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Exploring Online Safely

Exploring Online Safely

My roles as a Year 5 teacher and leader of STEM, as well as being the parent of two children, ages 8 and 12, has led me to think quite a lot about E-Safety.

Digital media provides opportunities for people to explore, connect, create and learn. While we want children to be inspired and to take these opportunities, we also want them to be aware of potential pitfalls such as cyber bullying, anxiety about self-image, the permanency of online presence and difficulty in managing screen time.

Although it is important to set boundaries for children, each day they are becoming more independent. Like learning to swim or cross the road, the best way to keep children safe online is to help them develop the skills necessary to do so. Ideally, our aim is to empower children to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly.

Last year, Mr Ibbotson and I were charged with the task of putting into place a curriculum that would achieve this goal. After talking to experts in the field, teachers from other schools, parents and children, and from drawing on our own experiences as a staff at Coleridge, we had a clear idea of what such a curriculum should look like. After much research, we finally found one that satisfied our goal.

The Southwest Grid for Learning, which is a not-for-profit charitable trust that provides learners throughout the South West of England with internet connectivity, learning resources and services, produced a scheme for learning for all year groups called Digital Literacy and Citizenship. They are based on Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum, which was designed and developed in the US, in partnership with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The curriculum focuses on 8 key areas:

  • Internet Safety
  • Privacy and Security
  • Digital Footprint and Reputation
  • Self-image and identity
  • Relationships and Communication
  • Cyberbullying
  • Information Literacy
  • Creative Credit and Copyright

Children at Coleridge are provided with a wide variety of opportunities to increase their awareness of potential dangers online, and to develop the skills they need to act safely. We ensure children gain an understanding of what it means to behave respectfully toward others and to know that they, themselves, have the right to be treated respectfully as well.

At home, the most effective way for us to help our own children stay safe online is to talk with them. Keep the conversation going to help prevent problems or to deal with them if they are already happening. Help children develop critical thinking as they grow up. Discuss boundaries and agree which apps and websites are appropriate. Explore these apps and websites together, and make sure your children feel part of the discussion. Reassure them that they can always talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

The world in which our children are growing up in, is evolving very quickly and it sometimes feels as if the challenges inherent in keeping up with them can be overwhelming. Ideally, we want to embrace the benefits, while remaining aware of the dangers.

I would like to conclude this blog with a quote I heard recently on a radio programme about e-safety:

“Among the forest of perceived hazards, it is easy to lose sight of the many rays of sunshine. When it comes to the real threats, we have no choice but to navigate them.”