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Don’t block your children from internet access – educate them on the safe use of technology

kids_with_mom
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

The Internet has completely transformed our world and is definitely here to stay. We can no longer imagine life without this fascinating tool at our fingertips, which opens so many doors for us at the click of a button. Whether it is movies, games, e-learning, e-business, social media – there is something there to entice everyone – young children included. We all know that young people are the most active users of the Internet and are most up to date with current trends in the virtual world. This makes the world wide web a wonderful place – but it can be very dangerous as well! Sadly, it is this group who are the most vulnerable target for cyber criminals with malicious intent.

A Unicef study suggests that 80% of all young people using the Internet are at risk of being abused, bullied or taken advantage of. Therefore, the dangers of the online world are a reality that cannot be ignored, especially as children are more likely to disregard all safety precautions whilst using the Internet. For many parents, the easiest solution to this problem is to eliminate the root cause of the threat by forbidding their children from going online. But does blocking the use of technology really serve any purpose? On the contrary, it could prove counter-productive as it may encourage children to use the Internet without the knowledge and supervision of adults.

A better way to tackle the situation is to discuss the potential dangers of the Internet with our children and inculcate safe online practices from a very young age. It is important to keep them abreast with the wonders of technology and use it to gain knowledge, for healthy interaction, entertainment, and to make life more convenient. It is not the technology in itself that is threatening, it is the naivety and lack of maturity of the users. Therefore, the onus lies on parents and educational institutions to be proactive in observing their children’s online behaviour and habits – while also engaging in regular ongoing conversations about the dos and don’ts of online etiquette.

Talking to your children about online safety

Explain to your child, in a manner appropriate for their age, how the Internet is a world in itself and that they need to be careful about what they reveal about themselves or their family. Discuss the potential dangers of the cyber world in a way that is easy for them to relate to.

Begin the conversation when the child is young

Discuss the topic as early as possible – starting at the time of the child’s very first associations with the Internet is vital for highlighting the dangers they could be exposed to. Explain the importance of passwords, of being discreet, and encourage them to be as wary of strangers online as in the real world. This helps to reinforce what is and is not acceptable, and makes healthy practices second nature for them.

Set limits

As it is so easy to get carried away and lose track of time while using the Internet, it is advisable to restrict online time to an hour or two every day, depending on the age of the child. This is important because parents can then actively supervise their child’s online activities and ensure their child does not get addicted. This helps emphasise the fact that whilst you are open to your children using the Internet, it cannot become a substitute for the real world.

Why conversations have a greater impact than blocking our children from the Internet

Denying children access to the Internet to ‘protect’ them is self-defeating. It can lead to them being more curious and sneaky in their access, with no regard for any kind of safety. It may make them rebellious and uninformed, rather than cautious and aware. And the chances of them misusing any technology they are provided with could increase.  Instead, talking to them will help them feel you respect their choices and trust them to make good decisions. This will create a healthy and open relationship between you.

As with all technology, it is not the Internet that is good or bad, rather the way we use it that determines how it impacts our lives. Frank, forthright and proactive effort from adults will make a lasting impression on their minds about the importance of staying safe in the virtual world.

To join the conversation about e-Safety and safeguarding children online, follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you would like to learn more about e-Safety solutions for schools, get in touch with us today.

Are you prepared for the new “Keeping Children Safe in Education” Guidance?

Keeping Children Safe
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The UK Government has concluded the consultation for changes to the statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’. This came into effect on September 5th 2016 – schools and colleges must ensure that children are taught about safeguarding, as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum. The new syllabus must include relevant issues through personal, social health and economic education or through relationship and sex education.

The Government issued a statement to explain the purpose of this guidance:

“Whilst local authorities play a lead role, safeguarding children and protecting them from harm is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play, which includes teachers, nurses, midwives, health visitors, youth workers, police, paediatricians and social workers.”

The other purposes are:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children have the best outcomes

An article published by The Daily Telegraph revealed that nearly a third of teachers in the UK say they do not feel confident teaching online safety and two in five teachers have not attempted any lessons on the subject. Furthermore, it reported that online safety risks are increasing, with over 70 percent of those surveyed stating that sexting and cyber bullying cases have increased.

According to the same survey, teachers have criticised schools for not doing enough to protect pupils from online risks.

What’s new in the latest ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ Guidance?

Staff should read and understand Part One  

Schools should ensure that mechanisms are in place in order to assist staff to understand their roles and responsibilities. The biggest areas for discussion in the consultation was that all staff should ‘read and understand’ part one of Keeping Children Safe guidance.

Training

The guidance highlighted the need for Designated Safeguarding Leads to undertake training every year. In terms of training, the 2016 version refers to safeguarding topics such as:

  • Peer-on-peer abuse
  • Honour-based violence
  • Understanding the additional safeguarding vulnerabilities of learners with SEN and disabilities

Early help

 This update is to ensure the safety of vulnerable children in schools and that staff need to be able to identify learners who need this level of support. The 2016 guidance makes it clear that schools need to identify vulnerable learners, ensuring that staff understand the difference between a safeguarding concern and a child in immediate danger.

Safer Recruitment

Several issues around safer recruitment are highlighted in the 2016 guidance: it states that any concerns about independent school proprietors should be reported straight to the local authority designated officer – the LADO. All governors will need an enhanced disclosure and barring checks. And when the agency assigns a person for inspection checks, it is now obligatory for schools to check that the person is the same person provided by the agency for inspection.

Designated Safeguarding leads

There is an increased emphasis on having a job description for safeguarding leads. The new version of Keeping Children Safe underlines the fact that the designated safeguarding leads cannot delegate their work responsibility to others.

