Parents need help navigating e-safety issues

As technology advances at a dizzyingly rapid pace, its ubiquitous nature can’t help but influence and impact on young people’s lives; however, being part of the digital generation, they have an inherent ability to engage with and embrace new innovations with fervour.

And here lies the problem.

The intrigue and excitement of discovering and being part of a new digital innovation, whether it be a new computer game or social networking website, blinds the child to the possibility that there may be issues or dangers associated with their participation in the new application. Traditionally, it has been the parents or carers of young people who have been the steadying voice of guidance, to take care riding a bicycle on the road or climbing a tall tree; however, with online attractions some parents find it virtually impossible to keep up with and understand the latest game or website their offspring is ‘hooked up’ to and therefore lack the awareness of the very real risks and dangers that their child could be exposing themselves to.

Some parents may feel that, because they happen to use sites such as social media they are fully aware of the dangers; however they may act misguidedly, like the mother in Colorado who, in refusing her daughter’s pestering to be allowed to use social media, used an image of her to demonstrate how quickly something can go viral online. Unfortunately, the stunt back-fired and resulted in the mother receiving abuse, along with messages criticising her for using the image of her daughter as an experiment to prove her point.

Schools, local area learning grid organisations and other educational websites have begun to recognise the problems that parents face with regard to this issue and are steadily putting a variety of measures in place with a view to informing and assisting parents in keeping their children safe online. These measures focus on a broad range of issues such as:

  • recognising the signs if you think child is being cyber-bullied,

  • the need to establish time limits with regard to your child’s online activity,

  • teaching your child about the potential dangers of posting personal details on social networking sites,

  • understanding what ‘sexting’ is and the danger it poses to young people,

  • the importance of checking that the computer games a child is playing, are age-appropriate,

  • how a lack of quality sleep, as a consequence of too much gadget activity, can affect behaviour and impact on a child’s education and achievement,

  • how to use the parental controls that are provided by internet service providers,

  • the issues associated with illegal downloads and file-sharing.
  • There are a number of resources available from E-safety Support that schools can use to boost their communications with parents and therefore provide information and assistance in understanding about social media and new technologies. Resources include online e-safety training for parents.

    In this day and age, it is no longer acceptable for parents to plead ignorance and to simply allow their children to disappear into their bedrooms with their computer, Smartphone or tablet and hope or assume that they are not engaged in any online activity that is either inappropriate or potentially putting themselves or others in danger. In the same way that parents have traditionally guided children in physical world, it is now their responsibility to educate themselves and raise their own awareness regarding the issues and dangers of the virtual world and demonstrate vigilance and provide guidance to their children regarding their online activity and behaviour.

    If you have any hints or tips on how to help parents navigate e-safety issues and would like to share them with other teachers, please let us know by using the comments section below.

    Written by Steve Gresty on May 29, 2014 10:08


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