Internet Safety

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Do you know enough about online safety?

Children are active users of digital playgrounds and protecting their safety online is paramount.

However, according to research for SWGfL by Professor Andy Phippen from Plymouth University, some schools are not protecting their children adequately including the fact that,

40% of primary schools only had a basic filtering system in place and 6% had none at all. It also highlighted that 55% of school governors and 50% of staff had received no online safety training. Policies around technology were also poor with 35% of primary schools having no policies around mobile phones.

Shocking figures. Ofsted has found that staff training to be inconsistent, even when it was thought to be adequate by head teachers or governors.

Data protection policy?

Professor Phippen has also found that almost 35% of schools have no data protection policy in place, despite being legally responsible for secure storage and management of sensitive personal data about children and young people.

In Invisibly Blighted: The digital erosion of childhood, Sandra Leaton Gray and Andy Phippen make the point that,

“Perhaps the most concerning of these is the lack of training of both staff and those who are expected to hold them to account in their data protection and safeguarding responsibilities…This can place the institution at risk, and staff are also ill-equipped to deal with behaviours by the pupils in their care…”

Undoubtedly there are major weaknesses and schools are constantly being told “do more” but with a serious lack of resources and training, this makes the challenge of keeping children safe online even harder especially as schools are judged more on their exam results.

Digital mental health might be making all the news but schools desperately need support and can’t go it alone.

Growing Up

In its recent report ‘Growing up with the internet’, the Lords Select Committee on Communications recommends that Digital Literacy is crucial for children to navigate the online world and should sit alongside reading, writing and mathematics as the fourth pillar of a child’s education. It also recommends that schools should teach online responsibilities, social norms and risks as part of mandatory, Ofsted-inspected Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education.

This report builds on ‘Growing Up Digital’ by the Children’s Commissioner for England in which Anne Longfield called for a step change in how we prepare children for a digital life to develop their resilience, information and power. It notes that,

Children themselves say they do not always trust teachers to understand online safety.

Although schools have an online safety policy in place, these are mostly written by senior leaders, teachers and governors. Fine, you might think but student involvement in writing these policies and the involvement of the wider community is crucial. As things stand, their involvement is shockingly low.

Help, Advice, Resources

So what can schools do and where can they go for help?

1. 360 Degree Safe

One tool that all schools need to know about is the multi award-winning 360 degree safe – this is a free to use online, interactive self-review tool that enables schools to review their online safety provision and develop an action plan to bring about improvements.

Lots of schools use 360 degree safe to identify strengths and weaknesses, involve the whole school population and work towards a nationally recognised Online Safety Mark.

2. UK Safer Internet Centre

Another must-visit is the UK Safer Internet Centre, a powerful partnership of  SWGfL, Childnet International and Internet Watch Foundation with the joint mission of promoting the safe and responsible use of technology for young people.

They provide some really teaching resources and advice as well as providing a professionals helpline and a safe and anonymous hotline to report and remove child sex abuse imagery and videos.

3. digitalawareness.uk

One of my ‘always go to’ destinations for help, advice and inspiration is www.digitalawarenessuk.com, one of the UK’s leading online safety organisations run by @DigitalSisters. They have partnered with Girl’s Day School Trust to create a unique collection of short films to help parents and children stay safe online and to empower families to use social media safely and responsibly.

There is also a powerful video from @HMC_Org and @DigitalSisters that is well worth showing to your class to make everyone think about the impact technology has on our lives. This is bound to generate lots of discussion and will prompt some behavioural changes.

The Lords Select Committee on Communications recommends that the Government establishes the post of Children’s Digital Champion. What we should also be pushing for is the appointment of a Children’s Digital Champion in every school and the resources above would help to go along way in supporting a designated professional execute a role of vital importance.

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project manager, writer and editor. I am the teacher without a tongue. www.johndabell.com

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