What risks exist for children online? Which risks can schools most help mitigate?
The online world is an amazing resource that can be full of rich experiences for children. The internet offers a world of opportunity that for many adults was simply not available – opportunities for learning, relaxing entertainment, gaming and socialising with friends. Despite the highly publicised cases of exploitation involving the Internet, for the vast majority of children, these experiences are positive and without danger. For most children the internet will be a wonderful experience.
However, there are very real risks associated with the internet – these magnify when children use computers in an way to access the internet. These risks range from exposure to inappropriate material (sexual, violent, hateful, harmful or dangerous), harassment (through social networks or email), financial or legal risks (inappropriate use of credit cards) and even exposure to physical risks by children arranging meetings through the internet.
To reduce this risk, parents and teachers need to supervise and monitor the use of the internet. This starts by getting online then understanding and educating oneself about the risks. Once the risks are understood, parents and teachers need to start a conversation about the risks, potential problems children may encounter and rules around internet use. Children should understand what information is safe to share and what it is not. For example, is it ok to share a school name or not? Children need to be able to discuss openly what they encounter online and what they like doing online, no matter how trivial and learn the impact the internet can have. This has to be the starting point – children need to be aware there are places on the internet that are not safe and that they may come across by accident or is sent to them. They need to know what they should do when this happens. It’s vital for children to understand the dangers of sharing inappropriate material for them and their peers.
Parents and teachers should speak to Internet Service Providers and understand if they can limit access to certain places on the internet such as adult sites that should be restricted. The files children download should be monitored and parents may want to consider sharing their children’s email addresses. Finally, many browsers can block inappropriate material through parental controls – choose a browser that allows this and enable it through the settings.”
What products and technologies exist to help teachers?
I would strongly suggest using Chromebooks. They are lightweight, have long battery life and are relatively cheap to buy – plus they come with built in security through the Chrome OS which has built in virus and malware protection and is always updated to the latest version – so you never need to worry about malicious files using a Chromebook. In addition, they can be set up in supervisor mode which enables activity monitoring and limiting. Chromebooks allow users to make use of internet, the Google suite of applications and can therefore do everything you would need to do in the classroom.
In addition we recommend having controls on the router governing your network that have parental controls enabled to prevent against inappropriate content. Open DNS is a great router filter that can help with this.
Will children always be one step ahead?
Children and teenagers especially have a desire to learn, challenge and explore. This results in children adopting technology through apps much more quickly than parents and teachers. Just ask yourself how many teachers use Snapchat and Instagram to communicate versus email.
Alongside this, the very consumption of information is different for children – it is more visual and on line – rather than text based or through the TV. Children will remain ahead in technology because they are more open to it.