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  1. Practical advice for parents to keep their children safe online
  2. Young people and the internet
  3. Lazy e-safety messages are no help to our children
  4. Internet Safety
  5. Internet safety articles
  6. Search ICT and Computing in Education
  7. Prior Mailing Archive

Practical advice for parents to keep their children safe online

"It’s true to say that the vast majority of children, whilst at different levels of risk, will not come to harm.  But what can we as parents do to give ourselves a level of assurance that our children are safe and know what to do if they get into an unfamiliar situation, or one that makes them feel uncomfortable?" Alan MacKenzie gives some practical advice.

Risk – a word that can instill fear, anxiety and a whole range of other emotions.  It’s such a strong word that can be taken out of context, and it’s often seen as the scaremongering aspect of e-safety.  This isn’t helped by sensationalist newspaper headlines used as attention grabbers, ‘Thousands of children at risk…..”.

But risk is simply the probability that something might (or might not) happen; it is the factors that increase or decrease the level of risk that are key such as age, maturity, family values and lifestyle, integrity to name a few.  And let's not forget, a certain level of risk is vitally important for our children growing up.  If we wrap our children in cotton wool they will never experience risk, which means they won’t be able to identify and mitigate risk if it happens.  Children need to build resilience.

So first of all, what is this ‘e-safety’ thing?  In truth it’s lots of different things, it’s a massive subject area and there is no formal definition.  So for the purposes of this article, e-safety is about giving parents and their children the knowledge to enjoy the use of technology - safely.

This can be quite difficult for some; the internet and technology is something that parents often cite that their children know more than they do.  Some may argue that’s not an excuse and up to a point I would agree; for me the most important aspect of e-safety is behaviour, not technology.  What do I mean by behaviour?  Quite simply children exposed to risk and children exposing themselves to risk. This is sometimes a consequence of not knowing better, sometimes a consequence of risk-taking behaviour which is an integral part of growing up.

What parents can do

It’s true to say that the vast majority of children, whilst at different levels of risk, will not come to harm.  But what can we as parents do to give ourselves a level of assurance that our children are safe and know what to do if they get into an unfamiliar situation, or one that makes them feel uncomfortable?

1. First and foremost talk to your school. Schools have been teaching and helping children with e-safety in one form or another for years; in the United Kingdom e-safety is a statutory part of the curriculum.  By getting a better understanding of what the school is doing, you can boost your own understanding, help to reinforce those simple safe-use messages and replicate safe-use practices in the home.

2. What devices are your children using?  What parental settings are available on those devices?  For example, both Playstation and Xbox consoles (as well as many other devices) allow parents to restrict the games and apps that children can download or play based on their age.

3. Does your internet service provider give you access to parental filter controls?  Most providers do and often these are free.  These allow you to tailor what categories of websites your children are accessing.   I recommend you take a look to see if there is a product that suits your circumstances, particularly if you have younger children.  Bear in mind that these filtering products are by no means a ‘safety solution’, far from it in fact, particularly if your children are using mobile technologies.  The only true solution is education and awareness.

4. Keep up with what is going on.  This can be difficult for many reasons such as time, the quality of the advice and the fact that there is so much advice out there - where do you start?  One of the easiest ways is to read a monthly newsletter, for example this newsletter (http://www.esafety-adviser.com/latest-newsletter/) is written by me, it’s completely free and has no commercial aspect such as adverts.  It’s written simply and concisely to help parents.

Two key things to remember

Two of the most important things to remember are:

1. Take the technology out of the equation, it’s a smoke-screen; put things into a real life context.  For example, would you allow your children to be in a crowd of unknown adults who may be swearing, using sexual innuendos or other things inappropriate for children to see and hear?  If not, consider which online games they are playing and what age the other players may be.  Do you know the age-rating of those games?  Are your children playing 18 rated games?  If you want to know what a game is all about before you purchase it for your child, go onto YouTube and have a look.  It is highly likely there will be videos of other people playing the game.  What about the social networking apps they may be using?  Are there any age restrictions (commonly 13)? What are they sharing and who with?  Would you be happy with this in the real world?  Do you know how to use the privacy settings?  If not, get your children to show you, again this gives you a level of assurance that they know what they’re talking about.

2. If I was allowed to give only one piece of advice it would be this – talk to your children.  As parents we have that parental instinct such as a change in behaviour or attitude.  Children need to know they can come to you if something is wrong or if something upsets them.  Re-enforce this message, let them know you are there for them.  Remember that kids will be kids and risk-taking is a part of growing up. Putting up brick walls or not talking openly could send the behaviour underground, and that increases the level of risk significantly.

About Alan Mackenzie

Alan MacKenzieAlan Mackenzie is passionate about the use of technology, particularly by children and young people.  Over many years he has worked with hundreds of schools, organizations, charities and police to advise on the safe and appropriate use of technology.  He firmly believes that e-safety is about empowering, not scaremongering; to allow children to enjoy their use of technology – safely.  As an independent consultant working within this specialist area, he works in schools to help staff, children and their parents, assists with risk assessments and policy considerations, and writes articles and whitepapers on behalf of other organizations.

