Digital Christmas - Tips for Parents

Buying new tech for your children this Christmas? Don’t forget about online safety


Smartphone ChristmasIt’s that time of year again, and with the Christmas shopping well under way (at least for the prepared) many of us will be buying digital devices for children, with technology continuing to feature high on those wish lists for Santa.

This year’s top gaming consoles include the Xbox One X, which was released on November 7th with its timing (just ahead of Christmas) being no coincidence. It retails for just under £450, but if Microsoft’s price tag turns you off, then there’s always last year’s Sony PlayStation 4 Pro, which is available for just £300.

Children’s fascination with tablets doesn’t seem to be waning either. Whilst sales of adult tablets have continually declined over the last three years, specially designed tablets for children under ten have remained popular. This year sees the Kurio Tab Advance and the LeapPad 3 on the recommended lists. These give parents the reassurance of a 'safe' web browser or no Internet access and games and pre-loaded apps which are appropriate for children.

It’s when children reach the age of ten or eleven that the desire for more sophisticated technology sets in. Young people may well become frustrated when they can't get the same games or apps as their friends have on Android or iPad. Devices such as the Amazon Fire 7 offer a happy medium, allowing parents to set up password-protected profiles so they can give each child access to only the books, games and apps they want them to see. But what happens when children reach an age where they want to interact with their friends online? Games consoles have always been highly targeted at the teenage market. Once designed solely for playing games, consoles are now connected to the Internet to allow a more interactive and collaborative experience. Consoles today don’t just allow gamers to play games with others, but also allow them to exchange photos, engage in live messaging and even ‘host’ parties online.

Despite being very different devices, games consoles and tablets carry similar risks for young people. A recent study of 11-16 year olds held by Kaspersky made for interesting reading. Whilst 23 percent had been asked personal or suspicious personal questions online, as many as 20 percent said that they trusted the gaming platform so much that they would see no problem meeting contacts from it in real life. Nearly a third of the children in the study said that their parents had no idea who they talked to when they played games.

In the UK, a similar study held by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) at Oxford University — which analysed Ofcom data from 515 homes with 12-15 year olds — found that eight percent of those who had been interviewed had been contacted by strangers. Four percent said they had encountered another person pretending to be them online and two percent had seen something of a sexual nature that had made them uncomfortable. Their parents were also interviewed about whether they had used technical tools to control or manage their child's access to online content. Only one-third of the parents said they used content filters, with two-thirds (66%) saying they had not. One quarter (24%) of the parents did not know or were unaware of the filter technology at the time of the interview.

But whilst filtering might seem like a quick fix, one that can be ‘switched on’ and then forgotten about, questions still remain about whether this is truly an effective way of protecting young people. Even the best filters are never completely watertight, and on the flip side, some filters can be so strictly configured that they can over-block, preventing teenagers from accessing helpful content on topics such as sexual relationships or drug and alcohol abuse.

Rather than prioritising Internet filtering, the OII study (amongst others) suggests we should place greater focus on educating and supporting teenagers about using the Internet responsibly, with emphasis on how teenagers manage online experiences that make them feel uncomfortable or scared. Parents should start the conversation about online safety at a young age, so more serious conversations about risk can be discussed as the child gets older. Once young people know that their parents understand what can happen online, it gives them greater confidence to approach parents for an open dialogue about any concerns and bring to light any negative experiences they might have had.

Does your school hold regular workshops with parents about online safety? The run up to Christmas can be a great time to have these conversations before the winter holidays. Engaging parents provides a more holistic approach to online safety, building a better school community and one that takes a proactive approach in helping families stay safe, as recommended by Ofsted.



Engaging parents with resources from E-safety Support


ParenttrainingscreenshotIf you’re looking for resources to help you engage parents, E-safety Support offers a number of resources; including parent packs, e-safety factsheets and guidance documents specifically for parents. There is also an online training course designed as a simple introduction to e-safety which will provide some much needed information to help parents start to understand possible e-safety problems and give them a foundation for making decisions about technology usage within the home.

To preview the resources and training courses available, join our free membership service

Written by E-safety Support on December 07, 2017 11:44

Digital Christmas

Presents unwrap more than paper

With Christmas just around the corner, many children will be hoping for the latest iPhone X, or indeed their first ever phone. Two weeks away from schoolmates and with a new device at their fingertips, children are vulnerable to making online mistakes as they excite in the joy of their new gadget and the opportunity to connect with their friends.

These gifts open them up to a whole new world of fun, opportunity and risk.



