Whether you’re reading this as a teacher, a parent or a student, you’ll be aware that the internet gives young people greater access to information, content and connections than ever before. You’ll no-doubt know the positive implications for education, but it’s important to remember that the internet is a network of computers with no regulation. There’s no such thing as the internet police. Just as you wouldn’t let a child wander off into an unknown city, you need to make sure they’re equipped with the knowledge, tools and safeguards to use the internet safely, responsibly and effectively.
Intel Security has been running online-safety sessions for around four years now, with schools, colleges and senior citizens groups. Sometimes it’s for just group of 15 people, sometimes our teams take a whole year group for an entire day of off-curriculum activities. This year alone, one of our experts estimates that he’s spoken to nearly 2,000 people, giving interactive, age-appropriate presentations with three simple-to-remember themes:
- Keeping your stuff safe. Protecting your devices from malware, identifying potential phishing threats, etc.
- Keeping yourself safe. Not giving out personal information, being careful with online ‘friends’ and connections, and reminding people that what goes online stays online permanently.
- Being responsible cyber-citizens. The consequences of online bullying and cyber-crime.
For the past three years Intel has also been working with schools near our Swindon HQ to develop awareness of online safety, and in the new year we’ll be hosting another one of our Online Safety Champions Workshops. Schools will nominate pupils to act as champions, who will spend a day at Intel taking part in age-specific courses about online safety. They will then be encouraged to host their own in-school sessions to spread the word, with the goal of reducing the number of reported incidents within the schools, and improving the champions’ own presentation and leadership skills.
Why does Intel run initiatives like this? Well, according to a survey conducted this year by London Grid for Learning, 90 per cent of young people access the internet at home, around half doing so from their own devices. They mainly use this for schoolwork, gaming, watching videos, listening to music and social networking.
A third of young people had made a friend via a social network who they did not know in real life, and, of these, half had gone on to meet that friend in person. Many of these meetings took place without a parent present. A small percentage are classed as potentially high-risk, i.e. where a young person meets an adult stranger. Furthermore, children report that online bullying is widespread, with one in five claiming to have been a victim, and 12 per cent believing to have bullied another child.
As well as questionable interactions, young people are also exposed to questionable content. The survey found that many young people play games that are rated as suitable for adults only. One in six said they had been sent something which made them feel uncomfortable – often nudity, pornography or violent material.
Making sure children are safe online with access to age-appropriate content, but still have the freedom to explore the internet and make full use of it, is a balancing act. Responsibility falls on the students themselves, their parents and their teachers. A survey found that over 80 per cent of teachers feel parents rely on schools too much to teach children about online safety. While many teachers in the UK do teach this, only 37 per cent had any formal training in this area.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of information online for all three parties to ensure children are participating responsibly and learning effectively online, while staying safe. Our experts at Intel Security use the www.thinkuknow.co.uk website, which is run by the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command and has sections for young people of different ages, plus sections for parents and techers. The South West Grid for Learning has produced a series of age-specific courses on its digital literacy and citizenship website with lesson plans covering everything from basic searching (for year 1 pupils) right through to data security and ID theft students in years 10-13.
Many parents worry about what their children are seeing and doing online – especially older students with mobile devices. To help allay those fears, Internet Matters should be the first stop for parents. It’s an independent body made up of representatives from the UKs largest internet service providers, and has a simple three-point plan for parents looking to address online safety: learn about it, talk about it, deal with it. Get Safe Online also has a huge section dedicated to safeguarding children.
If all parties are informed about the opportunities and risks associated with the internet, and understand the ways to lower those risks, mistrust dissolves, and young people can make the most of the internet to enhance their learning.
If you would like to receive further updates on e-safety, digital citizenship, our online safety workshops and other topics at the cutting edge of Ed tech then sign up to our Intel Education newsletter. Teachers can also sign up to our Teachers Engage platform where you’ll find discussions, resources and lesson plans related to digital citizenship and dozens of other topics – all for free.