This is part 2 of 3 guest posts from Matt Lovegrove, an independent online safety trainer, speaker, and practicing teacher (part 1 – Is online safety a problem for the techies, the teachers, or the parents?)
I was never taught about online safety at school.
I remember when my family got (dial up!) Internet in 1999 and the world was suddenly opened up to me. I created innumerable website accounts without really knowing what they would be used for, made my own websites, and chatted with people I’d never get to meet in real-life.
I loved how open the Internet was and how easily I could access information.
But in hindsight I didn’t really know what I was doing and about the potential risks I was facing. And, of course, the same went for schools.
Prevention vs cure
We’re still learning how people use the Internet to take advantage of others and how mistakes are made, but, as with most things, prevention is better than cure.
If we can teach children to independently and confidently assess situations and avoid risks, we’ll be doing well.
In fact, if we teach them to be responsible and sensible users of all technologies at a young age, we’re setting up them up to be successful in adulthood too. Let’s face it, a good understanding of technology will be fundamental to future success.
Engaging children with online safety messages doesn’t have to be hard, boring or scary. To be most effective it should be fun, hands-on and engaging.
Below I have listed my favourite online safety resources for use with young people. I’ve seen them work time and again in schools I work with. You may be familiar with some of them, but please do share them with staff and parents.
Childnet’s high-quality resources are free to use and have a wide scope – all educational organisations would benefit from using them. The stories, such as Digiduck’s Big Decision and Smartie the Penguin are some of my favourite resources as they are incredibly engaging and promote online safety messages in entertaining ways.
2. BrainPOP videos
BrainPOP’s series of online safety videos are perfect for the classroom and are a must for all schools and related activities, quizzes, and games are also available. Why not try your hand at Share Jumper, a free educational game that teaches you what is good and bad information to share online?
CEOP’s Thinkuknow website is a great resource for any child aged between 5 – 18.
Differentiated for different age groups, the website uses cartoon videos, games and interactive activities to deliver key online safety messages to children and also contains an area for teachers with free, downloadable lesson plans.
This website reads information for children who are too young to read independently and has great advice for teenagers who are experimenting with relationships too.
Thinkuknow’s Cyber Café, for 8-10-year-olds, provides a great place for children to apply their learning and practise using services like email safely by using simulations.
Written by Stuart Spendlow, Penguinpig is a fantastic story about a young girl who gets tricked online. It’s perfect for very young children and could be used to start to embed vital online safety messages as part of the curriculum in Foundation Stage and Key Stage One.
5. Safer Internet Day
Safer Internet Day (Tuesday 7th February 2017), provides a good opportunity for schools to focus on online safety and promote healthy digital citizenship. Nearer the day, free resources are released for classroom or whole-school use.
Kiddle.co provides a safer way for children to search the internet. Using Google’s Custom Search settings, it offers many benefits:
- It’s safer: due to filtering and key-word blocking, there is less chance of inappropriate material being accessed.
- Websites that are listed by Kiddle, particularly those that appear at the top of the results page when a search query is entered, are more likely to be written for children. This means that children using the search engine are more likely to find information that they can comprehend and will therefore find useful; an ideal solution when it comes to homework or independent research.
- It uses big pictures: as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Kiddle does a great job at displaying big thumbnails which in turn helps children find what they’re looking for.
Of course, no search engine is perfect, but Kiddle provides both a good solution to those looking to promote safe-searching skills with children and opportunities for more relevant and useful Internet use.
Talk about online safety often…
The best way of dealing with online safety is to regularly be open with young people about how the Internet works and how they can use it sensibly and responsibly. Talk to your children often and use some or all of the resource above, and you’ll be making an excellent start.
Matt Lovegrove is an independent eSafety trainer, speaker, and practicing teacher. If you need training or support for your school, please get in touch with Engage eSafety.