This blogpost is intended as a resource for parents, pupils and staff and came from the excellent PHSCE evening for parents recently organised by Ms Tina Duff. It supported the strong approach to these topics by the school's senior leadership team. Cyberbullying and Internet Safety have been the subject of whole school assemblies and are part of the IT curriculum taught in KS2 and KS3 when pupils are given their own blogs and encouraged to use social networking tools to support their learning in class.
Will Gardner of Childnet International - an organisation that 'helps to make the Internet a great and safe place for children' - was the guest speaker. He said the goal of the organisation was to 'PROMOTE the positive and to RESPOND to the negative' aspects of young people's usage of the Internet.
He quoted the work of Marc Prensky in stating that part of the problem for parents regarding young people's usage of technology, comes from the Digital Native/Digital Imigrant idea. Prensky's excellent resources help guide parents about how to discuss the use of technology with their children, to be collaborative when issues arise, instead of authoritative. In this he suggests young people have grown up with technology all around them and therefore find it so easy to absorb, use and adapt to new technological tools at a pace that can frighten and concern adults who had little technology at their disposal when they were children.
Will Gardner's talk used selected data taking from the 'Children Go Online' report produced by the LSE. It is a very extensive document, but anyone interested in this topic would benefit greatly from downloading the document.
In the UK:
- 93% of all children have their own PC
- 8 is the average age for a child to have their first mobile phone
- 1.4 million children own their own webspace
- 2.7 billion searches are carried out on Google every month - so are children now asking Google instead of their parents?
Parents and children use the Internet in radically different ways: parents tend to use it for email & research whereas children use it for instant messaging, blogs, chatting, playing games and meeting friends.
Parents and children differ in their opinions of each others expertise:
28% of parents think their children are beginners
7% of children say they are beginners.
The Internet has developed radically in recent years to the point that the rise in collaborative and social networking tools has led to the phrase 'Web 2.0' being coined.
Web 1.0 is now seen to to be where the internet was used for DOWNloading, consuming content, most sites were corporate and all media was separate. Now though, with web 2.0 the Internet is used for UPloading, cretaing content, many sites are personal (like this Blog) and the media is connected.
Children are confronted with a dichotomy - at school their Internet access is supervised and highly filtered whereas at home it is largely unsupervised and unrestricted. [At RMS we take care to ensure that our filtering system observes our in loco parentis responsibilities, but we also encourage girls to take a repsonsible attitude towards their use of tools and sites that they access. In particular they learn ways to ascertain the veracity of websites.]
The LSE report stated that:
>30% of children said they had never recieved instructions in school about how to use the Internet [something that could NOT be said by any pupils at RMS]
>79% of children said they used the Internet at home without supervision.
Now although some adults feel intimidated by a perception that children know more about the use of computers and the Internet than they do, the truth is that adults have an important weapon in their armoury. That is that they are able to show young people that KNOWLEDGE is not the same as WISDOM. In other words, children may be quick to pick up techniques and skills, but they do not necessarily understand how to behave. And from this stems many of the problems relating to Cyberbullying and Internet Safety.
It has never been easier to create personalised content on the Internet:
Parents need to be aware of this and children need to learn how to do this responsibly.
What risks do children come up against?
- Commerce - many sites contain advertising or malware. 73% of adverts on the Internet are not labelled as such, many are subliminal - such as those that result every time you do a Google search.
- Content - anyone can write content but it can be: biased, offensive, racist, illegal, invalid. 57% of all children have accessed pornography accidentally. Four in ten children usually trust what they read on the Internet without triangulating to ascertain the validity of the content.
- Contact - which can be inappropriate, lead to cyberbullying or be used for grooming. It is this aspect that attracts most notoriety or press coverage. Although only 7% of parents think their children have been approached inappropriately on the Internet, 1/3 of children say they have been.
Because a mobile phone is as personal as a diary to a young person, it is hard for a parent to see what is on the phone, because it is portable, it can be taken anywhere and is always on - therefore the person is always accessible.
What can parents do?
- Keep the benefits in mind above all else
- Install Spybot to search for unwanted programs on the home PC
- Be careful what sites you as an adult visit if your children use the same computer
- Create a family email address and use it for all online forms
- Set your web browser to enable popup blockers
- Talk about what to do if a child sees something they don't like
- Teach them to be critical of content
- Use child-friendly search engines - for example use Search Safe within Google to prevent unsafe images appearing,. But this story shows how dangerous relying on this sort of thing can be so don't rely on this only.
- Use your browser tools to enable the history of the sites that have been looked at and spot check the sites your child has looked at every now and again.
- Don't overreact when undesirable content is found etc.
- Get involved online -tell your child who to talk to if they are embarrassed about what they have found.
- Encourage a balanced use of activities such as MSN or social networking sites, switch off after a certain time, but realise web-enabled mobiles can be used if you have a WiFi connection in the home - so extend the turning off to include mobile phones.
- Make your child aware of the consequences of giving out personal information.
- Keep the PC in a Family room.
- With regard to phones, all parents should know how their child's phone works as utilities like Bluetooth can be used in ways that are hard to believe.
- Agree the sort of content you are prepared for a child to download.
- Make sure they do not become bullies.
- Decide what is an acceptable bill.
- Save any abusive messages.
If you have any issues relating to the misuse of mobile phones then you can contact:
- Commercial issues, such as premium lines and ringtone subscriptions.
- Content - if any illegal content is see.
- Contact - if your child is approached by someone inappropriately.
Other websites with tons of resources are:
Cyberbulliyng is specifically the use of technological devices to deliberately cause upset to someone.
It can include:
- Name calling
- Public postings
There are a range of tools that can be used an parents should start to pay close attention to what pupils have on their social networking sites. Encourage good use of these sites, perhaps by joining yourself and becoming a friend of your child - make it a requirement if they want to use those sites.
Tools that can be used for cyberbullying are:
- Instant Messaging
- Social Networking Sites
- Video-hosting (Youtube)
A video that shows this in harrowing style is this one, [at RMS many of the pupils have been shown this, and those who have seen it have agreed it makes them think about the issue] which could easily be a topic of discussion at home one night between yourself and your children.
What make Cyberbullying such a menace is:
It cannot be escaped, as the video shows, it is endured 24/7
- There can be a mass audience watching the victim suffer or
- There is a perception of anonymity
- The traditional profile of bully/target can change - as seen in the video
- There are no age or size dynamics now - a bully doesn't have to be the biggest
- Some cases start of unintentionally, which is why Netiquette should be learned and observed by all users
- Evidence can be good as it can be more evident, so it needs to be kept, not deleted.
In the Byron report, commissioned by Gordon Brown, Dr Tanya Byron voiced concern that 'when children talk about bullying they don't really differentiate between online and offline. It starts in the classroom and by the time they get home it's all over someone's MySpace page'. A simplified children's version of the report can be found here.
Advice for children :
- Respect others
- Think before you send
- Treat your password like your toothbrush
- Use tools if necessary - block & unfriend
- Do not retaliate
- Save the evidence - don't delete it
Report it - make sure you tell the police, the school, the ISP, the company if video on YouTube and check the terms and conditions of any offending organisation.
The evening ended with the audience asking questions and parents thanked the school for arranging the evening as well as voicing gratitude that the SLT and PHSCE & ICT departments treated the matter in the high-profile way they do.