E-safety Dynamic and Proactive Policies, Practices and Procedures through Dedicated Time for Lead Teachers

E-safety, as an aspect of the school curriculum, is a dynamic entity and an essential component in safeguarding.

Consequently, e-safety policies and practices can be viewed as having two strands. First of all, known risks in relation to privacy, contact with strangers and accessing inappropriate material (such as violence, pornography and hate sites, for example) remain a constant. In one respect, the key messages that need to be communicated to children are static and unchanging. For instance, not divulging personal details and contact information via social media and networking websites and the steps children can take when confronted with online material and communications that make them feel uncomfortable.

However, the rate of technological developments and digital applications demands e-safety policies and practices need to evolve and progress as and when new issues and concerns surface. It is this balance between static, or core e-safety education (which can be covered as a series of planned assemblies, an appropriate scheme of work and day-to-day highlighting of issues), and an appropriate reactive and proactive response, the non-static nature of e-safety, that poses the significant challenge for schools.

Let us take a relatively recent example. Sending photographs via text message, email and sharing online through social networking websites has been with us for a while now. It is reasonable to suggest that the potential for images to be copied, altered, forwarded and put into the public domain (whether for positive purposes or driven by more malicious intentions) is known and understood. With the advent of Snapchat, digital communications can be sent with the assurance they will effectively ‘self-destruct’ after several seconds and be deleted from devices and servers. Schools are then in the position of needing to rapidly respond to a form of digital communication and sharing of media that has the potential to undermine previous work with children on e-safety: if the evidence of cyber-bullying or inappropriate communications doesn’t exist, then all that is left is the impact on victims and the courage of others not to act as bystanders.

So, where does the static and dynamic model of e-safety leave those who develop policies and practices in school? Clearly, there is a need for the lead on e-safety to have sufficient time to be able to respond to more established issues in this area as well as emerging issues or anticipated safeguarding problems by having a current knowledge and understanding of technological and digital developments.

An e-safety policy should acknowledge that the lead has dedicated time to ensuring practices are proactive and not simply reactive. There is a need to protect time for the lead to regularly review and update Acceptable Use Policies for both staff and children as well as consider how parents and carers can be made aware of potential dangers and risks as technological and digital developments continue to progress at a rapid pace. Dissemination of information related to new risks and responsible use issues also requires the lead to invest time in continued professional development to ensure all colleagues have the knowledge and understanding to address e-safety.

Of course, stating that e-safety policies and procedures are in place (from a dedicated lead with adequate time for the role through to parental engagement) is different from accounting for the impact of steps taken. Evidence of impact, both qualitative and quantitative, is necessary to evaluate the success of e-safety education within the school to inform future priorities and demonstrate to OFSTED that this area of safeguarding has a high profile and the policies, practices and procedures in place are embedded. Once again, this brings us back to the need for an e-safety lead with adequate time dedicated to this area of work in schools.

So, how can this be taken forward in practice? A good starting point is to audit the current position using the questions below. Where an aspect is not in place or needs review and attention, then this should form the basis of action planning and projecting the time necessary to address these areas for development.

  • Is there a dedicated e-safety lead in place?

  • Does the school have an e-safety policy? Is it updated on a regular basis and in response to emerging issues?

  • Is there acceptable use document for children? What about a user agreement for staff?

  • Has there been staff training related to e-safety? Does this include all staff groups? For example, teachers, leadership and management as well as support staff.

  • Is there a proactive approach to getting e-safety messages across to children? For example, a planned series of assemblies, a scheme of work and so on.

  • Are parents and carers involved in the school’s e-safety work?
  • By establishing a baseline in relation to these areas, formulating a plan of action, schools can therefore progress towards stronger e-safety provision and develop clarity in the impact on the school, staff, pupils and parents and carers.

    If you would like to share your thoughts on the issues raised in this article, please let us know by using the comments section below

    Written by Jazz Williams on November 28, 2013 11:36

    Selfies and the development of cyber language

    I recently saw an advert for a smartphone with the strapline ‘putting the camera first’. Now call me old fashioned, but surely the phone should come first?

    Having an all-in-one device which incorporates a camera has changed the way we use photography in our everyday lives. It’s not that long ago that taking photo’s was largely limited to a roll or two of film used exclusively for family holidays and Christmas parties which had to be developed and turned into printed photographs (then undoubtedly stuffed into a drawer and forgotten about).

    Today though, taking photos is something which we are encouraged to do daily and then share via our social media network. And the latest trend for taking these photos it to take one of yourself, or taking a ‘selfie’.

    This week , Oxford Dictionaries classified selfie as their word of the year and defined is as:

  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary
  • It seems that the word also has derivations including belfie – a bum selfie, delfie – a drunken selfie and helfie – a hairstyle selfie amongst others!

    This spontaneous way of taking photos seems like harmless fun – and indeed in its purest form it is. Take for example the recent news about a young girl who took a selfie at a Beyonce concert and was delighted to get her icon in the shot (we could add the new phrase photobomb here too). That’s what selfies are all about, but it doesn’t take much for it to go wrong.

    It could start as someone posting a selfie online. Invited or not, comments could be made and potentially this could lead to (another term we are unfortunately becoming familiar with) cyber bullying.

