quickly made redundant by new technology or ways around them.
We need to teach our kids to become better consumers of information. If we view the issue of e-safety from the perceptive of misinformation, we can empower kids to recognise when information may be false or misleading in order to keep them safe using technology
To elaborate, we need to teach our kids to become better consumers of information. If we view the issue of e-safety from the perceptive of misinformation, we can empower kids to recognise when information may be false or misleading in order to keep them safe using technology. Not only will this help to gear them up to be able to recognise so-called “fake news” websites, but it will also help to instil a better understanding of when they might be receiving information from people who are likely to be a danger to them.
The internet needs to be presented and communicated to kids as a learning environment. A combination of tools and promoting digital citizenship is how schools ought to approach e-safety. With this approach, kids are much more likely to take these behaviours into the real world where the controls are not present. This also brings us to the notion that e-safety is very much a teachable concept and should be incorporated into early development learning.
Promoting digital citizenship is the key to e-safety
So, what should teachers do to promote better digital citizenship? In 1:1 device environments, where each child is provided with a device from the institution, the process can be structured and easy to tackle in schools. All programs should keep privilege and protection at the heart of them and should be tied into the classroom device management.
In order to guide kids through the digital citizenship journey, we recommend a ‘badge’ approach. Here kids earn privileges and increased access to certain apps or device features depending on how much knowledge and awareness of internet safety that they have gained. Once kids have completed certain modules, they can earn a badge, thereby demonstrating their ability in the area, but also showing teachers that they are engaged and have deepened their understanding in a specific topic such as cyberbullying or online safety. For example, if kids have earned a badge about the appropriate use of cameras, teachers can unlock cameras on their devices. With this approach, we can prevent the idea that we are preaching to kids or being didactic and telling them what they should or shouldn’t do.
In addition, building confidence is crucial. Recent research from Kaspersky found that most students in the UK were worried about going online. Although this at least shows recognition of the dangers of going online, it is really disturbing to see that this incredible learning resource is seen as a source of fear amongst kids.
Empowering teachers with mobile device management
Using a mobile device management (MDM) tool to facilitate a whole class of mobile devices will afford a number of benefits. Providing each kid with a device gives them a high level of autonomy during their learning and will provide them with confidence and the ability to learn more independently. However it is important that teachers have visibility into the work that students are doing on them and monitor them to ensure they don’t slip off task.
When rolling out a digital citizenship program, teachers also need to be able to provide differing levels of access to apps and device functions, such as music player for example. Device management tools can provide teachers with the ability to grant access to apps on individual’s and group’s devices. Furthermore, teachers are able to disable devices when they require students’ attention or if they feel that students are not using them in a safe way. They can then refer them back to different citizenship modules and ensure that values are being reinforced throughout the student’s learning.
Setting kids up to be safe in a digital world
To reiterate, we must move away from the idea of only building barriers to protect our kids and instead attempt to build bridges in which kids understand their places and responsibilities in a digital world.
This development of digital citizenship will not only improve the way that kids experience the internet but the way they behave online as well
This development of digital citizenship will not only improve the way that they experience the internet but the way they behave online as well. We hope this approach can reduce the crimes committed against young people online but also reduce cyberbullying as a greater sense of community is built in schools’ digital spaces.
Dave Saltmarsh is Global Education Evangelist, Jamf