On Thursday 6th March I attended the emPSN Spring Event at Pride Park. The theme was eSafety and eSecurity. Presentations were given by suppliers and consultants on the emPSN framework, and with each one being 15 minutes long, it was a fast-moving morning.
Alan Mackenzie, from eSafety Adviser gave some practical and effective tips for engaging parents in this subject including:
- Get rid of the eSafety label – parents think that once they’ve done eSafety once, they know everything
- Get the pupils involved, e.g. pick a topic such as cyberbullying and dramatise it
- Offer refreshments – cheese and wine seems to be a particular favourite
- Survey the parents and students to find out what their particular concerns are and then target them
- Link with the PTA as an event
- Consider going to where the parents are online, i.e. Facebook
The last suggestion is by far the most controversial, as many schools still see Facebook as a no-go area because of the potential risks. However, Alan presented a rational argument for using social media in a controlled way, by balancing the difficulties of the technologies against the possibilities.
Alan summarised by emphasising that eSafety is not a technology issue; it’s a complex behavioural issue. There is a need to understand why children are accessing certain sites, and what their moral compass is. Blogging is one great way of getting children online in a way that brings eSafety issues to the forefront as well.
Alan’s website is at http://www.esafety-adviser.com/ and contains free resources including newsletters for schools and parents, questionnaires and short, succinct videos.
UK Safer Internet Centre
James Diamond from the UK Safer Internet Centre provided up-to-date information on eSafety trends. Whereas there used to be a family computer in the living room, children now have mobile devices which they use around the house. Tablet usage amongst children has increased massively over the last 18 months. The convenience of these devices comes with a trade-off against security.
The sites that children access change and evolve over time too, for example “Spotted” pages, Snapchat and Whatsapp weren’t around a couple of years ago but are all now very popular.
Another evolving area is that of downloading apps and the permissions that they require. James suggested that being aware of how much information an app can access should be part of all childrens’ digital literacy education.
Cloud computing is another trending topic as more and more information is stored “in the cloud”, i.e. on geographically remote servers. Sites such as Prezi and DropBox are great, but the general rule of thumb is that if you’re not paying for it, make sure you check what security is in place.
James offered a number of insights, tips and resources for schools, including:
- One useful approach is to form an eSafety group with a parent, governor, member of school council, teacher etc. to ensure that the ethos is embedded across the school.
- http://www.360safe.org.uk/ A free 360 degree online audit tool for schools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in eSafety
- http://www.digital-literacy.org.uk/Home.aspx A free curriculum resource for teaching all aspects of digital literacy in schools with lesson plans and links to further materials
- http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources/teachers-and-professionals/professional-reputation Guidance for teachers and school staff to consider their professional reputation and digital footprint
- Another site mentioned on the day which could be useful for schools is Yammer – a Microsoft initiative providing private social networks.
- Headteachers and governors need to bear in mind that the filtering provided as part of the broadband / web filtering subscriptions is only part of the solution to eSafety in schools.
- Because it is current and useful, there is a link here to David Brown, HMI, National Lead for ICT on Inspecting eSafety in Schools from BETT in January 2014. http://www.slideshare.net/Ofstednews/inspecting-esafety-in-schools