The last term of the year and teachers across the country are breathing sighs of relief. For what has been a period of transition for many former ICT teachers to computer science, I would like to reflect on a more familiar topic; E-Safety. A common topic and a main stay in every curriculum. A topic that as a subject specialist I know like the back of my hand. Often a feature of display boards and posters in class rooms up and down the country, E-Safety becomes one of the most important topics and will be sure to stay ICT or no ICT.
September seems such a long time ago when new darling, Year 7's begun their secondary school years. Baby-faced and willing to learn (Didn’t take that long for that to change) were being introduced to E-Safety. Setting up passwords, learning how to use and respect equipment. Every year group covers it at some point during the year, but I wonder if the messages are getting through to students?
- Using devices safely – passwords, safety procedures and legal issues.
- Rules and regulations – Computer Misuse Act, Copy right and Data protection.
- Privacy settings and Content control- who can see what and when. Posting those pictures of all your department down the pub at the weekend, then Trevor calls in sick Monday.
- Dangers online – Online predators
- Cyber Bullying – through any electronic devices
End of term comes and goes, students are assessed and it would appear that students have a secure breadth of knowledge on the subject but are they putting this knowledge in to practice?
Ultimately having asked 5 year 11 students to tell me their passwords, the answer to my question would be no. I’m not sure if I was surprised but examples I was given were password, password1234 and Gary. Along with those extremely simplistic, easily guessable passwords, I had a couple that allowed me to have a chuckle in the confides of my office, “DavidCutie” and “BadMan100” were two of the best. Handed over with absolutely no shame, who or what has dislodged the knowledge given to them nearly 5 years ago and every year since, they were the baby-faced year 7’s.
On assessment value, the new cohort would have been able to tell the year 11’s where they were going wrong. However, I didn’t ask for a random selection of their passwords; maybe some research for a future lunch time conversation and chuckle with colleagues. There is a more serious message here, teachers and parents must remain constantly aware of our young children being able to talk the talk but not walk the walk.
This seems to be true for all aspects of E-Safety mentioned above, students know what they should be doing and are aware of how to be safe but are failing to put it in to practice. In the time I’ve been teaching I have seen fake Instagram profiles pretending to be teachers, printing of teachers pictures found on Google, cyber bullying through social networks and often overhearing students talking about how many followers or friends they have online, as if it is some competition.
Is the reason due to the adult world seemingly competing in the same way, so our children follow suit? Is knowing the dangers enough to be protected online? For adults I would argue that having followers who you don’t know is the common norm? And then we tell our children not to talk to strangers. Ironic. Being truthful, I wouldn’t mind 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube and go live in the Bahamas and live off the royalties. Celebrities too have millions of followers and so I question are adults giving our youngsters the wrong impression to follow? How many times have you been able to look at your old friend from school’s holiday snaps and personal information? Not maliciously, but you could couldn’t you. I think E-Safety in the coming years will have to grow and develop to keep up with the speed in which children are introduced to technology. If I had a penny for every time I’ve seen my friend’s children clutching an iPad, one of them is only 3!
It is sad but if adults cannot use the internet properly and protect themselves online then how can we expect our younger ones to follow suit? Young people do not use the internet wisely, even though they know how they should behave online. Vigilance and monitoring of what young people are doing on the internet must come from home. It is essential that parents educate themselves on E-Safety issues and implement strategies that will protect our young people. The teachers have educated these young children, it is support from home that will enable that knowledge to be used in reality instead of just an end of term test paper.
Until that is they are old enough to make the wrong choices or ignore the dangers for themselves, as many adults do. Even a subject specialist will, write a blog that will be viewed by thousands of people that he doesn’t know. Be sure to check my bio at the bottom of the page although, I may of covered my bases on that one.
The Grumpy Teacher Network was created by a Head of ICT at a London secondary school for boys.