These digital kids are no different to children of old – they crave attention and they want to push boundaries and what better way to do it than through social media? As their family sit relaxed enjoying the Christmas TV specials are they aware of just what their children are doing online?

Schools throughout the country offer excellent online safety education and strive to use new and innovative ways to keep the children engaged on the topic. However once children are in the comfort and safety of their own home, perhaps bored due to the lack of structure the holiday brings, they can start to take risks.

By the time the term begins, pastoral staff can find themselves with a queue of children and parents all concerned and upset about social media incidents that have taken place in the holiday period and spilled into the classroom. There is only so much the school can do – parents need to understand that giving a child a device is opening a can of worms.

A step by step approach is needed, no child is allowed to jump on a plane to New York unaccompanied – freedom is given gradually over time, starting with trips to the local shop, then town and so on. Yet with the online world it tends to be all or nothing. Parents need to engage with the online world and replicate the step by step approach to parenting that occurs offline.

As teachers all you can do is signpost your families – they need to know that as the world evolves so does the online offering. Filters on wifi are an easy win for parents, this is not about not trusting your child when they search for things, more ensuring they are protected from images they most likely do not want to see. ChatFOSS is also a useful app – it enables families to communicate with each other in privacy without contact from others – and has an age rating of 3+. It is a great environment for children to practice sending messages and photos.

Whilst teachers strive to educate children about the online world and the opportunities and risks it brings with it, parents also need to be engaged. Easier said than done but it is time parents realised the responsibility of online behaviour has to lie at the door of the parents. Schools can be helpful and offer advice and training, signpost their parents to useful apps such as ChatFOSS and websites such as Internet Matters, but without the parents being involved children will learn the hard way – online mistakes are permanent and there for whole world to see.

E-safety Support would like to thank Alicia from ChatFOSS for her thoughts on this topic. For more information about the ChatFOSS service, click here

Written by Alicia Coad on November 30, 2017 13:44

The 3 Rules Of How To Criticise Your Child’s Teacher Online

If you’re reading this post, the chances are you’re a parent, with a child or children who attend school and if you’re not, then you probably know someone who is. If you are a teacher, you may wonder why we are publishing this article - please read on


Online BullyingRarely, these days, does a week go by, when we don’t hear coverage on the news about cases of online bullying. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this phenomenon, tagged as ‘cyberbullying’, is mainly aimed at children, such as the tragic story of 14 year old Megan Evans, from Millford Haven, who, in February 2017, was driven to take her own life, following a consistent campaign of cyber-bullying on the social media site Snapchat.

Such stories are particularly heart breaking when they involve children. Equally concerning though is the increase with which teachers are on the receiving end of similar bullying and abuse and often from the parents of the children they teach.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) receives hundreds of calls every week from teachers who are being ‘cyberbullied’ The majority of such complaints are about parents using websites and social media, in particular, to attack those they entrust with their childrens’ education.

This week, the media has emphasised the problem of inappropriate online posts by singling out some of the top web and social media sites for failing to do enough to prevent illegal and hateful content being shared online.

Criticising Online Has Become Too Easy
We live in a world where anyone can instantly vent their emotions, positive or negative, to an ever-attentive online audience and it seems that the louder we shout the bigger the audience that can be reached. An angry tweet or Facebook post, from a disgruntled parent, aimed at a teacher, could potentially go viral within minutes of being shared, without that teacher being aware that their reputation is being dismantled online while they sleep.

Remember the days of pre-social media and even before email, when you had to write a letter? If you had a complaint, you would invariably put it in writing or visit the school in question, sitting down face-to-face with your son or daughter’s teacher and thrash out your concerns in a reasonably civilised manner. Only the most abrupt and confident of disgruntled parents would resort to name calling or verbal abuse, when sitting in the same room as the person they had issue with. Much of what is posted on social media today would rarely be said if that person was face-to-face with their intended target.

Criticising Teachers Online Affects Your Children
As long ago as 2009, research from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) showed that 63% of teachers who had suffered cyberbullying personally said they had received unwelcome emails. Over a quarter had had offensive messages posted about them on social networking sites such as Facebook and 28% described being sent unwelcome text messages.

Online Teacher BullyingIn 2016 More than half of the 1,188 head teachers who replied to a survey by schools management service, The Key, said that parents' online behaviour was a problem. 15% of the heads themselves, mentioned that they had suffered from negative behaviour from parents. More than half of heads surveyed said that parents’ online behaviour was a concern.

