Surely all schools have e-safety systems on their networks, so what more needs to be done? Perhaps if this was 2005, that would be a reasonable question, but things have changed a lot since those systems were first developed.
The rapid explosion of mobile technologies, tablet computing, and Bring-Your-Own-Device initiatives has significantly changed the school landscape. Today, many students are able to punch through a school’s network filters in moments, accessing whatever content they want – and those schools are entirely unaware that this is happening. In addition, Internet connectivity has become so easy, pupils are able to go online anywhere on the school site.
The need for a new emphasis on e-safety is proven by its inclusion from Key Stages 1 – 4 in the Computing Programmes of Study that came into effect from September 2014, while the April 2014 guidance for inspectors from Ofsted stresses the need for age-appropriate filtering and teaching, as well as the need for schools to engage with parents to keep children safe.
Viewed positively, these changes present schools with an opportunity to offer their wider community a new type of e-safety umbrella, providing age-appropriate filtering, guidance and resources for parents, and high quality teaching and e-safety qualifications for students.
The absolute ideal to aim for might be:
- Children aged 4 – 10 to have age-appropriate monitoring and moderation applied to their online activity, across all networks and devices, in school and at home
- Schools and parents working together to discuss the key issues with children, helping them understand the potential problems they may encounter and how to deal with them
- The golden e-safety rules about content, contact and conduct need to be ingrained from an early age, in the same way that we teach children the rules for crossing the road safely
- Between the ages of 10 – 13 children should experience a more formal e-safety training process, perhaps leading to a formal qualification
- From 13 – 16 years old young people are able to apply the lessons they have learnt, gradually moving toward the adult world with a greater understanding and resilience
The partnership implied here between schools and parents will not happen overnight, but working toward it is surely the best thing for the children. The alternative is a generation of children with unrestricted access to an un-moderated online world – and no one knows the impact that this will have on them as adults. Surely now is the time for us to act?