To contact Alan:

Web:  www.esafety-adviser.com

Email:  alan@esafety-adviser.com

Twitter:  @esafetyadviser

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/esafetyadviser


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the February 2015 edition.To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.

    


Young people and the internet

“Young people can be sensible online – if they want to be”, says Ellie Gregson. Ellie offers a teen’s-eye view of staying safe online.

Technology has been created and provided to improve the way we communicate, receive information and live our lives. The internet allows us to contact each other without the previous obstacle of distance and in such speed that we are even able to imitate face-to-face conversations online. However, although many of us are reliant on the internet, our reliance can backfire. Growing up with technology, we trust it, have adapted to using it, and believe that we therefore safe. But, just because we know how to use the internet, it does not mean that we can freely use it without caution.

If you began talking to a stranger in the street, the likelihood is that you would not include a list of personal information about yourself in the conversation. We know not to always trust people we don’t know, and therefore would not provide a stranger with your likes, dislikes, age, phone number and address upon first meeting them. This trust that my generation has built between themselves and the internet means that we are not always so cautious. It’s important for people to understand that the rules that apply in real life should apply to our use of the internet as well. People only know what you reveal about yourself. If you do not wish for your information, photos or thoughts to be public, then do not share them.

hazardous area

Most people my age have been told this rule many times before, and the warning feels drilled into our minds. But awareness of consequences does not eliminate human nature, and children want to stretch the boundaries, explore and discover new things whenever possible. Young people will take whatever medium they have access to and use it as a way to discover and learn new things, and there will always be some form of risk in discovery. The longer we use technology for, the more we may understand it and the better we become at avoiding situations online. But immaturity can prevent us from often doing what is safest on the internet.

EXAMPLE: When a stranger adds you on Facebook and you share no mutual friends.

Response 1: You see the possible threat in the situation, know that danger can be avoided and ignore the friend request.

Response 2: You have learnt about the possible risk of the situation, but think that it would be funny to accept the request.

The stranger you just accepted as your friend will now have access to any of your personal information and photos, and has the ability to contact you if they wish. The person who chooses the latter response may be aware of the consequences, but may decide that they do not care.

My point is that young people can be sensible online – if they want to be. But a desire to stretch the boundaries and explore can prevent us from always doing what is right. This is why we need to have some form of restrictions, and should be reminded how to be safe and sensible online frequently. We may say that we ‘know it all already’, but in an increasingly technology-based world, whatever you choose to do on the internet now can affect you in the future, a common example being through job prospects. An ability to use the internet will come at an advantage, but how you used it in the past can affect how employable you are in the future.

When exploring unknown territory, mistakes will always be made. But growing up with technology means that we understand the dangers on the internet and how to deal with them, generally more so than our parents. The only difference is that children can be immature, and will not always respond to situations in the most sensible way.

Parents today are in the frightening position of not always being able to protect their children, because they cannot control exactly how they use the internet.” Children are provided from a young age with mobile phones and tablets for safety, but access to internet on these phones will allow them access to the previously mentioned risks as well. Many parents want to protect their children from the dangers that using the internet involves, but this cannot be done without knowledge. Awareness and knowledge are key when using the internet, because if you know how to use it and are aware of the consequences, then you can protect yourself. Parents need to have equal awareness of the internet as their children, and only then should they be able to enforce boundaries and rules.

About Ellie Gregson

Ellie is a Year 11 student at Thomas Tallis school in London. She is studying for her GCSEs, enjoys writing and is considering a career as a journalist.


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the February 2015 edition.To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.

    

Lazy e-safety messages are no help to our children

 

"Until adults move on from the dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children."

Simon Finch suggests a much more useful approach.


Ask children and young people about the esafety messages they’ve been told by parents, carers and teachers and they will mumble with disdain:

‘Never share personal information online’

‘Never talk to someone online who you’ve not met in ‘the real world’.’

‘Tell a trusted adult if you are worried.’

‘If you are being bullied online then just turn off your device and go outside and play with real friends.’

Too many parents, and adults responsible for young people, reinforce messages that are glib, meaningless and underpinned by; ‘I don’t know anything about this new stuff – I just wish they would ban Facebook.’

If we are to accept we have a role to provide guidance and support for young people in our care then we must be much more proactive in developing our own knowledge and understanding of social media and online opportunities and challenges. Similarly we must be seen by our young people to model appropriate behaviour and to empathise with young people rather than make false distinctions between ‘the online world’ and ‘the real world.’

Let’s look at the e-safety messages we‘ve been feeding our children.

‘Never share personal information online’

How does this make any sense? We need to share personal information every day and we frequently offer Amazon and similar, our home address, bank details and other personal information. If we accept that ‘1 in 4 adults met their partner online’, then surely as parents and teachers we need to provide young people with advice and guidance on when and how to share personal information? Until we help children understand the cost benefits of sharing personal information, they will continue to be misinformed about how and when to share.

‘Never talk to someone online who you’ve not met in ‘the real world’.’

