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Participation equals ownership

If pupils are involved in the creation of a school's e-safety policy, they are more likely to support it, says Carmel Glassbrook

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | June 05, 2015 | Technology

Do you think most teaching and non-teaching staff now recognize and are aware of e-safety issues? 

The Professionals Online Safety Helpline supports professionals working with children with all online issues. We hear from many teachers and schools,  and feel that over the years  e-safety awareness has risen and staff are recognizing these issues as important. Pupils however often only seek help from Teachers once they are at crisis point and they feel they have exhausted all options. It would be good to see more non teaching professionals becoming e-safety aware, for example a child may feel happier telling a sports coach what has happened before it gets worse.

Would you say that most children are now aware of the online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?

It is commonly accepted that sometimes engaging in risky behavior is a part of growing up, so while most children are aware of the dangers online, they may still take these risks. It is important to balance perception of the risks with appreciation of the opportunities, and understand that risks do not equate to inevitable harm. Giving them the space to explore, the tools to do it safely and support should they need it, is the best approach. Adolescents are going to push boundaries and some may even seek out risk, we need to acknowledge this and provide them with resources and information to help them make informed decisions. The UK Safer Internet Centre have created some excellent resources to assist with this, which can be found at https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources

Is it important to involve students in the development of any new e-safety policies? How can we do this?

Participation equals ownership, if the pupils at your school are involved in the creation of the policies we believe they will have greater respect for the policies in place and are more likely to support them. This will then hopefully give them a good understanding of how to conduct them selves online in and out of school. This could be initiated in whole class discussion/ mind mapping session and written up as a literacy project. We also provide templates for these policies that can help you create the policy that is right for your setting.

How can schools educate and support parents with online safety? 

There are a multitude of activities and functions a school can engage in, but also that this is an ever-changing and dynamic area of work. This should not be a one off engagement with parents! Unfortunately the most common calls we receive on the POSH Helpline are from schools about the online abuse of staff, abuse usually coming from a parent at the school. We have seen countless cases of parents taking to social media to air their grievances with the school or it’s staff. Whilst this can obviously be very distressing for the teachers, it can also pose reputational risk for the school as a whole. Parents try to be good role models in every aspect of life, and online should be no different. In this situation we advise asking parents to come in to the school to talk about the issues they are having face to face, we find when they feel they are being listened too they are generally willing to remove their comments, especially when they realise the impact that their behavior could have on their child. Incorporating online safety as part of the routine dialogue between schools and parents would seem to be most prudent.

The Professionals Online Safety Helpline is a free service for professionals and volunteers working with children and young people, delivered by the UK Safer Internet Centre. The helpline provides signposting, advice and mediation to resolve e-safety issues staff face about themselves, such as protecting professional identity and online harassment, or problems affecting young people, for example cyber-bullying or sexting issues.

Carmel Glassbrook is Helpline Practitioner at the Professionals Online Safety Helpline
The helpline is open Monday to Friday, during normal working hours, and usually responds to calls within 3 hours. You can contact the helpline on 0844 3814772 or via email helpline@saferinternet.org.uk

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