Online safety

A new annex has been added within the revised guidance, which addresses the online safety of students. It requires that the school trust should do all that they can to protect children from harmful and inappropriate online material. However, this must be balanced with ensuring they don’t ‘over block’ information available to children.

Schools are advised to establish an effective approach to online safety that protects and educates the whole school community in their use of technology. Another addition is the line to be taken regarding mobile technology – schools must have a clear policy on the use of mobile phones on the school premises.

How are you protecting your pupils online?

Securus has helped thousands of schools to detect and provide early intervention for student safeguarding issues. At Securus, we firmly believe that schools need to consider e-Safety as a serious issue and enforce strict policy to monitor the digital activity of their pupils.

Child internet safety expert, Professor Andy Phippen, said: “Schools need to take this seriously. They need to make sure someone in a senior position is leading on this, it can’t be down to the ICT teacher, particularly in large secondary schools. Monitoring is a far more proactive approach than trying to block pupils.”

Ian Skeels, Director of Point2Protect, emphasised the importance of schools taking responsibility for protecting children online. He said: “For too long there’s been confusion between government, schools, and parents over whose responsibility it is to protect young people from harmful online content, both within the classroom and beyond. Schools need to identify potential issues and start a positive, open dialogue between teachers and pupils about appropriate online behaviour.”

As a result of the changes in the new version of Keeping Education Safe guidance 2016, headteachers, governors and designated safeguarding leads will need to be accountable for safeguarding their pupils. They must ensure that the child protection policy in their schools reflects the different forms that peer-on-peer pressure abuse can take – it must never be tolerated or overlooked as ‘banter’ or ‘part of growing up.’

 

For more information about Securus e-safety monitoring software and the benefits it can provide to your school, please contact our sales team.

sales@securus-software.com or call 0330 1241750

Think Before You Call ‘Game Over’ To Children Playing Video Games

video games
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

As a parent or caregiver, your primary concern is keeping children safe, out of harm’s way and making sure they develop into healthy well-balanced individuals. So, it’s no surprise that images of men with guns and virtual cities being blown up trouble you and make you question your child’s choice of entertainment. Video games are an easy way to keep children occupied for a few hours so you can have some time to catch up on chores or reply to emails. But, many parents worry about the potential negative impacts of video gaming. The research varies and does not always provide much conclusive evidence, however, this article by BBC gives some interesting insights and much needed clarity on the issue.

“In a research environment that is often polarised between those who believe games have an extremely beneficial role and those who link them to violent acts, this research could provide a new, more nuanced standpoint. – Experimental psychologist Dr Andrew Przybylski

The study conducted by Oxford University reports that playing violent video games for long periods of time can distort adolescents’ sense of ‘right and wrong’. However, many people would argue that a moral compass is a social construct and what is morally correct in one culture may not necessarily reflect the norm elsewhere.

The study also found that empathy, trust and concern for others, which should develop as teenagers grow up, were delayed in youngsters who were over-exposed to violent video games. This points to the fact that beyond developing a sense of right and wrong, excessive video gaming affects children on a developmental level.

On the other hand, the study also suggests that limited playing of video games may actually boost children’s learning, health and social skills. Researchers asked children how much time they spent gaming on a typical school day – either using consoles or computers. Subsequently, they rated a number of factors, ranging from satisfaction with their lives to hyperactivity and inattention. The results suggest that youngsters who played video games under an hour each day were satisfied with their lives and showed the highest levels of positive social interactions. The group also had fewer problems with emotional issues and lower levels of hyperactivity.

Additionally, this research found that children who spent more than three hours playing games were the least well adjusted.

Some potential benefits….

Problem solving and logic

Video games that are interactive and involve making quick decisions help improve problem-solving skills. If you have observed young people playing video games, you would agree that the challenges of the games bring about an alertness in them. These challenges provide an opportunity for sharpening their quick-thinking skills and the ability to adapt to any circumstance. Some games require decision making skills in order to conquer challenges, which may enhance player’s logic and reasoning skills.

Hand-eye coordination, motor and spatial skills

Most video games require a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual spatial ability to be successful. Especially shooting games, which require the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character – where he/she is moving, his speed, where the gun is aiming, and so on.

Multitasking ability

As playing a video game also involves tracking real-time movements of many shifting variables and managing multiple objectives, it helps boost the cognitive function, and, in particular, multitasking ability in young players.

Negative effects of video games

Aggressive behaviour

 The effect of video games in children are more likely to be aggressive, particularly those who favour violent ‘shoote-em-up’ games, as reported in this article. Additionally, a review of almost a decade of studies (in the same article) found that exposure to violent videogames was a risk factor for increased aggression.

Socially isolated

Too much video gaming makes your child socially isolated, as he/she may spend less time on other activities such as doing homework, reading, sports and interacting with family and friends.

Poor performance in academics

The time spent playing video games can affect academic performance negatively, as many players routinely skip homework to play games.

Safeguarding your children online

Parentzone has listed some tips on helping your child play safe:

  • You can allow your children to play for about an hour a day, which is the ideal amount of time to spend on gaming. Also, it’s best to intervene if your child’s gaming interferes with his/her homework, offline friendships or sleep.
  • Most of the games need to be purchased online, you can thus use parental controls to disable or require permission for purchases.
  • Inform your children about the dangers of downloading suspicious files that could lead to contact with strangers online.
  • Ensure that you speak to your child if they look worried after playing a game online. Do not ban games immediately if they come to you with a concern, as this can feel like a punishment and discourage them to ask for your help.

Video games can enhance your child’s overall development or hamper it, depending on how much time they spend playing. But, if you’re afraid that your child might be getting addicted or gaming is having a negative impact, then it’s time to set limits around video game use. To know more about e-Safety and other topics related to safeguarding children online, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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