Nikki Giant, author of E-Safety for the i-Generation, gives her expert advice on how schools can introduce effective e-safety education to help children stay safe online.
She has also created a simple audit tool to help assess and develop e-safety policies and practices which can be downloaded here
Our children and young people are the first generation to be born into the connected world we often take for granted. They are so-called ‘digital natives’, having never known a life without the internet, mobile phones, online gaming, instant chat and social networking.
Adults can remember life pre-internet and mass technology, and this helps us to appreciate the enormity of the tools we use so frequently, appreciating the risks as well as the benefits. Young people have no such awareness and often lack the maturity, consequential thinking skills and self-awareness to acknowledge unseen dangers and predict future mishaps. As increasingly younger children become technologically savvy, and more young people have blanket access to the Internet and advanced technologies through smart phones, internet-ready gaming devices and tablets away from adult eyes, it is crucial to implement e-safety education, policies and procedures to build safe and responsible behaviour.
E-safety is the safe and responsible use of information communication technology (ICT), including computers, the internet, mobile and communication devices, and technological tools that are designed to hold, share or receive information. E-Safety education can encompass a vast array of themes that complement ICT and the Personal Social Education (PSE) frameworks, while a whole-school approach to e-safety is a comprehensive, coordinated and cohesive effort to raising awareness and educating all members of the school community, including:
- An e-safety policy, outlining the school’s stance on the safe and responsible use of technology;
- E-Safety themes included within the ICT or PSE curriculum, such as understanding communication in the digital age, how to stay safe online, cyber bullying, and online etiquette;
- A technology code of conduct for pupils and staff to understand school rules and their responsibilities;
- Including cyber bullying within the school’s anti-bullying policy;
- Support and education for parents, such as a parents’ evening session on e-safety; information leaflets; information on the school website, etc.
As ‘digital natives’ many children are often far more proficient at using technological tools than adults, and for many teachers there is a gap in knowledge and experience that can make teaching e-safety difficult. Getting to know the tools is a good first step, particularly social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter which are often used as tools to harass, bully and intimidate – issues that will undoubtedly be brought into school. Using outside organisations to deliver sporadic e-safety sessions can also enrich the ICT or PSE curriculum and ensure that e-safety education is relevant and timely.
Classroom teachers and subject leaders may also want to consider the following ideas to address e-safety with pupils:
- Work with your School Council or Peer Mentors to create a lesson or assembly that can be delivered to younger pupils – they will receive the e-safety message far more readily than if it were delivered by adults! Feeder primary schools can even team up with their secondary to bring trained pupils in to deliver a similar e-safety message.
- Put in place e-safety rules for using computers or school technology. Agree these rules as a school or class and display them prominently next to any school computer.
- Participate in activities or awareness-raising for the annual Safer Internet Day held in February.
- Hold a cyber bullying workshop to educate pupils about being a bully or bystander online during National Anti-Bullying Week (19-23 November).