Do you think most teachers are aware of and can recognise cyber bullying threats?
I think most are aware, but they don’t have the knowledge or tools to know how to deal with cyber bullying; not just the teachers but throughout the school. It’s probably more difficult in boys in our experience. However, the signs are there and we’ve seen a very apparent change in behaviour, from dressing to attitude. Teachers need to be aware of these and more subtle signs, including a lack of engagement, contact with peer groups and a loss of interest in activities.
How can schools ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training?
Online safety training should be inherent in teacher training courses with regular top up sessions due to the rapidly changing nature of technology. Technology can’t be left to be the one individual responsible for the whole school. We have traditionally used this approach, but with upwards of 1000 pupils and staff it simply doesn’t work. The other issue is with the trainers themselves. Having sat through a police liaison office talking to parents and teachers it was pretty clear that their subject knowledge was poor and their technology knowledge even worse. If we are to treat these issues with the level of respect they deserve, it starts with getting the right people involved.
Would you say that most children are now aware of potential online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?
Being aware is very different to understanding the implications and how their actions affect others. It’s also sometimes difficult to spot the signs when it’s happening to you. It’s important that awareness covers many different areas, personal, what happens to others and spotting the signs. There really does need to be a level of engagement, parents and their children discussing these topics. At this age ‘a bit of fun’ can turn into a horrible digital footprint that can’t be removed. Whilst I’m a huge advocate of tech companies stepping up the mark and taking their responsibilities seriously (I don’t believe they do currently) it’s also really important that family discussion takes place to re-enforce.
How can we get children more involved in anti-bullying campaigns online and offline?
Most schools, especially secondary schools, already have personal development sessions as lessons; I think the new issues associated with technology should be taught within them as part of the curriculum, with not just experts but personal experience being at the core. Schools and parents need to try and highlight and reward in some way personal traits that support others and look after friends. Schools need to encourage discussion groups in class and tutor groups to share information and thoughts. It’s also important that out of school groups such as sports clubs also re-enforce the message and make everyone aware of the issues.
Can parents now also recognise the potential dangers? How can we educate and support parents with online safety?
I would suggest most parents are oblivious to the dangers, with children often being far savvier than we give them credit for. Education needs to start with the emotional effects of technology and then the strategies of how to cope. Young people need emotional support, not tech support. This brings me back to my first point about appropriate training and relevant experts for parents as well. We really need to build tools to help parents and spread the word. I suspect if you did a poll of parents about Internet Matters and any relevant tools the percentage of those that know of it would be quite small. We need to try and target those online resources that are used such as Mumsnet to create awareness.
Can teachers and parents realistically keep up with tech-savvy children, and therefore, protect them from cyberbullying threats?
Well if they can’t they should. Technology is now so desperately important within society and is a cornerstone of young people’s social interaction. It requires the tech sector to provide tools to address very serious problems. Simplifying the technology and simplifying the way to deal with issues is paramount. Our aim is to create those tools starting with haandle, to simplify the problem and provide sensible tools that address the entire problem area. It’s no good providing ways in which to encourage a more responsible relationship with technology when those can be bypassed too easily. WiFi controls? Just switch to mobile data. ISP controls? Just use a proxy. App controls? Just use the browser. It all needs addressing as one, complete solution.