Does social media rule your child?

King Edward’s Witley learns about responsible internet usage from e-safety expert Karl Hopwood

King Edward’s Witley invited independent e-safety expert Karl Hopwood in to school, to speak to pupils and staff and improve awareness levels of the steps that need to be taken to ensure a safe and responsible approach to internet usage.

According to Mr Hopwood, e-safety is not about enforcing bans on access to the internet – it is about empowering children and young people to keep themselves safe when online, and encouraging them to be responsible users of technology. 

School-aged children are regularly warned about the increasing number of accidents or tragedies caused by young people failing to ‘switch off’ from social media when they need to pay attention to their physical safety in the real world. Psychologists call it ‘divided attention’ or ‘inattentional blindness’ but it is responsible for children failing to hear cars or trains – or even notice the edge of a cliff top – because they are too wrapped up in a social media dialogue.

Mr Hopwood said the risks children are less familiar with relate to the unintentional supply of personal information and its implications, and the failure to recognise the potential long term effects that inappropriate online behaviour can cause, resulting in a tarnished reputation for life. A child’s reputation can be harmed not just by what they post, but also by what others share about them online, such as friends tagging them in inappropriate posts, photographs or videos. 

While schools are charged with a growing responsibility to recognise the risks for the pupils in their care, and some are up to speed with all the critical safeguarding measures that need to be taken, the majority are not. 

Mr Hopwood told the school: “There needs to be an ongoing awareness campaign to alert teaching staff to the potential dangers that the internet can introduce their pupils to and this should include regular refresher training as technology evolves and new risks emerge within the digital landscape.  It is not just teachers associated with technology based subjects who need to be kept up to date, all teachers have a duty to embrace current technology and modern methods of communication so that they are able to effectively monitor the behaviour of children in their care”. 

Commenting on Karl Hopwood’s recent visit, Mr Andrew Day, housemaster and Chair of King Edward’s e-safety working group, says: “At King Edward’s, we take e-safety seriously and completely agree with Karl’s view that e-safety is not about technically blocking websites but far more about educating our pupils to use sound judgment when deciding what to access and to consider future implications when posting content online. Although e-safety, as a topic, is covered and revisited throughout years seven, eight and nine within the computing curriculum, simply featuring the lesson within our curriculum is not enough. We are looking to shift thinking across the school. Pupils spend more time on social media each day than they do with any individual teacher; pupils are the masters of their online destiny and we, as a school community, have a joint responsibility to look after each other ‘online’, as much as we do ‘offline’. Inviting Karl in each year for his thought provoking whole school training significantly enriches and brings our e-safety campaign, or movement if you will, to the forefront of minds.  We do not believe that the sudden spike in access to Facebook privacy settings across the school network in the 20 minutes that follows each talk is a coincidence.” 

As statistics show that children are going online at an increasingly younger age, Mr Hopwood suggests the following top five e-security tips:

Lead by example 

According to a recent report, children now worry more about their parents spending too much time on their mobiles or computers than parents worry about their children. Almost 70% of children think their parents spend too much time on their mobile phone, iPad or similar device a poll of families found. 

Right time, right place

Many children have their mobile phone or a tablet in their bedroom at night, which can cause a number of problems.  Not only does it encourage unlimited access to the internet at a time when the child should be sleeping, it can also trigger health problems. According to a report in The Telegraph, ‘smartphones emit ‘blue light’ which is known to hinder melatonin, a chemical in the body that promotes sleep. The night-time use of smart phones appears to have both psychological and physiological effects on people’s ability to sleep and on sleep’s essential recovery functions’.  

Look out for warning signs

A marked change in behaviour, a defensiveness or obsessiveness around use of an internet enabled device or equally a total withdrawal from the technology can all be indicators that a young person is experiencing problems as a result of their online activity. 

Work in partnership

Schools and parents need to work together in partnership to establish an agreement regarding the appropriate boundaries and protocols for children – and where necessary, to provide the required support and guidance when children become troubled as a result of online experiences. Initially, the parent should contact their child’s tutor or Housemaster / Housemistress to discuss the matter. 

Do your homework

Visit for access to a wide range of guidance and details on how to apply parental controls to the various devices that students might be using.