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 Safeguarding Essentials 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 Safeguarding Essentials on July 25, 2013 10:06

Gaming Addiction

As teachers, we regularly come across some of the hazards of the addictive qualities of computer games. I'm sure you will be familiar with the students who enter the classroom in a dream-like state, collapse into their chair and promptly put their head down on the desk and when you enquire as to the reason for their exhausted condition they mumble something like "I was playing 'Call of Duty' until 1am". Similar situations, such as the one described above, are played out in classrooms across the country and I'm sure that student's obsession with computer games is one of the main reasons that homework does not get completed on time.

There is, however, a more sinister consequence to gaming addiction.

In 2007, a 13 year old Vietnamese boy from Hanoi strangled an 81 year old woman for just $6.20. When the police interviewed him he said he needed the money to fund his obsession of playing online games.

In 2008, a teenager from Ohio, Daniel Petric, was convicted of shooting his mother and father because they had forbidden him to play 'Halo 3'. In court, Daniel's Defence Attorney stated that he was obsessed with the 'Halo' series of video games, which he played 18 hours a day when he had the chance!

In 2012, an online 'Xbox live' skirmish pushed a 17 year old to exchange his joystick for a knife and a gun, enter 20 year old Kevin Kemp's home, shoot at him and stab him 22 times.

Research, such as the study that was carried out by Chih-Hung Ko, a neurobiologist at the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues in 2008, has proved that the extreme desire to play that gamers, who are obsessed by their favourite games, demonstrate, has the same neurological symptoms as drug addicts craving their next fix. The scientific study discovered that under MRI imaging the same areas of the brains of gaming addicts 'lit up' as those of addicts craving narcotics.

Dr. Ko's research was carried out as a consequence of the fact that there are now well over ten million people engaged in the online game 'World of Warcraft' and game statistics have exhibited that some players are spending incredible amounts of time playing the game - some spending 16 to 20 hours a day engaged with the game. This frequently results in their personal life acutely diminishing, they lose touch with their family and friends and their health deteriorates rapidly.

The phenomena of gaming addiction is increasing so rapidly that in the United States an online group, 'On-line Gamers Anonymous' ( www.olganon.org) has been set up with the aim to help gamers recover from personal issues that have arisen from excessive game-playing. Through an online community of recovering gamers, family members, friends and concerned others, OLGA hopes to support those at the early stages of addiction but encourage professional help to players who maybe exhibiting more serious symptoms. OLGA also exists as a one-stop shop for the gathering and collating of information and research on this new and not necessarily fully understood condition.

It would be easy to dismiss gaming addiction in young people as purely extreme self-indulgence by immature, lazy, teenagers who need to get a grip and concentrate on 'real life'. With the considerable number of people around the world now playing computer games however, coupled with the highly addictive qualities that game designers engineer into their creations, this attitude would appear to be remiss and irresponsible as plainly the condition of gaming addiction is very real and set to increase at a rapid pace. It is imperative therefore, that more research needs be carried out to fully understand what triggers the condition and to discover what are the best methods of treatment.

As teachers, it is our job to offer information, awareness and knowledge and to educate people, both young and old, of the dangers becoming addicted to computer games, to ensure that individuals can recognise if they themselves or a friend or relative are demonstrating symptoms that could indicate that their passion is becoming a dangerous addiction.

To assist you in preparing for your lesson or assembly plan on gaming addiction here are some helpful websites:

www.video-game-addiction.org - This is a great American site that offers advice to both parents and teenagers on the condition. It offers an explanation of the addiction, describes the symptoms in both adults and teenagers, the different consequences of the condition and possible treatments.

www.videogameaddiction.co.uk - Although this is a commercial site (part of ADT Healthcare) it contains a lot of detailed information that is clearly explained. There is also additional information on Internet Addiction.

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wlmj0 - This BBC Panorama site contains some excellent short videos that would be really useful to break up the pace of a lesson and clearly show how computer games affect some people.

www.newvision.co.ug/news - This article describes the deceptive behaviour that some computer game addicts can exhibit. It describes how the condition impacted on children, and one child in particular, in a village in America. It is interesting as it describes the different perceptions of both parents and a primary school teacher.

If you would like to share your teaching tips on tackling this with your students, please add your comments below. Alternatively, visit our lesson plans and assembly plans page for ready-to-use teaching resources supporting this topic.

Written by Steve Gresty on July 18, 2013 10:16


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