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Teaching students to recognise grooming

Grooming
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Sex Education Forum conducted a survey of more than 2,000 students, aged between 11 to 25 years. It was discovered that:

  • 50% of the respondents did not know how to get help if they were abused
  • 53% of the respondents could not recognise grooming for sexual exploitation
  • 44% were unaware about abusive relationships
  • 34% were clueless about sexual consent

This lack of knowledge was attributed to the gaps in their sex and relationships education in schools. So, how can teachers bridge this gap and ensure the safety of their students?

Bridging the gap and empowering students

1. What is grooming?

The first step to help children recognise grooming is to define the term itself. For most people, including children, the word ‘grooming’ would be interpreted by its common meaning ‘the things that you do to make your appearance clean and neat, for example brushing your hair, or the things that you do to keep an animal’s hair or fur clean and neat.

However, it is essential for children to understand that this word has an alternative meaning. Our previous article defines online grooming as “… the process by which an adult with an inappropriate sexual interest in children will approach a child online to foster a relationship with the intent to meet them in person and intentionally cause harm.”

This can be a difficult subject to broach with children, therefore, the right balance of tact and honesty is extremely important.

Teachers need to educate children that groomers come in all forms and could be anyone – from a guiding figure in their lives to a stranger they meet online.

2. All it takes is a few tricks and some time

When teaching children about grooming, a related concept is the process groomers use to deceive them. Children should be taught that groomers will not be upfront about their intentions. Their manipulation is a gradual process. And this involves paying attention to that student, making them feel special. This is done by way of flattery, expensive gifts, and being sympathetic. These tactics make the child believe that no one else can understand them better than the groomer. The result is that they start trusting the groomer.

3. Sharing a few secrets…

Once this trust has been established, the groomers use a new tactic to influence and control their victims – secrecy. Children are fooled into believing that something valuable is being shared with them. In return, they are asked to share something of value with the groomer. Over time, the groomer develops an inappropriate relationship with the child, terming the conversations as their “special secret”.

Teaching children to differentiate between good secrets and bad secrets is therefore essential. A secret which makes them feel anxious, fearful or uncomfortable should not be kept from their parents or teachers.

Developing creative lesson plans to aid their understanding…

Teaching children about a sensitive topic like grooming can be tricky. Students need to be careful with everyone, but at the same time, you don’t want them to avoid developing trusting relationships with adults.

Lily Horton, from Loudmouth Education and Training, mentions an interesting class activity to discuss online grooming. You can ask your students to work together and create a realistic character.  Give the character attributes, behavioural tendencies, and a name. Once the character is developed, you can read passages from her diary, followed by an interactive question and answer session.

For example – “I’ve met this guy through Facebook and he is so cute! His name is Tom and he is 16. Though we haven’t met up yet, we have been messaging each other for weeks! My mates find this whole situation funny but I think we are really falling for each other!”

Later, you could ask questions such as:

  • What makes the character feel that she is falling for Tom?
  • Why do you think her friends find this ‘whole situation’ funny?
  • Do you think the character should meet Tom? Why/why not?

The next excerpt can be:

“I met Tom today. He was sweet and caring. But he lied about his age. Though I must say he made up for his mistake by giving me a very pretty and expensive necklace. He made our evening special and even dropped me home. I think I’ll excuse his lie. Excited to meet him again!”

You could then ask:

  • Do you think the girl should meet Tom again? Why/why not?
  • Should she be concerned that he lied about his age? Why/why not?

You can later continue by saying that she has fallen in love with him and they have started a relationship. She has stopped seeing her friends as Tom thinks they are a bad influence. He continues to buy expensive gifts for her and encourages her to push boundaries and try new things like drinking alcohol and watching pornography.

You can ask questions like:

  • Do you think their relationship is healthy? Why/why not?
  • What do you think the girl should do?

The latter aspects of the story can deal with how Tom has managed to isolate her completely from her friends, how he has started asking for sexual favours and coercing her into sexual activity online in return for his expensive gifts.

While using such lesson plans, you can summarise that this entire process is called grooming and that some signs can be spotted early on. Discussing such situations in the class will help students to better identify signs.

Students are now computer literate from an early age and need to be safeguarded while accessing online resources. Have you considered the benefits of installing cyber safety measures? Connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn to know more!

5 tips to prevent student hackers from accessing school computer systems

Student hackers
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

“Greenwich University suffers second data breach this year in apparent ‘revenge hack’ by former student” – Independent

“British teenager hacks North Korea’s newly-launched Facebook site after guessing the login and password were set to ‘admin’ and ‘password’” – Daily Mail

“Europe’s youngest app designer expelled after hacking school computer system” – The Telegraph

Technology advances have made learning easier and students are increasingly tech-savvy.  However, the down side is that there has been a dramatic rise in unethical activities. Protecting school computer systems from student hackers is now an urgent priority.

A recent article in The Guardian highlighted that many students’ internet understanding and online abilities are now way beyond those of their teachers. As a result, it can be a nightmare for schools to deal with students who hack into databases, steal staff passwords and access secure sections of school websites.

