The World Wide Web as we know it is now a little more than a quarter of century old, you could say it’s wiser and more mature than it’s 25 years on the planet! We really do live in world of constant connectedness for well, pretty much everything! The idea of ‘going online’ seems a bit old fashioned now when we are connected in a plethora of ways.

Thinking back to the history of ‘online safety’ education, it is now a decade since the specific resources and various ambassador programs were launched. With such a great investment over the years, have we really made an impact or merely struggled to keep up?

In schools and educational institutions we often hear from educators and learners that the ongoing battle for safer and more private digital experiences is more of a struggle than ever before. Indeed, groans can often be heard when ‘online safety’ is mentioned in the classroom.

The current political climate and trend has focused on exposing the dangers of ‘fake news’ and the importance of educating young people to spot said fakery. However, should we really be educating young people about fake news only? - or should we think more holistically and focus on the skills to be critical and question everything?

Perhaps, it is time to challenge the whole language of ‘online’or ‘internet’ safety education and move swiftly to an agreed common language of ‘digital literacy’ or ‘digital citizenship’.

So how can we do this?

Using digital technology in learning for positive, meaningful and culturally relevant experiences is a great start. Using G Suite Education apps and Google Classroom (particularly on mobile devices) can also provide real world digital experiences that build confidence and skills. These are illustrated in some examples below:

Profiles and Pics encourage learners to have a professional profile on their G Suite Education account, this helps to set a precedent for the future, it especially helps if educators role model this with their own professional profile pics.

Note! These can also be monitored and changed by the G Suite Administrator if required. It’s not good to have an image of a celebrity, fictitious person or someone else for example!

Group Chats The Classroom ‘stream’ provides a space for chatter and feedback in a safer environment, encourage learners to think about the groups they are in both in the Classroom and other social groups. Are their comments appropriate in each setting? Do they consider the age and maturity of those in the group to which they are posting?

Helpful Tip! Teachers have control to switch this feature on and off so can apply the settings when required.

Individual Feedback and dialogue with comments between the teacher and the learner within Google Classroom which are supportive can help to build the literacy skills for communicating one to one. Emojis and images are ok in the right contexts. Reflecting on how comments and conversations are perceived can help understand how we can communicate effectively.

Search skills are an important digital skill. Using Google Search to develop search skills where the advanced options can show the image rights and consent to use. To start the ideas of using images in Google Docs and Slides for presentations use the ‘Explore Function’ which helps to find images with the right image use permissions. Using Google Search for analysing sources of information and critically questioning sources and content, have fun with a Google a Day task. Wikipedia have great disclaimers on articles and advice to help learners question authenticity and sources.

A few basics at the start of any new learning experiences using digital technology is an opportunity to remind learners of some key principles that apply throughout our connected lives.

  1. Do not rely on privacy settings to safeguard your posts or information.
    Friendships change and even apps reporting to show you when someone has ‘screen shot’ your posts still have ‘work arounds’. The key message is think about what you post, would you be happy for it to be accessible publicly? If not then don’t post it even if it is to someone you consider a friend.

  2. Not Sharing Passwords
    The old adage of ‘keep your password like your toothbrush’ is still as relevant today - that is to ‘never share them and change them often’!

    Note: G Suite Administrators can help here with ability to reset and force password changes.

  3. Know who to turn to
    Ultimately there is one aspect of advice and guidance that has remained constant over the years and must always be reinforced above all else. That is having the comfort and confidence to know where to go and be able to talk to someone about concerns and fears, knowing how to report. A trusted adult, parent or carer, school staff or a good friend. Likewise, being able to help someone deal with a situation rather than suffering in silence is something we can all do.

  4. Keep a balance
    We may still use digital technology in being social, resting or active, and that’s ok! Watching films, taking images or recording fitness with trackers. Being mindful of having fresh air, moving and a break from knowing what the world is up to is an important digital skill too!

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