The increased use of technology in education has empowered students and teachers alike with ways to enhance classroom lessons to make learning more effective and enjoyable. At the same time, technology has become a cause for concern when it comes to staying safe online.
Our children are growing up in a generation that knows no daily life without access to the Internet, online gaming activities, social networking, mobile devices, and chat applications. They are born into a world that has become more and more connected. This is coercing parents and schools to be more proactive in protecting children from online dangers while offering all of the positive aspects technology has to offer in the classroom.
Taking a look at the flip side, parents, teachers, school administrators, caregivers, and other adults that look after the well-being of the younger generation can remember what life was like before the Internet and the mass use of technology that keeps us constantly connected. Although most adults understand the benefits and convenience of being connected, they also understood that there are risks.
As young children are introduced to a tech savvy world, they lack the critical thinking skills and maturity required to stay safe online. This means that in order for adults to provide the required protection, the implementation of e-safety policies and educational programs together with adult guidance is essential to your children’s online safety and their ability to practice responsible behaviour.
What is e-Safety?
To ensure we cover all bases from adults that are new to e-safety to those who are aware but unsure of where to begin, we will start first by defining the term. E-safety is typically a policy and educational program that is enforced by schools to assist students and adults with practicing responsible behavior online. The term refers to the safe use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) which includes mobile devices and other types of technology that are designed to deliver and share information.
The term e-Safety is not just limited to educational institutions, it also applies to the home environment and any other location where your children are accessing and sharing information. This means that parents and caregivers must take a proactive role in e-safety education in an effort to support the younger generation when outside of school.
Elements of E-Safety Education
E-Safety education covers a wide variety of topics that discuss the use of Information and Communications Technology both in and outside of the classroom. The educational topics discuss a school wide approach to e-safety which raises awareness among educators, parents, and community members. The components include:
School Policies on E-Safety
First, schools create a comprehensive policy that encompasses Information and Communications Technology as well as Personal and Social Education. The e-safety policy clearly defines the school’s expectations when it comes to the safe use of technology.
The components of the policy include an outline and detailed guidelines for staying safe online, understanding online communication, rules for cyber-bullying, and proper use of etiquette when communicating online. The guidelines also spell out the school rules for staff and students to create a uniform policy for responsibilities and school use of technology. This includes the details of the school’s anti bullying policy and the consequences of cyber bullying.
As part of their comprehensive approach to e-safety education, many school will offer parent education sessions that help parents to better understand how to create awareness in young children when using the Internet. Similar to making your children streetwise when it comes to offline communications, the more you know about online safety, the better you can support your children in their online use.
Additionally, most schools are proactive about posting e-safety information on the school website and distributing pamphlets that help to heighten parent awareness of online dangers. If your local school does not provide e-safety education for parents, look around for educational opportunities in your local community. Many community organisations offer e-safety education sessions that provide parents and caregivers with the information they need to keep children safe online.
Teacher and Staff Education
In many cases, children are more tech savvy than a lot of teachers, especially the ones that have been in the education system for a long period of time. This creates a gap in the experience and knowledge that is necessary to enforce e-safety in the classroom.
By providing teachers with professional development sessions on e-safety, this ensures all teachers and staff are on the same page when it comes to getting to know the ins and outs of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, using information sharing applications safely, and addressing the topic of e-safety with their students. Classroom teachers and other staff can then reinforce e-safety in the following ways:
- Create E-Safety Lessons: Teachers can create e-safety lessons and programs to reinforce the school policy in the classroom. Being reminded of proper e-safety practices maintains student awareness of the importance of responsible behavior online.
- Display E-Safety Rules: Teachers can show students they support the school policy by posting the e-safety in a visible spot in the classroom. If any question arises, they can easily refer to the Acceptable Use Policy for responsible behaviour and proper use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
- Actively Participate in Internet Safety Day and Anti-Bullying Week: Teachers can create e-safety classroom activities in recognition of Internet Safety Day and other events such as Anti-Bullying Week. Activities such as e-safety or anti-cyber-bullying workshops can go a long way in educating students on the consequences of bullying or being a bystander to a peer that is being bullied. A workshop can also heighten awareness during social encounters online, including collaborative online gaming when students compete against other players in the online world.
For community members that may not have children in school or are caregivers for students that are still in school, most schools will invite community members to e-safety education sessions. They also encourage participation through the distribution of flyers and information that is posted on the school website.
Community members who want to become better educated with online safety can also seek assistance from community organisations. Many volunteer organisations periodically offer e-safety education sessions in an effort to heighten community awareness.
Now that you have an idea of what e-safety education encompasses, let’s talk about ten specific e-safety tips for parents, teachers, caregivers, and other adults.
Key E-Safety Tips for Parents, teachers & support staff
Once you are confident with the knowledge and experience you have gained in e-safety education sessions, you can help your children or the children you care for in the following ways:
1. Communicate with Your Children and Students
Take the time to communicate with your children and students to ensure they understand the consequences of revealing personal information to people online they are not acquainted with offline. Make sure you answer their questions and carefully listen to their concerns.
Help your children to identify exactly what type of information is considered to be personal. This includes photos, school affiliations, hobbies, email address, videos, phone numbers, the name of the school they attend, and names of friends and family. Make sure they understand that even tiny tidbits of information can easily be pieced together by a potentially dangerous person to provide them with comprehensive knowledge of your child’s daily activities.
2. Discuss Posting of Information
Teach your children how to practice critical thinking before they post any information online, including their social networking profiles. Make sure they understand that all pictures and information can be used by others for the purpose of negative modification and sharing with others. Additionally, make sure children understand that once information is posted online, it is there permanently even after you delete it from your account.
