Online Safety Isn’t Just For Safer Internet Day.

My son was lucky enough to receive his first computer for Christmas this year which has brought the topic of online safety to the forefront of my mind. My son is very knowledgeable about online safety, mainly because I am always banging on about it! The teaching of online safety is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of the computing curriculum. With children spending increasing amounts of time online, it is vital that they know how to stay safe and how to behave responsibly when online.

The annual ‘Safer Internet Day’ is coming up this February. Lots of schools will be planning a variety of events to acknowledge this. Some will do assemblies, some will do online safety activities in the classroom. Others may book workshops by visiting consultants or companies. This is all fine and is one way to raise awareness of the issues around online safety. However, it is not nearly enough.

Teaching children about online safety should be an ongoing part of our teaching whenever the children are using internet enabled devices. A constant drip-feed of safety messages from us teachers to the children is the best way of maintaining and embedding their understanding of what it means to stay dafe when online. This drip-feed method works well in other subjects so why not when it comes to online safety.

I feel it is also necessary to plan regular online safety sessions as part of our delivery of the computing curriculum. These must be carefully mapped out to ensure that all aspects of online safety are taught and re-visited during a child’s school career. Assessing children’s understanding of online safety is useful too. I have done this using a simple assessment like this one I have used with Key Stage 2 KS2 E Safety Assessment . It is based on the SMART idea (more information about this can be found on http://www.childnet.com).

Cyberbullying is sometimes taught as a reaction to something that has happened to a child in the class/school. However, if we make an effort to teach children how to behave online and what the impact of behaving unkindly online can be then hopefully these issues will become less frequent. A brilliant (but sometimes hard to find resource) for demonstrating the impact of cyberbullying has been made by the Canadian Government and is called ‘Words Hurt’. It is an interactive video where the girl in the video reacts to what you type. I would suggest it is suitable for Year 5 upwards. Try it here Words Hurt

Informing parents in a pro-active way it useful in promoting online safety. Consider doing parent workshops (maybe when they are coming for parents’ evening anyway). These could be run by digital leaders if they are experienced enough. You could also make parents aware of websites to visit so that they are fully informed.

Anyway, I suppose my message regarding the teaching of online safety would be little and often, don’t leave it all to just Safer Internet Day.