Greater guidance

Parents and teachers need to combine efforts to become more clued up on internet safety, says Tony Anscombe

Do you think most teaching and non-teaching staff can now recognise and are aware of e-safety issues?

Teachers are largely aware of the increasingly prevalent role of the internet in children’s lives, observing first-hand how it has revolutionised the classroom and learning techniques. They’re also aware of the associated threats, with the UK’s anti-bullying alliance revealing that more than half of kids surveyed saw cyberbullying as a part of everyday life.

That said, AVG research has shown that nearly two thirds (63%) of teachers have not received any formal training to teach internet safety, with many feeling ‘insufficiently equipped’ when approached by students for advice on such issues. While e-safety is a recognised priority, more certainly needs to be done to ensure staff are as prepared as possible when it comes to e-safety.

How can schools ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training?

According to our research, 50% of UK teachers agree that their school should provide better training to teachers on using the Internet as an education tool, while 63% haven’t received any training at all. With this in mind, it’s clear that schools need to place increased importance on ensuring that their staff are provided with all the necessary resources to tackle the online challenges they’re being confronted with in the classroom. 

Whether this is formal training or simply encouraging staff to study the free education resources available, such as those found on Childnet, NSPCC and the Safer Internet Centre. Schools must ensure staff have the proper tools in place so they feel comfortable addressing all online safety issues that may occur, whether as an education tool or to enable them to support their students personal development.

Would you say that most children are now aware of the online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?

Thanks to the digital world they’ve grown up in, today’s children are more tech savvy than ever before – our own research revealed that nearly half (49%) of teachers admitted that by the age of 13, students will know more about technology than they do. In an education scenario, this knowledge gap needs to be bridged – predominantly as, despite their tech skills, children are still naïve about the risks and the right way to behave online. 

When we spoke with children last year, a worrying seven in 10 did not believe there were any dangers or were unsure of the dangers facing them online. When paired with the knowledge that 41% of parents allow their child to use the internet unsupervised, it’s clear that children need far greater guidance when it comes to navigating the web and dealing with any negative experiences should they arise.

Parents and teachers need to join forces and combine efforts to become clued up on internet safety together, in order for kids to stay safe online both in and out of the classroom.

Is it important to involve students in the development of any new e-safety policies? How can we do this?

When developing any kind of policy, it’s always important to involve those directly affected. In this case, schools should be taking the time to talk to students about how they use the Internet and what they enjoy doing online to ensure that any policies implemented compliment and safeguard these activities. 

This way, educators and students alike can reach a mutual understanding of the online dangers affecting us all today – after all, Internet safety is something we need to work towards achieving together. The current Internet generation has already indicated they wish to become more private and share less in their rapid adoption of apps that are purely image-based or that restrict access to content by time. When engaging with a student council on policy, the faculty staff may well find that the students could be well placed to become the educators on some elements of safety online.  

How can schools educate and support parents with online safety?

Children spend a large amount of time at school, so naturally teachers have a big role to play when it comes to supporting and educating parents on online safety best practices – communicating a consistent message to children (whether at home or in the classroom) on the topic is key. Just as teachers have to, parents must take responsibility to continue their own online education – and schools can help accommodate this.

However, our own research revealed that only a third (33%) of teachers said their school had arranged events to educate parents about online safety, 40% of which were ‘unsatisfied’ with the parent turn out for the session.

While it’s clear that UK schools are heading in the right direction, their attempts only matter if parents are willing to try too. Teachers need to encourage parents to seek involvement by stressing the importance of such events and sharing relevant resources and top tips to help aid their education in this area. It’s important that parents are not complacent in this and rely only on the education system and government to provide this generation with the guidance they need to be the safe digital citizens of the future. Only by working together will this issue truly be tackled successfully.  

Tony Anscombe is Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies