E-safety is a big topic. It’s big in the sense of being in everyone’s minds whenever they hear “technology” and “young person” in the same sentence. And it’s big in the sense of how much it covers: not just the usual, and possibly over-stressed, issue of “stranger danger” on social networks, but also other activities such as ‘sexting’ and breaching copyright online.
We do tend to think of digital safety in terms of victims or potential victims. But youngsters, especially older ones, can do quite a bit themselves to keep themselves out of trouble – if they know how. Teachers and parents have a huge role to play as well, especially as far as younger children are concerned.
However, there is a bit of a problem: teachers and parents don’t necessarily know all the answers. For example, do you know what online piracy looks like? It isn’t confined to the obvious, like downloading movies, putting them on a DVD and selling them at a car boot sale. A lot of it is rather more subtle, even innocuous.
Some teachers and parents may feel overwhelmed by it all. Say “cyberbullying”, and their eyes glaze over. “I don’t know anything about technology”, they say. “Whenever I have a problem, I ask my five year old how to fix it.”
Well, here is the good news: whether you’re unsure of yourself, or downright terrified, there is help available. On Tuesday 5th February, Safer Internet Day celebrates its 10th birthday. As you may know, there are lots of organisations concerned with e-safety in one form or another. Safer Internet Day brings them together through activities and resources.
Some of these are, to be frank, rather dry. Lesson plans that rely heavily on reading large tracts of text seem somewhat archaic. But the posters are colourful and make a good focal point for discussion.
There is a very good quiz available, on the subject of online piracy. I am ashamed to say that I did not achieve full marks. There were a couple of questions where I failed to select all the examples of piracy. And that, really, is the whole point of the quiz. Most of us aspire to be fine, upstanding citizens, but may breach some rules by accident.
Also available on the site is a very useful guide about sexting – not how to do it, I hasten to add, but what to do if you already have. It’s immensely practical and supportive, while not over-sugaring the pill. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that if someone under the age of 18 sends an inappropriate photo of him or herself, they will be treated as victims in the first instance, even though technically they have distributed child pornography.
Teachers have a pivotal role to play, standing as they do between the children on the one hand and parents on the other. They might, for example, point parents to the section on the Safer Internet Day website that deals with how to set up parental controls on their home computer.
Schools can get involved in all kinds of ways. It is definitely worth taking some time to explore the Safer Internet Day website. In particular take a look at http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/2013, which is a portal for several types of activity, and http://www.saferinternetday.org/web/guest/home, which is the Safer Internet Day’s home page. RM also have some resources available on the E-Safety section of the site.