A Safer Internet

As I wrote recently, I attended a conference on Taming the Wild Web, which was followed by the launch of a new certificated course in safe social networking, called, appropriately enough, Safe. It was developed by DigitalMe with support from partners Childnet International, The I in Online and Radiowaves.

Kate Valentine, a teacher at Buckingham Primary School and ‘Safe’ advisor comments:

Safe’ has been created by teachers and the pupils have constantly been at the fore of its development, hence why the programme is so simple to integrate and effective for both the teacher and children to use. It comprises step by step instructions, links to the curriculum, whole class and carousel activities. Offering a self-assessment system, teachers can reward pupils for completing the programme, with certificates and badges plus gaining accreditation for their school.

The programme is free to schools and optional, paid for training, certificates, badges and other resources support the programme further. At the moment it is available only at the primary (elementary) level.

I’ve had a quick look and I’m impressed. There is guidance for teachers and worksheets for pupils. It’s all very friendly, not scary, like the advice on the blogging worksheet:

Remember: Don’t tell people your home address, phone number or email and only write about other people in the way you would like them to write about you!

The certificate for pupils is functional rather than pretty – they ought to get some kids to design it. A competition perhaps?

A school can become a SAFE school, and that would definitely tie in with the Safeguarding part of the Leadership strand of the ICT Mark.

The “Wild Web” conference itself was useful and interesting. A couple of the speakers questioned the continuing use of the analogy between the web and the Wild West. For what it’s worth, my own view is that although, like any metaphor, it may start to look frayed at edges when scrutinised too closely, it is still a very useful one. Why? Because the term “Wild West” is a handy code: most people will have an image appear in their minds as soon as they see or hear the term. You know it stands for potential lawlessness and having to be aware of what’s going on around you, and the need to arm yourself with protective strategies. In fact, the more I think about it, the more excellent a description it becomes.

Nevertheless, like a lot of conferences on the theme of internet safety, it did focus almost exclusively on the sexual dangers facing children and young people online. There are other dangers too, as I listed in an article about financial literacy, which must also be addressed.

I also wonder whether the term “stranger danger” is entirely useful. Although we’re always told, as children, not to trust strangers, it’s a sad fact of life that most sexual abuse is carried out by family members. Even in other fields, such as drug-taking, how it’s so-called friends you have to be wary of. Resisting such offers can be hard because of group pressure.

Which brings me onto a more general point: go to any decent self-defence class and  you’ll learn that the best way of looking after yourself is by not having a victim mentality or persona.  If the same thing applies in the online world, shouldn’t youngsters be helped to develop a real sense of self-worth that will prevent their being ripped off, fooled by sexual predators or doing silly things that may come back to haunt them? I realise that’s hard, and only applicable above a certain age, but I do think a more rounded and more general approach digital safety is necessary.

A date for your diary

Safer Internet Day is on 8th February and the theme is 'Virtual Lives', with the strap line 'It's more than a game, it's your life'. It looks like there is going to be some great content available, including games, for both primary and secondary schools. How will you make it a day to remember in your school?

A Safer Internet centre is being set up. See http://www.saferinternet.org.uk. The site is currently under construction. When it’s up and running it will include resources and maps of activities. I’ll report further in due course.

On Safer Internet Day Childnet International is planning to hold an online radio phone in for parents, young people and others.

Will Garner, CEO of Childnet, says:

We will be bringing 40 older teenagers to a central event in London, where we will hear their experiences, likes, concerns and solutions in relation to their use of new technology, as well as getting them to work towards developing their own content to raise awareness in a Dragons Den style activity.

Contact Childnet for support and further information, or to let them know what activities you’re planning for the day.

There’s an excellent article on reducing bullying and cyberbullying on eSchool News, in which Elizabeth Englander and Kristin Schank suggest ten easy tips for educators can help prevent bullying in schools and online. Have a look here (you have to register for free to view all of it).

This article first appeared in a recent issue of Computers in Classrooms, the free e-newsletter.