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BESA in conversation with... National Online Safety

We caught up with James Southworth, MD of National Online Safety about ensuring the young don't get into troubled virtual waters

Posted by Julian Owen | August 02, 2018 | Health & wellbeing

What is the most important current challenge in online safety for schools?

The need to upskill trusted adults in online safety, and keep them up-to-date with the advancements of the online world, has never been greater.

For too long children and young people have led the conversation. Many trusted adults are completely unaware of the issues and risks posed by both the screen and the content that lays behind young people’s mobile devices. This is partly due to the rapid evolution of the online world, but also due to a complacency on the part of adults in positions of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of children.

Who knows more about the online world; adults or children?

Children are becoming more digitally advanced from a younger age and adults aren’t keeping up. From a recent study we conducted amongst over 400 primary school teachers, over 70% admitted that their pupils know more than they do about the online world.

Just as in everyday life, those in a position of responsibility for children and young people should be equipped to know the risks and engage with children on the safe use of the online world.

How can you help schools better engage parents and carers in online safety?

We know parental engagement in online safety is typically low across the UK. We share the frustration of the schools we are working with, in their struggle to achieve good attendance levels at parent online safety sessions. We do this by removing the need to organise in-person training sessions through digital delivery of all courses and resources. Parents at the schools we work with can go through the training at their own pace, in their own time and in the comfort of their own home.

How much pressure is on the designated safeguarding lead, with the new online safety-related changes to the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance coming into effect on 3rd September 2018?

With the changes to the statutory guidance, there are additional responsibilities for the Designated Safeguarding Lead (and Deputy) this coming September. Here are a few:

- The DSL must go through online safety specific training

- The DSL must ensure their whole school community goes through regularly updated online safety training

- The DSL must have up-to-date capability in online safety

It’s important to point out that we fully support and endorse the changes to the statutory guidance. Online Safety is a safeguarding issue; for too long it has been confused as an IT issue. In fact, of the 400 schools we surveyed, over half said that online safety is the responsibility of the IT team. Clearly, IT has a role to play and an important one, but make no mistake: online safety is about safeguarding.

That said, we do hold concerns about the ability of DSLs to remain regularly updated in relation to online changes. With the pace of change in the online world, that is no small ask, and to expect it in addition to a day job is, in our view, extremely difficult to maintain. 

The only way of achieving this is through collaborative working and commissioning external support, which is where we come in.

How important is it that children are engaged in the subject of online safety?

It’s vital. The world children and young people are growing up in offers them a wealth of opportunity with technology, yet exposes them to threats that never existed before. It is imperative to engage them in the subject through impactful, attention-grabbing resources, which help teachers alert them to online dangers and how to overcome them.

Underpinning all our training and online safety resources is the need to make learning fun and keep it up-to-date. That’s not an easy ask for such a rapidly changing landscape, but one we are incredibly proud to keep on top of.

What’s next for National Online Safety?

We will continue to strive towards a safer online world for our children and produce up-to-date guides and training for all in relation to the online world. Each new app and game provides individual risks to those using it.

We must stay ahead of the evolving risk.

We will work with anyone to make the online world a better place.

We are currently trying to engage with government on the need for more responsibility to be taken by game and app developers in safeguarding children and young people. Watch this space.

National Online Safety: nationalonlinesafety.com

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