e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

Help students differentiate between positive and negative peer influence

Peer influence
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Children spend many of their waking hours at school or engaged in extra-curricular activities and in doing so, they foster bonds with their peers. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph pointed out that a child’s friends have a significant impact on their behaviour. It further stated that popular culture, friends, and street gangs had a greater influence than their genetic make-up or the lessons they learnt at home.

With such a great influence exerted by peers, it is important for parents and teachers to safeguard children from steering towards bad behaviour. Illicit drug abuse is a particular concern. Although statistics show there has been a fall in the prevalence of drug use among students, the problem still exists. Research  also suggests that boys are generally more susceptible to drug use than girls.

In an earlier article, we have discussed how schools can create a safe and drug-free environment and the onus lies with teachers to educate students about good and negative peer influence.

Students need to be accepted at school and mix with friends. They tend to be influenced by the attitudes and lifestyles of their peers. It is normal for them to do things in their social circle which help them feel valued.  However, it is not wise to follow one’s friends blindly.

Peer influence can have negative effects

In their need to be accepted by their friends, students can often indulge in behaviours they are not comfortable with.  At a young and vulnerable age, they may fail to understand the impact of giving in to peer pressure. Help them to look out for the following signs:

Wrong decisions

Explain to children that when they feel compelled to do something they dislike, it is a bad sign. An example could be taking up a hobby or activity just because their peers do, without much thought to where their own interests lie.

Cultivation of bad habits

Peer pressure is powerful. It can force young people to do things they are not comfortable with.  It can bring about a change in attitude and lifestyle. Vey often, peer influence is the main reason why students take up drug use, alcohol, and smoking.

Loss of individuality

Peer influence may compel students to follow everything their peers do, adopting their fashion sense, hairstyle, and so on. This can lead to a child losing their originality.

Peer influence can be positive too!

Peer influence can bring about positive changes.

Adopting good habits

Peers can help others change for the better. For example, knowing that their friends are avid readers can encourage students to read and people who play sports very often inspire their friends to join in.

Losing bad habits

Peer influence can also deter other students from experimenting with drugs. Students may be persuaded to turn over a new leaf when their peers frown upon their bad habits or tell them about the damage drugs can cause.

The bottom line

Students should be made aware that the difference between positive and negative peer influence is all about the outcome and intention. If a student is convinced to do something which turns out to be good for them, the peer influence is positive. And if they are pressurised to make an unhealthy choice, the peer influence is negative.

Similarly, students need to be made aware of digital peer influence. The principles of offline peer influence apply to the online world as well.

To help protect students from negative influences online, get in touch with us today!

e-Safety guidelines for schools and teachers

Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Internet has enabled young people to explore, connect, create and learn in ways never imagined before.  It has, in fact, given us all immense power. It has often been said that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So how can we ensure our children are using this power responsibly? The answer is e-Safety education.

e-Safety is constantly evolving. One company that has been instrumental in safeguarding young people online in the UK is Securus, the leading e-Safety solution for schools and colleges. Securus monitors all computer-based activities, both within and outside of places of learning, and alerts school authorities to anything that suggests a child may be at risk or is breaching acceptable use policies.  Since 2002, more than 3,500 educational establishments have enjoyed the benefits Securus provides, by identifying and preventing thousands of online threats to children every day.

One major concern raised recently by the government is cyberbullying.  A staggering 69% of all school age children report having been bullied, with a large proportion taking the form of cyberbullying.  It is not just the children who suffer, however.  A  guide released by the Department for Education reveals that 21% of teachers have reported derogatory comments posted about them by children on social media sites. Read our blog to delve a bit deeper into cyberbullying.

e-Safety guidelines for teachers

In November 2013, the Guardian published an article, which reported that schools play a very important role in confronting online abuse. A majority of teachers feel that schools should improve their levels of online safety education.

How can schools help keep students safe online?

