How to... ensure internet safety

25th May 2007 at 01:00
Are my pupils safe using the internet in school?

You don't need to patrol the web single-handedly, but you do need to be able to use it safely.

Check your school has an up-to-date policy covering email, websites, search engines, names and pictures of pupils. Then check you have security features. Do you have a walled garden or do you have blocking filters?

Gardening? Vacuum cleaners? Explain.

Removing muck from information, not carpets. Who's responsible for this in your school? They can check with your provider.

Visit Google advanced search. Ensure the safe search option is permanently set to "No filtering".

I certainly don't want to get into trouble.

Warn your technicians before you search for rude words or pictures. They should have a log showing pages visited and blocked.

Have all staff (teaching and non-teaching) received training and guidance on internet safety issues? Do you and your pupils know what to do if things go wrong? All this should be in an acceptable-use policy that is understood, updated and approved by governors, parents, pupils and staff.

Many schools insist parents sign up to this.

But what about in my classroom?

Filters should block many things, but they are not infallible. Stay alert, monitoring what pupils are watching on screen and what they are reading and writing in emails. Cyber-bullying is a real possibility.

I can't be everywhere.

Place computers where screens are visible and actively supervise pupils.

It's a good rule for parents too.

Teach everyone to be sceptical of web-based information and to take responsibility for internet use. They must be wary of emails from people they don't know. We all need to be critical of information, to use data appropriately, acknowledge our sources and avoid plagiarism. Young people in particular need to beware of giving out personal information and keeping their passwords safe.

So the internet can be pretty scary?

In places. But don't let this put you off. It offers a global library, incomparable communications, terrific news and entertainment, and can be a fantastic teaching assistant. But it has scary bits too. A bit like life, really. Take care

Duncan Grey is author of First Aid Kit for Teachers, 100 Essential Lists for Teachers and Getting the Buggers to Learn (Continuum)

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