Some practical approaches to e-safety

Written by: Terry Freedman | Published:
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A key part of today’s safeguarding agenda is e-safety. Technology expert Terry Freedman lists some of his preferred e-safety resources – for schools, parents and students

Keeping young people safe online is, not to put too fine a point on it, a nightmare. For a start, there are all kinds of ways that students can put themselves at risk, or be put at risk. Then there is the indisputable fact (backed up by research) that “net-savvy” teenagers may know what they shouldn’t do online, but then do it anyway.

Fortunately, there are lots of resources available online for teachers, governors, parents and students.

In this article, I highlight some excellent resources under a number of categories. Do, however, look through all the categories, as some resources could easily fall into two or more sections.

A quick-start guide to e-safety

This is not intended to be a definitive list of things to do, but a few broad suggestions. First, the school needs a proper e-safety policy. By “proper”, I mean that teachers and students know about it – and know what to do in certain situations.

Second, as implied above, the policy needs to be seen as the responsibility of the whole school, not just the IT technician or the headteacher.

Third, there needs to be practical guidelines and periodic training. Would you, for instance, know what to do if you caught someone sexting photos to another pupil?

Fourth, the governors or, in the case of academies the trustees, need to be on the ball.

Fifth, parents are often even more at sea than many teachers when it comes to knowing how to keep their children safe online. Work with them by pointing them towards useful resources and perhaps even holding after-school e-safety classes for them.

Policy templates

You don’t need to start from scratch when it comes to creating or updating your school’s online safety policy. The South West Grid for Learning has some free downloadable templates to get you started: http://bit.ly/2sloBl5

An increasing number of schools are adopting Responsible Use Policies, as opposed to Acceptable Use Policies. The former take the approach of asking students to take responsibility for their (potential) behaviour — often by getting them to draw up the guidelines and rules themselves. For more information, see the ICT & Computing in Education: http://bit.ly/2t07iYD

Dr Neelam Parmar, director of e-learning at Ashford School in Kent, speaking at a Westminster Education Forum conference about online safety in January 2017, gave an interesting insight into responsible use policies in relation to her own children: “I initially set up a contract with my three children and we wrote down terms and conditions, what would work, what wouldn’t work, when we can use the technology. On Monday and Thursday, the kids don’t use it, and then on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they get to use it for an hour in the morning and the evening.”

While the substantive aspects are of little use in a school setting, note the statement “we wrote down terms and conditions”.

Teacher resources: general

There are a number of very good resources for teachers to draw on. The NSPCC has several useful research reports, such as one on the characteristics of children who display harmful sexual behaviour. The site is well worth a regular look: www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/

Clearly, you will need to know Ofsted’s views on safeguarding, which in this context is broader than e-safety as we usually think of it because it includes the Prevent strategy as well. Here is a useful overview from the Safeguarding in Schools website: http://bit.ly/2tnKlSv

A very good American website about cyber-bullying is http://cyberbully.org/. It has guidance for kids and parents. Although its scope is somewhat narrow, the resources are very good.

Computing classroom

If you teach computing (or even if you don’t), think about addressing e-safety through a curriculum project. For example, your students could undertake a survey of how people keep themselves safe online (or not), and involve local resources such as inviting the community police officer to come into school and give a talk. Computing students could take all this a stage further by creating apps to address e-safety matters.

Research

According to a report published by the UK Safer Internet Centre, “almost a quarter of young people (23 per cent) say they don’t know how to control who can see what they post on social media, with only half (51 per cent) saying that they always think about what personal information they could be sharing before they post a photo or video online”. Power of Image Report, UK Safer Internet Centre, 2017: http://bit.ly/2tX3Ca7

Reading research reports may sound daunting, but it’s an essential activity. By reading reports from Ofcom you can find out what issues you need to focus on. For example, Ofcom’s research has included a focus on young people’s media use, how parents try to keep their children safe online, and other pertinent issues. See: www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data

I stated earlier that young people may know what they shouldn’t do, but be tempted to do it anyway. Why might that be? There is plenty of evidence now to indicate that people’s brains, especially the part that is able to assess risk, are still developing even into their 20s. This 2015 article from Psychology Today about why teenagers take risks cites various research projects, and will give you some insight into the issues: http://bit.ly/2tjOkPx

Fake news

Post-truth, alternative facts, fake news: whatever you wish to call it, this phenomenon presents some e-safety issues because many young people consume all of their news via social media. Recently their have been calls (as there are periodically) to have youngsters taught digital literacy in schools – as if they weren’t already. Here are some useful websites for students to use:

  • If you’re not sure if your newspaper or news channel is giving you the facts and nothing but the facts, look it up on the Media Bias. It will tell you where the organisation lies on the political spectrum and how reliable its “facts” are: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/
  • For articles (mainly American) that have been fact-checked and fake news/gossip exposed, try: www.factcheck.org
  • A UK fact-checking site with an interesting section on automated fact-checking and fact-checking tools: https://fullfact.org/
  • Politifact is another American site, but check it out anyway – especially its “truth-o-meter” section: www.politifact.com and www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements

For governors

Governors are, ultimately, responsible for the school’s e-safety policy and practice. This document tells them what to look out for, and answers a series of crucial questions: Online Safety in Schools and Colleges: Questions from the Governing Board, UK Council for Child Internet Safety: http://bit.ly/2sPXvWQ

Resources for students

The British Board of Film Classification is the body that gives certificates to films. One of the resources on its website enables students to watch film trailers and, using the BBFC’s criteria, have a go at rating the films themselves.

While this is not to do with e-safety as such, by putting students in the position of having to make judgements about whether a film is “safe” for children to watch, it should help them become much more aware of the factors that make something “okay” or not: http://www.bbfc.co.uk/education-resources/student-guide/rate-a-trailer-landing

Teenagers (especially girls) are often put under peer pressure to do things they would be better off not doing. Childline’s “Listen to your selfie” campaign is an attempt to encourage youngsters to listen to their intuition: http://bit.ly/2t020wc

Finally, resources that have been around for a while, but which are effective include:

  • The National Crime Centre (formerly CEOP) has powerful videos and other resources for students, parents and teachers: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
  • Two classic campaigns to raise awareness include the Everybody Knows Sarah campaign video about the dangers of exposing too much of yourself on a webcam and the Once Posted You Lose Control film: http://bit.ly/2uhdTxc and http://bit.ly/2tjNUZ2

Resources for parents

Several websites contain useful information for parents. This can range from how to set up controls on internet access, to recognising when your child has seen or experienced something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Have a trawl through them or give the list to parents in your next school newsletter. And tell parents to look on their broadband supplier’s website: there should be a section on how to set up controls on that specific platform. Other useful resources include:


  • Terry Freedman is a freelance writer, trainer and speaker on education technology. He publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org


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