It is easy to forget that the Internet is not private. For this reason, it is important to constantly support your children to prevent them from engaging in risky behavior online. Simply discussing the topic with them on a single occasion is not enough. Instead, encourage your children to be open with you and to ask questions before posting something online.
3. Online Spam, Texts, and Scams
Become educated on spam emails, fake text messages, and the latest online scams. These dark spots of the Internet are constantly changing, so you must stay on top of it as best as you can.
Teach your child not to believe anything they read or are told on the Internet. Additionally, they should never reply to messages or open attachments from unknown senders. If they question or are uncomfortable with a message they received, encourage them to ask you about it so you can discuss it. Keeping the lines of communication open sends a message to children that it is never too late to tell an adult when they are uncomfortable.
4. Use Private Settings
Teach children how to use online privacy settings and emphasise the importance of doing so. They are there for a reason and will help children to guard their privacy when setting up a social networking page, email account, or Instant Messenger account.
Additionally, children should understand the importance of not sharing their password with anyone. This includes discussing how to set boundaries online just as you would teach young children how to set personal boundaries in the real world.
5. Discuss What Devices Connect to the Internet
Take the time to discuss what devices are capable of connecting to the Internet and how the connection is established. Nowadays, even household appliances and television sets can connect to the Internet which makes it all that much more important to discuss this with children.
Children use a wide variety of different gadgets both inside of school and at home. Knowing which ones connect to the Internet will prevent them from inadvertently revealing personal information on a device they are unaware is connected.
The same advice rings true for open wireless connections. Educate yourself on the difference between a secure wireless connection and ones that are left open. For example, if your child can freely connect to the neighbour’s Wi-Fi connection, it is important to show them how to connect to your secured home wireless network connection instead. Any connection that does not require a password is unsecured.
6. Practice Safe Social Networking
Social networking can serve many benefits in both the classroom and home environment. With the increased use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, social networking has become the primary focus for interacting with friends and family. Even children in primary school have become aware of social networking as a result of being around their older siblings.
Keeping this in mind, teachers and parents have a responsibility to ensure children are using these sites appropriately both during school and after school hours. Lessons and classroom activities can be brought to life with social networking plus, most parents prefer not to curtail their child’s relationships with their friends. This is where a resource such as Webanywhere can help children use social networking safely and in a controlled environment.
Webanywhere offers user friendly software functions that provide an online learning environment where children can store their work as well as view their progress and classroom achievements. The platform offers social networking tools that are familiar to most children, including the ability to post videos, images, and customise pages for interaction with friends and classmates.
Additionally, parents and teachers can control and monitor the content to avoid contact with any inappropriate content and to ensure children are interacting with trustworthy individuals. By offering a social networking experience in a controlled environment, you are also teaching children how to practice responsible behavior.
7. Explore the World of E-Safety
Many children are light years ahead of their parents when it comes to technology and come to school already being familiar with how to use the Internet. Even at the primary school level, most children know how to access games, watch videos, and use interactive web applications. However, this does not necessarily mean they are aware of some of the dangers of the Internet.
Although it is essential to enforce e-safety policies in school and talk with your children at home about using the Internet, you also want to encourage them to become interested in e-safety themselves. By teaching them to use e-safety resources, it will help children to see the positive aspects of using the Internet instead of instilling fear that everything they do will lead to negative consequences.
A helpful resource is the UK CBBC website which provides a selection of fun quizzes and videos that encourage children to explore e-safety concepts. This website is appropriate for children beginning from an early age.
Although it is important to start educating children on e-safety at an early age, there are older children who need guidance in this area as well. In this case, a website such as Kidsmart offers a series of fun activities covering a range of topics that are geared toward children that are on the secondary level of education.
8. Discuss Webcam Use
Most of the modern devices are equipped with a webcam that allows you to hold person to person video chats. Like anything else that is connected to the Internet, criminals and unscrupulous people have come up with ways to spy on children through the webcam. This is accomplished by inserting malware that is designed to take control of a device webcam for the purpose of spying.
Discuss appropriate uses of a webcam and encourage your children to cover the lens when the webcam is not in use. Emphasise appropriate and responsible behavior, as well as how not to reveal anything in the background that could help a criminal piece together information.
9. Use Nicknames in Place of Your Real Name
When creating an online profile or email account, help children to come up with a nickname instead of using their real name. The nickname should be carefully thought out to ensure it does not reveal any information about the child such as their hobbies, interests, activities, friends, etc.
An example of a nickname that may reveal too much information might be something like “Sara Luvs Games” or similar. Instead, a nickname such as “Student E1M” will not provide any information about the account user that a criminal could use to piece together information.
10. The Internet is a Haven for Anonymity
Emphasise to children that the Internet is a haven for those who want to remain anonymous. People are not always who they say they are when it comes to the online environment. This means that a child can never really be sure who they are talking to.
Anonymity on the Internet represents a playground for criminals. For this reason, you should make it clear that a child should never agree to meet someone offline nor should they use anonymity to bully another classmate or individual.
The Internet represents a whole new way of communicating, accessing and sharing information, enhancing classroom learning, and adding modern conveniences to our daily lives. The tips and information we have provided in this article should provide you with a solid foundation to start understanding e-safety as well as how to address the topic with children.
In addition to the knowledge we have provided, teaching children to always think before they act and encouraging them to tell an adult whenever they are uncomfortable will allow them to enjoy all of the positive aspects of the Internet while avoiding the dark corners of cyberspace.
About the author
This article was written by Our ICT, which is one of London’s leading ICT support companies. Our ICT offer IT support services to schools, colleges and academies across London and surrounding counties. To find out more about our IT services, visit our website homepage.
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