The Current State of E-Safety

By Bethany Spencer on May, 4 2017
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As technology becomes progressively more accessible to young people‭; ‬schools‭, ‬parents‭, ‬government organisations and charities nationwide are investing more time‭, ‬money and effort into ensuring that children are equipped with the tools they need to keep themselves safe online‭. ‬On February 9th 2016‭, ‬schools celebrated the UK’s largest ever‭ ‬‘Safer Internet Day’‭, ‬promoting positive action surrounding online safety in education‭. ‬Organised by the UK Safer Internet Centre and reaching over‭ ‬2.8‭ ‬million students‭, ‬the initiative encourages online empowerment‭, ‬inclusion and understanding‭. ‬

The incomparable success and engagement with Safer Internet Day 2016‭ ‬is just one example of the recent shift towards a more proactive attitude towards children’s online safety‭. ‬SWGFL introduced Online Safety Briefings in 2015‭, ‬aimed at SLT with a safeguarding responsibility‭, ‬and open to‭ ‬anyone working with children‭. ‬These free briefings provide an overview on the topics of online safety‭, ‬policy changes‭, ‬research‭ ‬and resources‭, ‬to ensure that education professionals are supported in their endeavours to safeguard their students online‭. ‬

After internet safety was established as a compulsory component of the national curriculum in 2014‭, ‬schools across the UK worked‭ ‬to ensure that online safety was embedded into the structure of their school policy and curriculum more broadly‭. ‬2015‭ ‬saw plans‭ ‬unveiled by former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to significantly strengthen measures put in place to protect children from‭ ‬harm online‭. ‬Specific emphasis was placed upon growing access to personal technology in recent years with more than 50%‭ ‬of young‭ ‬people having been given tech gadgets for Christmas in 2014‭.‬

In our current cultural climate‭, ‬over 35%‭ ‬of the UK’s student population worries about facing online abuse‭. ‬Research into the topic of online safety conducted by the London School‭ ‬of Economics in 2013‭ ‬suggests that this statistic has risen significantly over the course of the last three years‭, ‬demonstrating‭ ‬a growing concern that certainly cannot be disregarded‭. ‬Will Gardner‭ (‬CEO of Childnet‭) ‬describes recent polls as a‭ ‬‘wake-up call‭,‬’‭ ‬demanding that each of us play our part in ensuring that children can benefit as much as possible from the extensive opportunities the internet can provide‭. ‬

In order to ensure internet safety in your school‭, ‬the obvious steps of restricting content and blocking certain websites are executed‭, ‬however‭, ‬this only restricts students when they are in school‭. ‬In order to be fully supporting our students‭, ‬and ensuring their safety online‭, ‬much more than this has to be done‭. ‬

Fully explaining the risks that your students are exposed to online from an early age‭, ‬is one of the best preventative measures‭ ‬we can take in ensuring we are keeping our students safe‭. ‬If students are wise to the threats of cyber-bullying‭, ‬radicalisation‭ ‬and online grooming‭, ‬then they can actively avoid and report this‭. ‬However‭, ‬if we fail to fully expose students to these threats‭ ‬and consequences‭, ‬they are less likely to suspect anything suspicious or inform someone of their concerns‭.   ‬

It’s also important that your students’‭ ‬parents are aware of the ways in which they should be protecting their children from these threats online so they can ensure this practice is maintained at home‭. ‬Holding an assembly with parents‭ is an effective way to talk to them regarding the ways they should approach their children surrounding these concerns at home‭. ‬It is a good opportunity to show them how they can implement internet safety at home and cascade the key messages you are instilling at school‭.  ‬

Outside of our own personal efforts‭, ‬we must ensure that we unite with the online education community’s efforts to provide a safe‭, ‬beneficial online environment‭. ‬Alongside vast policy changes and government funding for online safety organisations‭, ‬increasing access to resources and support‭, ‬prove that we are moving in the right direction‭. ‬

If you have any questions or concerns regarding student safety online‭, ‬please take a moment to visit‭ www.saferinternet.org.uk‭.‬‭     ‬

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