Safer Internet Day 2016: safeguarding students in schools
By Sam Pemberton, CEO, Impero Software. The internet’s an important resource for schools, but it’s not without its risks. Unfortunately, just as technology has helped redefine learning, it has also changed bullying, criminality, and exploitation. 83% of 8-11 year olds and 93% of 12-15 year olds believe they know how to stay safe online. But when you haven’t encountered a sexual predator or an ISIL recruiter, that’s very easy to say. Besides which, it’s not the duty of children to protect themselves: it’s the responsibility of the adults around them. Teachers are part of this group.
They certainly don’t need to be IT experts, but they do need to change the way schools have conditioned them to think about e-safety. Blocking is the conventional – and government-approved – approach, but it doesn’t work. Young people are becoming increasingly tech savvy and know how to evade these filters. If you somehow manage to ban every proxy and mirror, they’ll just use the 4G connection on their mobile phones. E-safety isn’t about technology so much as education. This is where good teachers and schools shine. Software can be used to augment and automate much of the humdrum administrative hassle of safeguarding.
At Impero Software, we provide a keyword library that highlights questionable phrases when they’re entered on school systems and patterns of dubious behaviour – a teacher might not know what “YODO” (You Only Die Once) or “DIRL” (“Die in Real Life”) means, but the technology does. Beyond that, however, it’s up to members of staff to make sure pupils have a positive relationship with the internet. A good place for them to start might be this quiz from Safer Internet Day. From there, they should be taught the basics – things like good password security, for example – and instructed about safe and unsafe browsing.
They should never visit a site that they wouldn’t be happy to visit in front of a grandparent, and never make prolonged contact with any individual that makes them uncomfortable. A huge benefit of the internet to pupils is the way it facilitates greater intellectual freedom. Pre-emptive banning effectively negates this advantage. There’s no need to be overly restrictive or censorious: when children understand the values of responsible internet use, the e-safety part takes care of itself.