Research by Probrand revealed that “how to hack the school computer” has been searched for more than 2,100 times in the UK. Astonishingly, this is monthly! So, why do students indulge in such practices? The reasons can be varied – to retaliate for punishment, to change their grades, improve their attendance, for peer respect or just for fun.

Commenting on school systems being hacked, Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for cybercrime, stated that school computer systems are vulnerable to unauthorised access. “Schools are just not aware of all the ways they can be attacked.”

How can schools ensure safety from student hackers?

1. Usernames and passwords

The most important way to prevent unauthorised access is to review your user list, check who has permission to access what kind of content, and give each student and staff member a unique login id and password. This will provide you with an audit trail to follow in case of a hacking incident. A generic login id makes it difficult to find.

Encourage your staff to use strong passwords and change them frequently. Likewise, have a separate password for confidential data. After all, no school would want a repeat of the Bay House School incident.

2. Creating separate networks

Separating the student network from the staff network makes it harder for students to access sensitive information. Staff must be warned about sharing their passwords with students, or anyone else for that matter, because hackers can access passwords in the simplest ways.

3. Prepare copies of grades

Students feel the pressure of getting good grades and therefore the idea of hacking into the school system can be tempting. Teachers can prepare separate copies of grades by downloading or printing the grades every time a test is taken or an assignment is submitted. This kind of back-up can be a good recovery process in case of a hacking event.

4. Encourage open communication and set ground rules

Encourage open communication between students and staff members so that everyone knows what measures need to be taken to prevent hacking. Similarly, ground rules must be set highlighting acceptable behaviour when using school computers. Students should also be made aware about the rules and consequences for hacking or not adhering to the school’s policy.

5. Teach students to be digitally responsible

With the help of Internet safety lessons, students can be educated about taking responsibility for their online activities. Teachers should teach students to practice appropriate online behaviour while exploring the Internet for learning resources. Help them understand that their online activities don’t occur in a vacuum, and there might be consequences. This has the potential to make them digitally responsible.

Student hacking cannot be entirely prevented. However, schools can prevent most of it. Whilst applying the above measures is a good start, schools need to implement cyber safety measures to avoid more than just student hackers. This is where Securus steps in. Get in touch with us today to safeguard both pupils and your school systems.

Teaching styles – what type of teacher are you?

Teacher
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

For many years, there has been a debate in education surrounding ‘progressive’ and ‘traditional’ teaching methods. As outlined in a blog post from ‘Scenes from the battleground’, student-centred teaching methods gained prominence in the first decade of the 21st century.

Ofsted inspectors tended to favour progressive teaching, and schools were criticised for failing to prioritise such methods. However, according to an article in the Telegraph, there was a considerable drop in these instances in early 2014 after Sir Michael Wilshaw made a direct appeal to inspectors.

Nevertheless, whether teachers adopt progressive teaching practices or traditional ones, their influence in students’ lives is immense. Aristotle once said, “Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

Teachers come from many different walks of life and have different reasons for choosing the profession. And their individual personalities contribute to their own unique teaching style.

What type of teacher are you?

LKMco compiled a research study,  Why Teach, in association with education company Pearson. It explored why teachers choose to join the profession and what motivates them to stay. The study surveyed over 1,000 teachers in England and outlined four broad teaching styles based on their answers.

Idealists

These teachers care about making a difference – not just to their pupils but also to their community and society. Their ambition to do good for society is the driving force behind their work. Idealists describe themselves as being good at teaching. However, the desire to change the world remains primary. They look for a job where they can have the greatest impact, and are more likely to teach in local authority and community schools than other teacher types. Idealist teachers love their subject and are committed to education and the profession.

Practitioners

This type consists of those who always wanted to be teachers. Their main aim is to contribute to the development of their own students. They are in the profession because they enjoy their craft and want to improve what they do. They are committed to teaching and believe in the importance of continued professional development.

Moderates

These teachers are less likely to raise strong opinions on any subject. They are moderately influenced by external factors. They tend to be open-minded, flexible, and neutral. Moderates are motivated by several different factors that keep them in the profession – their interest in the subject and their desire to make a difference to pupils’ lives.

However, when it comes to recommending the profession, this type is less enthusiastic compared with the Practitioners. They are also more likely to have considered leaving teaching than the Idealists.

Rationalists

These are teachers who have made a rational decision about being in the profession. They tend to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding to teach. Rationalists believe they can make a difference but at the same time, they also realise they need a job with decent pay and holidays. They don’t prioritise work over their personal lives and sometimes they tend to feel frustrated about their profession. Unlike other groups, they are less likely to recommend this profession to others or to their younger selves.

To quote a line from this research study, ‘it takes someone special to be a teacher’. These categories are not exhaustive and might overlap in some cases.

So, what kind of teacher are you? Are you an idealist with a pragmatic approach? Or are you a rationalist who blends elements from all of these categories?

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