Classrooms in 2017 have become digital spaces where your children use online resources as well as face-to-face teaching. It's an exciting new world, but one that comes with new dangers for your children to navigate. Safer Internet Day falls on 7th February, and aims to create a focus point to help parents, carers and educators to teach children how to be safer online.
1. Knowledge is your greatest tool
There’s a Chinese proverb that says give a man a fish and you’ll feed them for a day, but give him a rod and teach him to fish and he’ll eat every day. This proverb translates perfectly to the classroom. Teaching online safety isn’t about simply installing firewalls or taking other restrictive measures, it’s about giving those in your care the knowledge to fight online threats themselves.
The risks of the internet are only outweighed by its plentiful resources, and for young, hungry minds, it can be a phenomenal learning tool – given that your kids are educated on the risks.
2. Work with parents in tandem
Parents are your greatest allies in the fight against your kids’ online insecurity. The classroom is only ever a single part of the picture when it comes to protecting the kids you teach, and you will need to work with parents and guardians to ensure that the message you are conveying is also being transmitted at home.
An effective technique here could be to create a newsletter for parents to educate them on your online safety strategy. This could include essential advice, support strategies and resources.
The government is ramping up its efforts to deal with the issues that the internet faces for children, having established the UK Council for Child Internet Security. The Council is a UK-based network of over 200 organisations that draw from government, industry, law, academia and charity sectors that are working in partnership to help keep children safe online.
With downloadable resources on key topics such as ‘Searching, Screening and Confiscation’, as well as 'Sexting in Schools and Colleges', the Council is a fantastic resource for educators who need practical advice.
4. School support outside the classroom
If you’re a primary care giver (the person in the classroom), it can sometimes feel as though you’re alone in your work. However, every school has a network of support staff who can help to provide external influence on your kids.
If one of the kids in your care does fall victim to an incident of sexting or online abuse, they may be too embarrassed to speak directly to you, but you should be able to point them in the direction of another member of staff who can help. That could be a head of year, form tutor or somebody in a solely pastoral role.
5. Openness breeds confidence
The key message from day one needs to be that you need to have an open dialogue with the kids in your care. If your classroom feel as though they are incapable of talking through sensitive issues with you for fear of punishment, they might not open up to you when they’re feeling vulnerable.
It might not be the best option to simply block kids from their iPads or phones. Working with your students, the government and even networks such as Asda Mobile who are willing to listen will help to create a supportive, cohesive strategy to defending the children in your care.
The beauty of Safer Internet Day is that it provides the perfect focus point for opening a dialogue with the kids in your classroom around a topic that is potentially sensitive. For a number of different reasons. Use the day as an excuse to educate, and to listen, helping your kids to know that they can always come to you – or another member of staff – if they are in need.
Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech