Presents unwrap more than paperWith Christmas just around the corner, many children will be hoping for the latest iPhone X, or indeed their first ever phone. Two weeks away from schoolmates and with a new device at their fingertips, children are vulnerable to making online mistakes as they excite in the joy of their new gadget and the opportunity to connect with their friends.
These gifts open them up to a whole new world of fun, opportunity and risk.
These digital kids are no different to children of old – they crave attention and they want to push boundaries and what better way to do it than through social media? As their family sit relaxed enjoying the Christmas TV specials are they aware of just what their children are doing online?
Schools throughout the country offer excellent online safety education and strive to use new and innovative ways to keep the children engaged on the topic. However once children are in the comfort and safety of their own home, perhaps bored due to the lack of structure the holiday brings, they can start to take risks.
By the time the term begins, pastoral staff can find themselves with a queue of children and parents all concerned and upset about social media incidents that have taken place in the holiday period and spilled into the classroom. There is only so much the school can do – parents need to understand that giving a child a device is opening a can of worms.
A step by step approach is needed, no child is allowed to jump on a plane to New York unaccompanied – freedom is given gradually over time, starting with trips to the local shop, then town and so on. Yet with the online world it tends to be all or nothing. Parents need to engage with the online world and replicate the step by step approach to parenting that occurs offline.
As teachers all you can do is signpost your families – they need to know that as the world evolves so does the online offering. Filters on wifi are an easy win for parents, this is not about not trusting your child when they search for things, more ensuring they are protected from images they most likely do not want to see. ChatFOSS is also a useful app – it enables families to communicate with each other in privacy without contact from others – and has an age rating of 3+. It is a great environment for children to practice sending messages and photos.
Whilst teachers strive to educate children about the online world and the opportunities and risks it brings with it, parents also need to be engaged. Easier said than done but it is time parents realised the responsibility of online behaviour has to lie at the door of the parents. Schools can be helpful and offer advice and training, signpost their parents to useful apps such as ChatFOSS and websites such as Internet Matters, but without the parents being involved children will learn the hard way – online mistakes are permanent and there for whole world to see.
E-safety Support would like to thank Alicia from ChatFOSS for her thoughts on this topic. For more information about the ChatFOSS service, click here