What effect has growing up in the information age had on our students?
As the digital and physical worlds collide, it’s the lives of the youngest members of our society that have been most affected. They have grown up with access to an infinitely expanding reserve of information and entertainment.
It’s easy to see how the lines between the digital and real worlds can blur. However, societal change is natural; if children are sufficiently protected and guided in their use of new technologies, the digital world doesn’t have to be viewed in a negative light.
As educators, one of the most important things that we can do for the children in our care is ensuring their safety, and, considering its importance to young people’s lives, this care should extend into the virtual world as well. This means working closely with parents to ensure their children’s safety.
Digital technologies may seem alien to some parents, but, by offering advice and care to parents via your school newsletters, handouts, or your school planners, you can help parents to keep their children safe. Here’s our checklist of the topics you may want to cover:
- Establish a device curfew
- Moderate social media
- Monitor Internet use
- Reduce screen time
- Create a safe environment
- Support them
1. Establish a device curfew
If children have access to a mobile phone, it could be difficult for them to disengage from social media. It’s important to establish smartphone and device rules to promote online safety and cut down on their Internet use.
While they have wide-ranging benefits, social media and smartphones can also be highly destructive. Children find them irresistibly addictive, and overuse can warp their perception of real life; establishing social media curfews will help to manage this.
2. Moderate social media
Ask parents not to allow their children on social media until they’ve reached the required minimum age (this varies between apps).
If they do have social media accounts, parents should ensure that their children’s privacy settings are maxed out and they can’t be viewed by people they don’t know. You should also block location access to any social media apps, as this will allow the app to know where your child is at all times.
3. Monitor Internet use
Most importantly, parents need to be aware of what their children get up to online. This can be as simple as watching over their shoulder, but there are also third-party apps you can get that allow you to view what they’re doing in real time.
If possible, parents can add themselves as a “friend” on the social media their children use. This could help them to identify and protect them from potentially malicious online interactions.
When it comes to cyberbullying, parents also need to know that they can approach the school to help to mediate such issues.
4. Reduce screen time
Many parents would be shocked to find out how much actual time their children spend in front of a screen. Aside from contributing to a lack of exercise, there are significant physical and mental health benefits for children cutting down on their screen time. Televisions, computer monitors, and handheld devices all emit blue light, which can disturb children’s sleep patterns and cause other health issues; you can find out more about this here.
Parents should keep games consoles, computers, and devices in a shared space, such as the living room; otherwise, they can’t be sure about how much screen time their children are getting.
5. Create a safe environment
For the times that parents can’t be there to oversee their children’s Internet consumption, parental controls for specific apps can be very useful. For example, media streaming service Netflix has a Netflix for Kids mode that will restrict adult-themed programming.
Also, don’t forget to install antivirus/firewall (which could even include content filters), and consider installing an ad blocker.
6. Support them
It’s inevitable: children will come across unsuitable content online.
In the event that children should view inappropriate content, parents need to be willing to talk this through with them. If parents aren’t comfortable with this, online resources such as Thinkuknow can help to fill this role, but shouldn’t be relied upon.
There’s a school of thought that all children should learn to be digital citizens, or denizens of the Internet. If you’re interested in learning more about safeguarding children online, I’ve written a thought piece about this concept, which you can read here.
Bonus: support your online safeguarding strategy
As teachers and educators, we can’t always monitor our students’ actions outside of the school environment. This is where parents and family step in.
Fortunately, school planners are the ideal way to outline online safeguarding strategies for parents and families, and provide an open forum to discuss these issues.
If you’re considering using your student planners as an online safeguarding tool, an excellent place to start is with our planner page idea packs. We have page packs that specifically cover online safety and wellbeing issues for both primary and secondary schools: