Busting the digital native myth

We are hearing more and more about the ‘digital native’ generation – young people who have grown up with a world of information and technology at their fingertips. But does this culture of being in natural surroundings breed the expectation that this generation are also safe in the environment.

Let’s take a few steps back…

It’s fair to say, my Dad knows a thing or two about computers. He had the opportunity in the 1970’s of operating a computer, which (without exaggeration) filled an office the size of your average classroom. Moving into the early 80’s and we had the raft of personal computers that came onto the market (for the nostalgic, these included the ZX81 through to the Amstrad CPC – we really were cutting edge in our house!). So when the world wide web arrived, we had that too.

Having seen the developments over the years, this generation has also understood the need to proceed with caution. Things didn’t always go right. So as each new technology came onto the market, so did the need to understand the risks and perhaps steer clear. So my Dad, despite being familiar with all the technologies, doesn’t have any social media accounts and is planning on keeping it that way.

Moving onto the next generation (that’s me) and things are a little different. I was lucky enough to have a mobile phone when I was 19, it was a Motorola – the one that looked like a brick (and weighed about the same). You could make calls on it and that was it. I remember life before the internet and actually having to go to the library if I wanted to research something. Now for me, online activity is something that I will happily engage with, but I know to have different passwords, understand that emails asking for my bank details are most likely phishing and I know exactly who all my Facebook friends are.

So what about these digital natives. I recently asked some young relatives how they could access the internet. They spent the next few minutes reeling off a list of phone, TV, Xbox, laptop and so on. So they do understand that they have a vast amount of access to the internet, but now, going back to my Dad, he tells me that he has had to re-install his computer twice because something has been downloaded or accessed by one of the grandchildren that had put a virus on his machine. One of the kids also has a Facebook account, but doesn’t know personally all the people on it (just in case, I got his parents to check out his account), and another is regularly inviting comments about her and her friends on her profile page.

These are the things that indicate that this digital native generation, while completely comfortable in the online world, are not aware of the risks that they are taking, not to mention the digital footprint they are leaving behind. Is this familiarity with the social media world actually putting them more at risk than the cautious generations before them? The technological times are moving so fast, that simply keeping up is hard enough without having to keep up with the dangers too.

Perhaps it’s not a generation of digital natives, but rather one of the digitally naïve.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 24, 2013 15:40

The Student View

I've been working closely now with Digital Leaders for about 2 months now and it's been fascinating seeing how students work and engage with the internet and social media. As much as these are really good students and tech-savvy with ICT, it has been enthralling to see how they go about engaging with each other on the internet and using the tools available. The nature of this group also allows me to have more full and frank debates on the topic of e-safety outside of normal class discussions.

When discussing e-safety with the students, I was surprised to see how little they actually cared about this issue. They actually understood the idea of child protection, and stated that they had been told this from a really young age. I guess this is the same principal as 'don't talk to strangers' in primary school, and by the time the students had reached year 9/10 they actually didn't seem that bothered. One of the things I did ask them was how they thought they were perceived on the internet (the idea of digital dirt) and again, this didn't seem to bother them. However, when I suggested finding an open student profile and displaying it in the classroom they seemed mortified, so maybe this is a way of showing them how they show themselves to the wider world.

However, I also discussed with them something we covered this year in the areas of viruses, spyware, malware etc. and they said this was one of the more interesting takes on e-safety that they have had this year. They found this more insightful and said they were more likely to think about how they use Facebook in the future than before with the idea of online predators (I did a starter activity on Digital Forensics and the students really loved it!)

Of course, online predators is one aspect of e-safety not to be overlooked, but maybe we should challenge how we approach this topic. The idea that people are watching you on the internet is a scary thing, but nowadays with the sheer amount of information that we (all) are used to putting online, maybe we should revisit the idea of e-safety. Should the idea be to tell students not to put personal details online OR should we teach them what happens when we do and let them make their own educated decision?

Written by Ben Gristwood on March 25, 2013 14:59

5 rules for teachers using Facebook

Like the majority of people, you're probably using social networking sites on a regular basis to keep up with friends, share your holiday snaps and tell people what you've just had for lunch.

However, as an educational professional it’s important to realise that pupils will naturally be curious about your personal life outside school and may try to find out more about you. The internet and social networking sites can make that very easy and leave your information and images at risk of being misused.

Here are some basic things to do to protect you from abuse of your privacy and personal information.


  1. Firmly decline student-initiated friend requests and do not initiate any yourself.

  2. Manage your privacy settings and keep these under review, particularly in regard to photos.

  3. Ensure your settings prohibit others from tagging you in any photos or updates without your permission.

  4. If you're just starting teaching and taking up a new post it could be a good idea to audit and re-evaluate the information available about you online and who has access to it.

  5. Consider that conversations held online may not be private – be aware of who may have access to what you post.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on March 26, 2013 16:00


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