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ICT - Online and offline

Safety on the internet is not so very different from real life

Safety on the internet is not so very different from real life

It is that time of year again, when internet safety becomes a hot topic. But I worry that Safer Internet Day on 7 February has become just another thing to get through in the busy school calendar. Who is it for? Perhaps its value lies in being a timely reminder for teachers, rather than learners.

Teenagers I spoke to last week were able to recite the e-safety mantras they had learned, but with a jaded sense of "here we go again". The challenge we face when bringing these messages to young people is keeping the message fresh, interesting and relevant, using the most current contexts and issues so that they remain engaged.

But what exactly are we trying to convey? The message on Twitter is that learners should know where to turn if they see something worrying or upsetting, rather like the Green Cross Code ("stop, look, listen and think") that became so ingrained in me as a child and which I end up applying to so many contexts other than crossing the road.

Do today's young people consider the e-safety mantras they learn to be transferable to other situations? We do not want them to think rules about staying safe are only relevant to life online - or vice versa. The boundaries between face-to-face and virtual worlds are increasingly blurred and we need to make sure our learners are able to transfer safety messages between the two contexts with ease.

E-safety should be part of the whole safeguarding policy, not a separate document. It needs to be part of everyday discussions and teaching in schools, not reserved for one day a year. Of course, there are special considerations for e-safety, which will need addressing as part of the bigger picture of safeguarding. But ICT acceptable-use policies for pupils (and teachers) could actually be part of whole-school behaviour policies or standards of professional practice.

With tools such as social media, there is a very fine balance between giving our learners boundaries and making them so "safe" that the potential for learning is lost. Above all, we should be educating with balance when it comes to e-safety. While we need to convey the enormity of the potential problems to our learners, we do not want to prevent them from making the most of the exciting possibilities that lie ahead of them online. Rather, we need to equip and empower our learners by building their confidence and developing their discernment - that is, the transferable skills that will keep them safe in so many situations.

What else?

Prepare for Safer Internet Day 2012 with assembly ideas, board games and posters from Childnet.

Shock students into action with a interactive presentation by mshortland about staying safe online. They will be surprised how easy it is to find out about them on the internet, even when they think they are being safe.

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In the forums

On the TES ICT forum, teachers are busy debating education secretary Michael Gove's planned changes to the curriculum. There is a call to arms to make sure teachers' voices are heard during the consultation and a debate on whether or not we are obsessed with programming.

For all links and resources visit

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