Review - Tear down the web of fear

18th October 2013 at 01:00
An in-depth guide covers online safety and tackling cyberbullies

I have always believed my effectiveness as a teacher is linked to vivid memories of what it was like to be a teenager. But this way of thinking is becoming problematic. The lives of today's teenagers are increasingly nothing like my own experience, or that of many other teachers. For anyone over 30, the internet was either rudimentary or non- existent when we were growing up. Now it is ubiquitous, central to the lives of the young people we teach and central, often, to our own teaching.

Yet just because we have no first-hand knowledge of being a digitally connected teenager, that does not mean we cannot help them to be safer online. It has become essential for teachers to show students how to steer a path between confidence and safety on the internet. Simply banning phones and inappropriate internet use in school is not enough - this will not prevent problems at home and we have a responsibility as educators to enable students to interact with the web safely and smartly wherever they are.

Nikki Giant's book E-Safety for the i-Generation: combating the misuse and abuse of technology in schools, then, is essential reading. It provides a comprehensive guide to the issues the internet presents and how to tackle them. Problems such as identity theft, copyright infringements, harassment, viruses, sexual abuse and illegal behaviour are discussed, and the author provides a useful starting point for any school wishing to reconsider its responses to student and staff e-safety.

Each type of threat is neatly categorised and discussed. Although to the most ICT-literate among us the author may seem to be stating the bleedin' obvious, the bleedin' obvious can be missed by schools, as recent incidents have sadly shown.

A key chapter addresses cyberbullying, which as Giant makes clear is such a relatively new phenomenon that research and study is not keeping up. "Traditional" bullying has always been difficult to detect and deal with in school, and cyberbullying is more so. Many suggestions are made in the book as to how this could be achieved, even encouraging teachers who do not use social media to open their own accounts to really get a feel for the issues involved.

A good series of sample lesson plans and worksheets to increase student awareness of e-safety are provided in the appendix. Although these are a little generic, they will certainly provide some good ideas for imaginative teachers.

The appendix also contains a model e-safety policy, sample staff and student codes of conduct, sample letters to parents about e-safety, example questionnaires and more.

The wide range of resources and extensive guidance makes this book compulsory reading for teachers. Staff experiences of students' ICT use can be alarmingly varied, and this book is an excellent place to start playing catch-up.

Simon Porter is a teaching fellow at Nord Anglia University.

He was reviewing E-Safety for the i-Generation: combating the misuse and abuse of technology in schools by Nikki Giant (Jessica Kingsley, pound;15.99)

10 resources on internet awareness

1. Safety briefing

Check out non-profit organisation Childnet International's guide for teachers, parents and carers on how to talk to young people about staying safe online.


2. Off the wall

This collection of posters can be put up in the classroom or the information technology suite to help students learn the skills to stay safe when online.


3. Personal touch

Get a first-hand account of the impact that cyberbullying can have with this video from Teachers TV featuring a 14-year-old victim who speaks candidly about her experiences.


4. Know the rules

This short and simple summary of dos and don'ts for online behaviour and etiquette covers a wide range of issues, from cyberbullying, harassment and illegal behaviour to copyright.


5. Crime and consequence

A lesson plan from the charity BeatBullying aimed at getting young people to define and understand cyberbullying and its consequences.


6. Collateral damage

Help children to see the effects of antisocial and aggressive online behaviour on individuals and the wider community.


7. Private practice

Address issues of sharing personal information online with this PowerPoint resource looking at the right to privacy, using rules in the US as an example.


8. Busting bullying

An ideal activity for an e-safety lesson or an ice-breaker at the start of term, this resource poses questions on internet safety using the format of sometime UK television quiz Blockbusters.


9. Free to speak?

Should there be free speech on the internet? Start a class discussion with these worksheets exploring what the concept really means.


10. Digital domains

Should young people have digital rights? What form would they take? Ask your class to decide using these worksheets.



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