    Or perhaps we should introduce another recent addition to common language – sexting. Sending or requesting inappropriate selfie images, or sexting, could lead to distress, bullying, blackmail or indeed criminal prosecution.

    The development of the mobile device and technology in general has given rise to a number of other phrases and meanings including smartphone (as discussed in our ‘Is that a phone in your pocket’ article) or it’s opposite dumbphone, tablet, android, iOS, live-stream, refollow, hackable, phablet, digital detox, MOOC, internet of things, BYOD....

    According to Oxford Dictionaries, technology remains the catalyst for new words emerging – and that can only be fuelled by how we use the technology we have access to. We must therefore ensure that young people become good digital citizens and use the technology responsibly.

    Image from Oxford Dictionaries Selfies Infographic

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on November 20, 2013 13:31

    Is that a phone in your pocket?

    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet."

    Words are important!

    Although there is ongoing debate as to the degree, most linguists would agree that the principle of 'linguistic relativity' suggests that language has an influence on certain kinds of cognitive processes.

    In short, vocabulary can effect not just the ability for an individual or society to communicate a concept, it may have an effect on their ability to formulate certain abstract concepts.

    In '1984' Orwell famously explores the link between language and cognition as his authoritarian state implements their created language "Newspeak" to make it impossible for people to think critically about the government.

    In everyday life we can cite examples of the sanitising of our own language through the use of euphemism to soften impact or deflect deeper thought. Corporate executives talk of 'down sizing' rather than 'mass redundancy' or the reality of putting people out of work. Our military reports on 'Collateral Damage' rather than civilian casualties.

    Whether by nefarious design or for social expediency, the use of these terms arguably lessen the emotional impact of the signal.

    Within a specific domain words are used to communicate meaning with precision. Where a lay person may attack the use of 'computer jargon' there is very good reason why a computer scientist may wince when someone says Internet when they mean World Wide Web - they are very different things.

    Language can be fun too of course. Where would a comedian be without the ambiguity in language that is the basis for all puns? The lyricist, novelist, playwright or poet would be rendered impotent without the tools for linguistic mis-direction, simile and metaphor.

    What has all this to do with e-safety?

    Well, let us consider the Smartphone.

    Although the term originated in the late nineties it is really the release in quick succession of Apple's iPhone in 2007 and the Google Android operating system in 2008 which defines the characteristics of what we currently think of as a Smartphone.

    Curiously though, if you list the features and functions of a Smartphone, those that would be considered to be characteristics of a telephone pale when stacked up against those which would be associated with a computer.

    Would it not be far more sensible for Smartphones to be known as 'Pocket Computers'? They are, after all mostly powerful computers in a small form factor with telephonic capability rather than telephones with extra features.

    For a while, the pocket computer and the mobile telephone coexisted, though the pocket computer itself had developed out of the 'personal organiser' - a glorified electronic diary and address book.

    As technology improved it was inevitable that the inefficiency of carrying two devices when the functionality of both could so easily by combined within a single box, would see their eventual combination.
    In fact, strictly speaking we should add the camera and personal media player to the list of discrete gadgets which have also be subsumed into this single class of device.

    There are several obvious reasons why the resultant devices would popularly derive a name evolved from phone as opposed to computer, among them:
    i) More people habitually carried mobile phones than personal organisers
    ii) The devices required monthly contracts with telephone companies for their primary network connection
    iii) Personal organisers had something of a corporate or work related air about them
    iv) Verbal communication is an extremely prominent facet of the human interaction
    v) Telephones are 'old' comfortable technology whereas computers still have a certain perception of geeky complexity to many

    It is partially recognised that these devices are not just 'telephones with extras', hence the coining of the term Smartphone.

    When it comes to e-safety, most problems are caused by a mis-perception as to the level of risk. Problems arise when inadequate precaution or education is put in place due to holes in knowledge or gaps in understanding.

    The concern is that if our language guides us to conceptualise Smartphones too much in terms of 'Telephones with extras' rather than as powerful portable computing devices, there is a real e-safety risk. Locking down a computing network or adding parental filters to computers in the home have no impact on a device which is capable of independent connectivity and can attach to any number of WiFi networks in cafes, shops and urban areas.

    Smartphones are capable of communicating with pretty much all the social networks and other online services which cause e-safety concerns.

    In reality, the capability these devices provide for computing, education, communication and organisation are extremely positive and do out-way the risks, but more can be done to mitigate potential problems.

    These devices are in the hands of young people and are in your schools and in your homes. They need considering with the same importance as other more obvious computing devices and where prohibition or technical encumbering of capability is not possible or appropriate, education must fill the gap.

    Now it is quite likely that the etymology of the word 'phone' will fall out of the public consciousness and be banished to antiquity along with many words we still use today, the origins of which have long been forgotten. In time the word 'phone' may well change it's meaning to 'pocket computer' or encompass whatever this device's next evolutionary step may be. Until that happens however, we must make sure that we don't underestimate the risks and capabilities of these devices by continuing to conceptualise them as being at their heart, a simple portable telephone because we lack the appropriate language to describe them otherwise.

    Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on November 13, 2013 16:23

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