e-Safety – Are you meeting the needs of your learners?

messaging app iconsDo you know your Binweevil from your Club Penguin or Moshi Monster? How is your Minecraft?

E-safety is a broad area to cover from a teaching point of view. Not only do you need to address the issues that your pupils could currently be facing but you also need to start preparing them for issues that they may face as they get older. These issues were broadly defined in the research project begun in 2007 (1) as:

Content – what they view on-line

Contact – who they are interacting with

Conduct – how they behave in these environments

While they still provide an accurate summary of the risks today there have been rapid changes in technology, software and access. Ongoing research from Ofcom (2) has identified a range of common activities that young people engage in and, while there is more independence and time spent on-line for older children, there is evidence that children from age 3 have experience across all these areas. This research also highlights the importance of mobile technology, particularly smart phones, and the growing use of tablets across all age ranges. If Ofsted (3) are looking for ‘An age-appropriate e-safety curriculum that is flexible, relevant and engages pupils’ interest’ then this would assume that, as a school, you understand how your pupils and community are using the technology available to them as well as their concerns.

As part of a Cyber Safety project that Link2ICT are supporting for the Safeguarding Board in conjunction with the Bullying Reduction Action Group I recently facilitated a safety session with a group of year 5 and 6 pupils working on a Change Maker Programme at the POD in Nechels. During the discussions we found that they used a range of different technologies for accessing the Internet and interacted with a wide selection of software or apps, including one that was new to me! To give you an idea of the range, see how many apps you can identify from the image above. They were able to talk confidently about a diverse selection of web sites that they used regularly; one favourite for some being hungryhouse. The pupils were also aware of several ‘bad things’ that could happen happen with the use of technology including bullying and pornography; referred to as ‘nasty pictures or videos’ in their words. Interestingly for this age group, being ‘hacked’ was a particular concern for several of the boys as it had happened to older relatives.

With increased access and increasing ease of use, coupled with the use by older siblings, children, particularly from vulnerable or ‘confident’ families can be exposed to the range of risks from a much younger age and may not fit the typical age profile for e-safety resources. For example, when are children currently introduced to the issues in searching the Internet and at what age do they actually start using search engines? As with any other curriculum area, in order to meet the needs of their learners and deliver an effective e-safety programme, schools need to start at an appropriate level for their pupils and families. This will involve not only finding out how the community engages with technology now but also reviewing this on a regular basis to see how it is changing or evolving and adapting the curriculum accordingly. While this can be challenging for staff, they should understand that they will not be required to be an expert with all the latest technology or software but they should be confident enough to find out how they work and discuss the possible issue with their pupils. This is one area where your pupils can help and OfSTED (3) and the 360 degree safe e-safety self review tool (4) both recognise the role that young people can play in ensuring that you are up to date with the latest trends, with the latter stating ‘The school acknowledges, learns from and uses the high level of skills and knowledge of young people in the use of new technologies.’

Where should you start? With discussion; age appropriate discussions with pupils, parents and the community to allow you build a picture of their access, usage and experience as well as their understanding of the potential risks. From experience, this can be challenging, enlightening and disturbing but ultimately rewarding and will help you to continue to safeguard the young people and communities that you are supporting.

(1) Livingstone, S, and Haddon, L (2009) EU Kids Online: Final report.

http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/24372/ [25/04/2014]

(2) Ofcom (2013) Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, 2013 http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/media-literacy/october-2013/research07Oct2013.pdf [25/04/2014]

(3) OfSTED (2014) Briefings and information for use during inspections of maintained schools and academies; Inspecting e-safety in school. http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/briefings-and-information-for-use-during-inspections-of-maintained-schools-and-academies [25/04/2014]

(4) South West Grid for Learning (2013) 360 degree safe e-safety self review tool http://www.360safe.org.uk [25/04/2014]

One thought on “e-Safety – Are you meeting the needs of your learners?

  1. Hello Andy,

    I enjoyed this piece in which you put the need to be flexible and work in partnership with the young people really well. In the ‘Cybersurvey’ which I have run since 2008, it is fascinating to plot the change in ownership of Smartphones and the rise of tablet use in younger age groups – this has a huge potential impact on what e-safety should be taught and some kids list an enormous range of apps and sites which they use- keeping us on our toes! In my book I urge people to do exactly what you suggest – work with children and young people to explore the lives they actually lead in order to serve them better.
    If you ever need data for your work let me know. We collect it all the time.
    Birmingham tool part in 2008/9

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