In today’s world there is no escaping the internet and all the advantages, as well as disadvantages, that it brings with it. It is inevitable that the children we’ll be teaching will have come in touch with technology in the very first years of their lives and it should not be discouraged. Instead, just as we do with many other possible dangers that children are faced with, we should teach them how to be safe. Children participating in the Byron review said:
“Kids don’t need protection we need guidance. If you protect us you are making us weaker. We don’t go through all the trial and error necessary to learn what we need to survive on our own… don’t fight our battles for us just give us assistance when we need it.” Byron Review, 2008
This really got me thinking about these issues and how they might affect me as a teacher in my daily practice. There are many issues with the internet we as adults are aware of – there is inappropriate content, children can be approached by people who might pose danger to their safety as well as be part of the e-commerce. However, we need to be aware that just as the internet and its use changes at dramatic speeds, so do its dangers. As teachers we need to be in tune with what children do on the internet and most importantly learn to listen to our pupils in order to be able to pick up new risks they’re facing on-line (Livingstone et al. 2007).
At the school I’m placed at every single child has got an iPad that is owned by the school. Children are often using the technology to do their research in literacy, teachers use it as an assessment for learning tool, but also as a behaviour incentive. Children are allowed to take their iPads home with them if their behaviour was good that day. They are allowed to have up to 4 apps of their choice on their tablets, however, they are not allowed to access these at school. Also, a lot of websites are inaccessible and children are blocked from using them. Whilst this is a good approach, questions have been raised over its ability to empower children to be able to protect themselves (Allen,2012) .
The most valuable thing that we as teachers can do is to create a classroom environment in which children are not afraid to share and report the things they saw online which made them uncomfortable. This will promote the sort of attitudes that we want children to adopt not only when using the internet, but generally as they grow into responsible citizens (Allen, 2012).
How can we create such culture? This goes beyond hanging posters promoting being safe online (like the one below, which you can find in every classroom in my school).
Firstly, I think such proactive interventions should be taken from a very young age. For KS1 children we could use fun videos such as those found on thinkuknow.co.uk. With older children, we could play games such as this one – it is a fun way to introduce safety online and raise issues of safety in a non-threatening way. Websites such as this can also help children develop skills that they might need when faced with a threatening content. For upper KS2 this video sends a powerful message:
It is a part of the Teachers’ Standards to create a safe environment for our pupils (TS1) and these pre-emptive approaches to safety can help us with that. However, it is important to remember that pre-empting the issues will not make them disappear. It is important for teachers to respond to incidents in a professional, decisive manner (TS 7 – acting decisively when necessary). Should anything happen we should know how to respond appropriately, for example by reporting incidents to the School Management, informing the parents, speaking to the pupils, but most importantly do it all with the child’s wellbeing in mind.
References (where links not provided):
Allen, J. (2012) Primary ICT: knowledge, understanding and practice. London: SAGE