A large number of parents feel that they don’t have the skills, knowledge or time to keep up with the digital developments and rapidly changing social media platforms.
Meanwhile, teaching staff are more and more frequently dealing with e-safety incidents and often feel overwhelmed by their undeniable complexity, ambiguity and subjectivity, as well as the time that needs to be invested in every single case.
So what is the best way to approach the dreaded topic of e-safety?
This term incorporates many different areas and aspects that need to be addressed, so I have grouped them into three main categories to make it simpler and more manageable for staff and parents alike.
1. Digital security
This is the area that children should be empowered to be fully responsible for: keeping their passwords safe, managing their privacy settings and safety features of websites, as well as using or deactivating location settings or GPS on websites, apps or games.
According to the YouGov poll conducted for the NSPCC, only 28 per cent of parents had actually mentioned privacy settings to their children and 20 per cent had discussed location settings.
Parental controls can be useful. You can find some tips and strategies on the Internet Matters website. However, it is important to remember that all families are unique and operate in different ways.
When your child visits a friend or stays over for a sleepover, you are trusting them to behave with integrity irrespective of the presence or absence of parental controls.
Social Media Platform Security
Parents can find information on various platforms through NSPCC Net Aware, a site run in partnership with O2. However, the reality is that there is a large number of apps and websites appearing all the time. Some are more dangerous than others; it is impossible to collate a comprehensive list as there are so many.
The good thing is that they disappear as fast as they appear. However, once again, as we are not able to guarantee their security, we are trusting our children to have a well-developed moral compass to ensure they stay safe online.
2. Digital lifestyle
Research conducted by Digital Awareness UK and HMC revealed that 45 per cent of teenagers check their phones in bed – 23 per cent as many as 10 times during the night.
Almost all (94 per cent) of these students are on social media after going to bed.
Digital addiction is becoming a serious problem. Interrupted sleep, exposure to the blue light from smartphones and tablets, second screening (using two screens simultaneously); fear of missing out (FOMO), mood swings and anxiety are just some of common problems associated with unhealthy digital lifestyle.
Apps such as WhatsApp make it harder for children to break the vicious circle of addiction. Children can be added to a WhatsApp group without their permission and leaving a group secretly is impossible, unless they pluck up their courage to delete a WhatsApp group on their device completely without leaving it.
3. Digital relationships
As in real life, digital relationships can be healthy or unhealthy. Some of the problems highlighted by pastoral leaders include radicalisation, sexting, pornography, grooming and bullying (including roasting, fake profiles and stalking).
I will cover this area in more detail in my next blog. For now, I will end the following thought: e-safety requires teamwork. It is not a role that can be undertaken by one person. Parents, staff, pupils and governors are all responsible for creating and nurturing the culture of safety and security for our young people.
Maria O’Neill is an advanced skills teacher, e-safety co-ordinator and head of PSHE. She is also a wellbeing coach, PhD student researching wellbeing and personal development, and founder of @HealthyToolkit and @UKPastoralChat
The 13 October issue of Tes is an online safety special issue, which includes: an exclusive look at the work of the Met Police's sexual crimes against children units; an interview with Lorin LaFave, whose son Breck was murdered by a man who groomed him online; the dark web explained; the battle against cyberbullying and advice on student gambling.