Sunday, 25 November 2012
Internet safety and our children
Since reading this article posted by a fellow tweecher earlier in the week, I have been unable to stop thinking about the importance of education regarding internet safety.
Along with the majority ( I think) of teachers , I am a "digital immigrant" having been born and educated at a time pre social networking and internet access . Today's school children and students could be described as " digital natives" having been immersed in the super technological world we live in today.
Don't get me wrong; I am certainly not against social networking, blogging (I would be somewhat hypocritical if I was!) and the use of the internet in schools. I am looking forward to a time in school when ICT is fully integrated into every aspect of my teaching. ( As it already is in many schools)
The article highlighted the dilemma we face in schools: to filter, or not to filter?
There are plenty who say not to filter because it is our role, as educators, to ensure that children are taught how to use the internet appropriately.http://ianaddison.net/flexible-filtering-in-school/ and http://www.josepicardo.com/2012/05/why-schools-must-teach-social-networking/ are most interesting reads and present a case for not filtering and embracing the use of social networking.
On the other hand there are those who say that we must act to protect the children we teach , so must block/filter web sites. http://www.esafety-adviser.com/blog/2012/08/31/a-pragmatic-view-of-internet-filtering-from-the-perspective-of-school-and-la/
I agree with both sides of the argument.
HOWEVER I see the issue as a far wider one than we can deal with in schools. Yes, we can run parent workshops, we can send home guides, invite police and CEOP in...but that only works for the 'worried well' and certainly not everyone.
Children are accessing the internet from earlier and earlier ages ,http://www.childwise.co.uk/media/CHILDWISE%20MONITOR%202011-12%20press%20release.pdf
and are often more knowledgeable about the internet than their parents, http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/security/3283597/uk-kids-spend-42-hours-a-week-social-networking/
So, how DO we protect our children?
In my opinion we should be teaching children how to use social media safely, yes in primary schools too- children are using facebook and other social networking sites and not talking about it isn't going to stop it.
What is as (if not more) important is that parents need to be taught how to help their children to be safe online and how they are responsible to monitor what their children are accessing.
This is a bigger issue than we as teachers can deal with.
In my opinion, this is something that needs to be tackled by the media which is accessed by the vast majority of the population. Nadine Dorries was mistaken in thinking that her time on , "I'm a celebrity" would get her message across . It is widely known that most of what goes on in "reality shows" never makes it past the editing room floor. However, she did have a point in so far as more people vote on these shows than in elections...http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20441840
Viewing figures for soaps are at similarly high levels- is there a reason why they cannot do a public service and demonstrate safe and appropriate internet use as part of the "day to day life" they show. Not in wall to wall shock tactic storylines, but in a way that shows parents having open discussions with their children,
I am not suggesting that this will suddenly turn the situation around, but surely it would be a step in the right direction? As a primary school teacher I worry about the internet content that children can access. Have my hands tied about what I can and cannot teach them in schools.
I know that many schools and LAs have relaxed their filters and that this has worked well for them. How we can address the issue of what children are accessing at home I am not sure. I shall continue to follow developments through the news, twitter and education forums and remain optimistic that internet safety will be given a higher priority both within and beyond the education system.