Quiz –  You could use a quiz to emphasise the importance of using strong passwords for online security. For example: what was your first pet’s name? What is your date of birth? What is your email address? Or, what is your favourite film? After you obtain the answers, tell them that you now have the information to retrieve their passwords. Encourage them to make the connection between these questions and regularly asked security questions online, and teach them techniques to make the information more secure.

School policy –  many schools have embraced e-Safety, but how many of them consider e-Safety education to be mandatory in their schools? Ensure that school networks operate like home networks – they should be open and trusted, but with regular monitoring and honest discussion when breaches are made.  Additionally, teach your pupils how to use online tools effectively for personal use, education and socialising. Also, help them develop critical thinking skills around all aspects of being online.

Involve older students –  peer education is one of the most positive ways to build awareness on e-Safety. Elect a group of older pupils, and provide them with in depth training to enable them to become e-Safety ambassadors who can train students, staff and parents. Here is what  e-Safety advisor specialist, Alan Mackenzie has to say about this approach: “The students were particularly responsive to this approach as the advice was practical, realistic and relevant. There were no mentions of dated social networking sites or advice of the ‘don’t meet online friends’ nature, which often typify the traditional e-Safety one-off assemblies.”

Engage parents –  e-Safety discussions should be part of the school curriculum and not just something spoken about at an annual event. Families should be encouraged to participate, e-Safety is, after all, a shared responsibility.  There should be regular and open communication with families, where parents can be educated on e-Safety, covering such topics as using filters, parental controls and home computer security. To learn more about how to protect children using parental controls, read our blog.

Be positive –   When talking to youngsters about the Internet, show them its positive aspects as well as its dangers. Do not start any discussion on e-Safety in a manner that could scare them and always emphasise using the Internet carefully and responsibly.

The e-Safety tools available today should help us to feel positive about technology. How positive are you?

Monitoring for Extremist Content Online

Extremist content
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Parents, teachers and educational leaders are becoming increasingly proactive when it comes to e-Safety and its measures. Wise use of the Internet is bridging the gap between parents’ concerns and children’s demand for liberal use.

The Internet is the most preferred hub for freedom of speech and self-publication. The UK government has therefore launched a number of polices for e-Safety to counter concerns that include cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and extremism. Extremism is particularly challenging to investigate because there is no accountability per se and the ideology is imparted in an indirect manner, through non-verbal communication and images that can evoke undesirable psychological responses. Nonetheless, we can look for valid solutions through appropriate awareness.

Here are some pointers for applying appropriate monitoring strategies:

Individual reporting

Users who encounter racially inflammatory material can report it directly to the Police. Responsible officials will further review and assess the material in a systematic manner. The government’s Home Office counter-terrorism Internet referral unit received 2,025 complaints regarding extremist content. Consequently, about 10% of the offending web pages were taken down by the authorities.

Safeguarding through open discussions

Teenagers often come across extremist content while searching for other information online. This content is then repeatedly disseminated to them through pop-ups or reminders. To help youngsters deal with this type of content effectively, we can talk to them about the possible consequences at an early stage to make them more aware. Also, it is helpful to maintain an open dialogue with children about what they like to do online, so they feel safe to disclose any unpleasant experiences.

Surveillance versus blocking

It is advisable that we review and supervise the content accessed by children, rather than simply blocking websites because over blocking may cause them to lose out on important information. We need to have a variety of checks in place – is the content age appropriate? Are personal devices (used in schools, libraries) set in line with the regulations? Are the safety filters functioning optimally to give prompt alerts? And, are the monitoring system retaining the accessed data appropriately to revive or review for later use?

Here, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan explains that the government has launched the Educate Against Hate website. This practically advises e and supports parents, teachers and school leaders on protection strategies against extremism.

One way to ensure online safety is to implement appropriate systems to monitor and filter online content accessed by children. A survey on management of Internet access in UK public libraries revealed that all public library authorities used filtering software to ensure safer usage.

We are here to help you facilitate safe and secure online usage for your children; contact us to find out more about how we can assist you.

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