Many of us who use social media for our professional development and hobbies and interests will recognise that sharing ideas and experiences with strangers across the world has real benefits and can enhance our professional and personal lives. Surely we should be providing students with opportunities to communicate with ‘strangers’ by bringing online interactions, linked to curriculum work, into our classrooms?

‘Tell a trusted adult if you are worried.’

I think we can sometimes be a little too quick to assume a child will have a trusted adult. We assume, if they have two parents, they can speak to them, or that they will by default, tell their class teacher or key worker. Some children may not feel comfortable telling their mother but they may tell a friend’s mother. Some may not wish to discuss issues and concerns with their current teacher but perhaps their previous teacher? We shouldn’t underestimate the role of lunchtime supervisors and librarians. Often these people see and speak to the children every day and are seen as more trustworthy than some of their other relationships with adults.

A child needs a choice of trusted adults and we should make sure every child knows who their personal preference trusted adult is, before they are at that crisis point when they really need them.

‘If you are being bullied online then just turn off your device and go outside and play with real friends.’

Until adults move on from this dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children. Young people and many of us who are adults see our online interactions to be important and often more valid than face to face interactions. Social media is social. Young people want and need to be part of the interactions and this is where many will gain their sense of self worth. It may be difficult for some parents and teachers to comprehend but for many of us, online relationships can be better, more rewarding and more caring than the face to face interactions of school and home.

For those who work with, and care for, young people there is something you can do. Take control of your own learning and understanding of this important area of a child’s development. Use social media to engage and learn from others.

You could start here:

Digitally Confident

Digitally Confident on Facebook

UK Safer Internet Centre

@simfin

@esafetyofficer

@esafetyadvisor (Alan MacKenzie)

About Simon Finch

Simon FinchSimon is the eSafety Officer for Northern Grid, runs the digitallyconfident.org website, and tweets as @simfin. He is also a presenter and guide on digital citizenship, e-safety, safeguarding, IPR and themes relating to technology and learning.
He has over 20 years experience in leading workshops and training sessions for adults and young people in the UK and other countries.

Also, a keynote, conference and exhibition speaker for Becta, Regional Broadband Consortia, universities, LSCBs, local authorities, schools and public services and charities.

Plus: 2013 NAACE Impact Award winner for leadership 'for his commitment to ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for the education sector.’

Will work for pie.

Find out more at http://simfin.wordpress.com/about.


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the February 2015 edition.To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.

    


Internet Safety

By Amna, at Oakdale Junior School

Being safe on the internet is vital. If you’re concerned about being safe on the internet or just want a few ideas of how to be safe you have come to the right place!

Children remember to SMILE

Smiles, by Alex https://www.flickr.com/photos/eflon/Staying safe means keeping you personal details private such as full name, phone number, home address, photos or school, never reply to ASL – age, sex, location.

Meeting up with someone you have met online can be dangerous. Only meet up if you first told your parents or carers and discuss it with them – they can then decide if the meeting should go ahead and they can go with you.

Information online can be untrue, biased and inaccurate. Someone online may not be telling the truth about who they are – they may not be a ‘friend’. It is important that you tell the truth online – some sites have age restrictions for a reason, so don’t lie to sign up!

Let a parent, carer, teacher or trusted adult know if you ever feel worried, uncomfortable or frightened about something online or someone who has contacted you online. They can report it and can make sure that the site is blocked and ensure you don’t see it again. Remember stay safe on the internet!

E mails, downloads, photos anything from someone you do not know or trust may contain a virus or unpleasant message – do not open or reply.

Adults

· Remember to enable your privacy settings – on all devices not just the computer

· Block websites that are not appropriate

· Have computers in public setting

· Use safe search for younger kids

· Talk to your children about what they do on-line!

Let’s make a better internet together!

Thanks to Dawn Hallybone for asking Amna to write this lovely article. Amna is 10 years old.


This article first appeared in Digital Education, the free newsletter for those with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. One of the benefits of subscribing – apart from access to unique content – is articles in a timely manner. For example, this article was published in the February 2015 edition. To sign up, please complete the short form on our newsletter page. We use a double opt-in system, and you won’t get spammed.

    

Internet safety articles

Before the half-term break in the UK we had Safer Internet Day. A special edition of my ezine, Digital Education, was published, containing a range of articles about e-safety. Four of those will be published next week on this blog. There are articles of use to parents, teachers and students. Here is the list of articles, and when they will appear.

Each of these articles will appear at 7am GMT on the day specified. If you try to click on the links below before the appointed time, you will get a “page not found” message. Please be patient! (Or sign up to Digital Education and read them right away <evil grin>).

Monday 7:00 Amna: Internet Safety Amna is a Junior School pupil.

Tuesday 7:00 Simon Finch: Lazy e-safety messages are no help to our children. Simon publishes the Digitally Confident website.

Wednesday 7:00 Ellie Gregson: Young people and the internet Ellie is a secondary school pupil.

Thursday 7:00 Alan MacKenzie: Practical advice for parents to keep their children safe online Alan publishes the e-safety adviser website.


 

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