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. and    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.

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 ,

and are often more knowledgeable about the internet than their parents,

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...

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.


  1. The media have caused the furore surrounding internet safety so I wouldn't expect them to help. School are the best places for this but schools need to be entrusted with the power to remove filters when they deem it necessary. For example, in the past if I wanted to teach my class about being safe on Facebook then I had to jump through hoops to get the filter removed. Thankfully now we have a school level filter in place and I can change settings whenever required. A much better and safer solution.

    1. Thankyou for responding. It's fab that you are able to control what goes on in your school ; it's how we get the message to the parents who don't interact with schools that is more of a challenge...

    2. just read your post.

  2. Hi Anna,

    A very well thought out blog, and an echo of what the vast majority of schools feel also. It is a huge dilemma to which there is no single correct answer. I entirely agree with Kevin's point, the majority of the media are very poor at assisting with this as it isn't news. The only exception I would make is The Guardian who openly welcome reporting from their informed readers.

    I look forward to the day when schools are able to do as they wish with internet filters; some countries (The Netherlands off the top of my head) do not have filters at all. It's a bit of a dilemma; many schools rely on the LA to effectively manage their filtering, but managing it and creating the right balance of appropriate/inappropriate is nigh on impossible to do. After all, the filter is just a piece of software, and unless there is a physical resource available to continually tweak (or individually manage on behalf of each school) the filter then you are relying on software to make human decisions.

    You are spot on with your comment about the "worried well". I have given many parents e-safety awareness sessions; invariably those that turn up are those that understand that there is something they need to know. But as with all situations similar to this, those parents whose children may be at risk will not bother, don't know, or simply don't care. Yet at the same time, it is those parents that need to be targetted the most.

    I think sometimes we really have to think out of the box on this sort of thing. Many parents will see e-safety as a technical problem, and you will get the same statements over and over again, "I don't understand computers", "My kids know more than I do." etc.

    My advice would be as follows - think of something where you get a good turnout of parents, what have they found interesting before? Take technology out of the equation. For example, the Christmas play is always popular (in most schools), open evenings are usually well attended. Instead of trying to teach the parents, get the kids to do it for you. For example, create a play/drama about cyberbullying; have the children blog about it; have them make a short film about it. By doing so the children are learning new skills whilst at the same time they are learning new life skills both for themselves and their parents.

    Another way to look at it would be to think of different ways to engage parents. Schools are now starting to create Twitter accounts for school/parent engagement. Facebook accounts are also starting to become popular. Managed correctly, these types of communication medium have many tangible outcomes for schools; lower costs of admin; parents engage more because that is what they are already using; communication is instantaneous for all manner of school messages, videos, pictures, school trips.

    Many schools will look terrified at the thought of using social media for engagement; many will blame the perception of e-safety risk as the barrier to not use it. As I say in my profile, e-safety should never be a barrier to innovative use of ICT - risk assess, mitigate, do!

    Best wishes

    Alan Mackenzie

    1. Thank you for your detailed response- I really like the idea of using times when most parents do come into schools- you have certainly given me much food for thought.
      I look forward to a day when we all learn to make the most out of the internet and our children are safe and savvy about it.