E-safety education and the role of the parent

In the last few weeks we have had news about internet filtering to block adult content, celebrities falling victim to ‘sexting’ and yet more stories about students and teachers suffering from cyber bullying via social media platforms. Add to that the plethora of new sites appearing that encourage participation from young people, and you can begin to see the enormity of the e-safety risks children face.

As teachers, there is a responsibility to safeguard pupils inside and outside the classroom which can be achieved with lessons and assemblies on e-safety, as well as enabling students to help the school develop and deliver the e-safety policy. But should it stop there?

The Guardian recently reported that research by Plymouth University showed that while parents appear to be confident about how safe their children are online, they are avoiding the difficult conversations about ‘sexting’, cyber bullying and so on. "There is a disconnect between how safe parents think they can keep their children online and their actual ability to do that," claimed Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University.

It’s easy to understand why parents may find this a difficult topic, not least because of the new language and internet slang which has developed with the increase in online participation. But there is also the issue of privacy – in research carried out by mobileinsurance.co.uk, 60 % of parents of children as young a 6 do not check mobile phone use for fear of invading their privacy. It goes without saying that parents need to help in the campaign to make sure children are safe in any environment and that includes online. First, however, it seems that we may need to educate them too.

If you would like to share your thoughts or tips on involving parents in e-safety education, please use the comments section below. Alternatively visit the E-safety Support Parents Pack for more information.

Written by E-safety Support on July 30, 2013 09:53

Is censorship of adult content the best way to educate children?

With the news this week that the Government is to impose ‘family-friendly’ restrictions on internet services, there are many welcoming the change. Any measures that can be implemented to help protect our children can only be a good thing.

But is, ‘family-friendly’ filtering there to stop the potentially corrupt and dangerous or is it there to stop the innocent? Children will be prevented from accessing adult content while the adults will have the ability to turn the filter off and view anything from the good to the bad and the frankly disturbing.

If we are worried that viewing adult material at a young age will have detrimental affects on today’s youth, do we take the option of tackling the situation head on or is a prohibitive approach the better option? Do we help them to learn what is right and what is wrong (as we would with many other topics such as healthy eating, social awareness and so on) or do we hide things away? Is filtering a sensible approach or is it just avoiding the issue and hoping we don't need to confront it.

I’m sure many of us were told as children that we were not allowed to do something and, of course, we did it anyway. Curiosity has a lot to answer for, so perhaps we should to let them explore, knowing what they might find and being prepared to discuss it. However, you wouldn’t let a child play with matches, we know that is dangerous… the debate is endless.

There are a good many pros and cons to the filtering solution, but as long as safeguarding is at the root of the decision rather than censorship, then there has to be some merits. However we mustn’t become complacent. This is not the only risk on the internet – so we can’t assume that our children will be safe once the legislation is in place.

If you have reactions to this topic or related ideas, share them in the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on July 25, 2013 10:06

Sexting isn't just harmless fun

Last year, NSPCC reports found that the rate at which teenagers are being pressured to text and email sexually explicit pictures of themselves has accelerated in the last few years. These demands were also found to have come from peers rather than from adults or strangers.

A survey carried out by the US organisation, The National Campaign, found that:
• 20% of teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude pictures/videos of themselves.
• 39% of teenagers have sent sexually suggestive messages.
Teenagers send the majority of these sexts to boyfriends, girlfriends or other people they knew. However, 15% of teenagers who have sent nude/semi-nude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

Prior research has shown that many teenagers have sent sexual texts, emails, images and videos. However many have not learnt what the risks are, and what the law says about sexting.

When BBC Reporters asked Tarporley High School Students for their views on sexting, 15-year-old Lizzie said: ‘I don't think the dangers of sexting are clear enough to young people. I think lots of young people think it's just for fun and there's a really dangerous side to it.’

Many teenagers and adults may think sexting can be exciting and fun, but there are many possible consequences, such as sending the sexual messages/images to the wrong person, the person you sent them to may share them, or the images/messages may accidentally be discovered by others if phones were lost. Another key issue regarding teens and children sending sexts is that youngsters can be vulnerable to be pornography charges because, when the sender and/or receiver is underage it is considered child pornography, making it illegal.

Sexting cases are often in the news, including the recent case of three school students who recorded mobile phone videos of drunken sex acts with fellow teens; authorities said they then shared them among themselves. These teenagers face up to 20 years in prison with the charge of child pornography.

It’s vital that children and teenagers are taught about the dangers and consequences surrounding sexting in school and at home. They may see it as fun, but if any of their images/messages are found not only is it likely they will be embarrassed, but they could also face serious charges.

If you would like to share your teaching tips on tackling this with your students, please add your comments below.

Written by E-safety Support on July 05, 2013 13:57

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