The NASUWT teacher’s union has described the online bullying of teachers by parents and pupils as a ‘growing trend’. It’s important to understand how the result of this behaviour can affect the children of those parents who are taking to social media to vent their frustrations. Teachers are experiencing anxiety and depression, paranoia, often having to take anti-depressants. The result of these measures means that teachers are becoming worn down and in some cases, unable to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This of course has a negative impact on the children they teach. The more the parents persist with their online attacks, the less effective an education their children receive. In short, such online abuse is self-defeating in the long run.

How To Criticise A Teacher Online
There is one over-riding rule, when it comes to criticising a teacher online and especially in public and that is DON’T! Hold your horses, count to 10, whatever you do but resist the all too easy temptation to fire off a tweet or a Facebook post. Let’s face it, when you use social media in such a way you are hiding behind your very own Facebook wall. The person your criticism is aimed at cannot defend themselves, at least not adequately. This approach is itself a form of bullying - is that how you want to come across?

The 3 Rules Of How To Criticise Your Child’s Teacher Online

Rule 1. Stop and consider what you want to achieve from your criticism.
Are you angry and your criticism is simply a way to vent your frustration? Aside from momentarily getting the anger off your chest and most likely upsetting the person the criticism is aimed at, what will your comment achieve? Will it improve the situation you’re unhappy with? Most forms of criticism, unless constructive, can be categorised as aggressive behaviour. The definition of aggressive behaviour is a personal attack, verbal or physical on another person. This type of behaviour rarely gains the support of others, directly involved or those who observe the attack (other online viewers).

Rule 2. Consider the impact your criticism may have on your victim.
That late night, emotional tweet or post-beer Facebook post takes only seconds to construct then share but its impact on the person it’s intended for can last a lifetime. One of the earliest and probably most famous ‘victims’ of online abuse, goes back to the administration of former US president Bill Clinton. Monica Lewinski, who Clinton finally admitted to having relations with, talked about the severe suicidal tendencies she experienced in the aftermath of her affair and the torrent of online abuse she received; her mother would stand in the bathroom whilst Lewinski showered, to make sure she didn’t act on her feelings. Why does online humiliation have such an impact though?

Shame and guilt (perceived or real) are 2 of our core emotions, which we’ll do almost anything to avoid experiencing. These emotions mean that we have failed to live up to our own moral standards. One outcome, when we’re criticised publicly, is that we become concerned that others will think we’re a bad person, this can have a devastating impact on some people, creating a spiralling down of their own self-worth. Social media and its potential reach, simply exacerbates this feeling of poor self-worth. Is your criticism worth the potential consequences that it may cause?

Rule 3. Criticise the action not the person
Chances are that it’s rarely the person that you’re unhappy with. More likely, it’s a behaviour or an action you believe they have taken that is the cause of your anger – focus on that action or behaviour only. Teachers are people, sometimes they get things wrong, it’s human nature. To criticise someone’s character (“you are stupid, an idiot, an imbecile) implies that you know this person well enough to suggest these are this person’s permanent character traits. If this were true then it’s unlikely that this person would ever have become qualified as a teacher. Identify the specific behaviour or action you’re unhappy with and if you must criticise online, stick to that issue. When you complain about an action or a behaviour then facts can be assessed to determine whether the criticism is warranted or not. When you attack someone’s character, then it is far more difficult for you or anyone else to justify your actions. It is unsurprising therefore, that people who display regular patterns of aggressive behaviour, have few real friends or supporters.

The University of Oxford’s ‘Practical Ethics’ publication, which draws on research from students and researchers, based at the Philosophy Faculty, also explains an irony in the behaviour of people who attack others online. ‘The people who feel the most insecure about a certain character attribute (e.g., being honest) are also the ones prone to call out other people on it, this is known as self-completion theory. Such public criticism is a symbolic act that achieves self-completion and makes people feel secure about themselves.

There will obviously be occasions when you have legitimate causes for complaint about the quality of the teaching your child is receiving. Teaching is no more a perfect science than any other form of vocation – people make mistakes, they make poor decisions, they are fallible. How about you, can you boast a blemish free life, personally or occupationally?

It is your right to criticise your child’s educators, when you feel the quality of teaching or care falls short of the expected standards. You should do so however, with the intention of improving that quality of education and care. If you criticise simply to put someone else down, then you lower yourself to the level of the playground bully.



We would like to thank Steve Phillip of Linked2Success for this article. Steve will be hosting our Digital Reputation webinar in July - to find out more and register, click here.

If you would like to share your thoughts or experiences with other teachers, please use the comments section below

Written by Steve Phillip on May 04, 2017 12:29


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