Safe Internet Day: Can one day save our children?

Today is Safer Internet Day and Webwise as usual are doing brilliantly, positive things to highlights the need for internet safety in the classroom and at home. As usual, on official days like this, we get loads of research thrown at us, scary research like 40% of Irish children do not know how to report abuse online.

Now, I always like to look at these statistics carefully. On careful inspection, I find this was a poll of 9-16 year olds so the age range would have swayed the final vote.

safeinternetSecondly, these shiny, brand new pieces of research can frighten the general public who in turn start saying things like “Why is this not been taught in schools?”. This is exactly what I found on Twitter. The blame and responsibility for safe internet usage being placed at the classroom door.

I believe that parents need to help their own children with being safe on the net, first and foremost but I do also see the other side that this needs to be learned in school too. Some parents won’t do it and children, usually, (usually, I said), listen to their teachers more than their parents!

Before you race out to grab a lesson with the following learning outcome “Children will be able to report online abuse while using the internet,” just stop for a minute. We need to think about how we are teaching children about intnert safety and reporting abuse if and when it happens. I don’t believe that these learning opportunities can be neatly packaged away in a couple of bright and shiny lessons. Children will forget quickly and with the internet changing so rapidly, these lessons would lose their original promise quickly too.

Technology needs to be embedded and weaved into the school day. Technology doesn’t need to be so formally put across in a stand alone lesson. Whenever the children are using technology and in whatever type of format, the teacher can bring the child’s attention to reporting functions and discuss with the class at any opportunity. Discussions about internet safety should be informally happening as much as discussions about  how bullying can be prevented. Bullying can be prevented by developing an open class environment of positive reinforcement and sanctions along side a healthy does of SPHE lessons, formally and informally taught, of skills like assertiveness, self esteem and communication.

Even the recent Anti-Bullying Procedures say this “the procedures require all school to implement education and prevention strategies (including awareness raising measures) that build empathy, respect and resilience in pupils; and explicitly address the issues of cyber bullying and identity-based bullying”.

We can’t just neatly teach a lesson or two on any aspect of internet safety or bullying and tick out box in the Cuntus Miosuil document and think that our job is done. Our job is never done. It is a constant cycle of learning, teaching, assessing where society and our children are at and then back again to learning. Indeed, if we were doing things properly with regards to internet safety, we shouldn’t even need Safer Internet Day but I guess we need all the exposure to technology in the classroom that we can get!

Wishing everyone a very happy and safe, safer Internet day and let today’s learning and knowledge seep through every minute of every day with the technology you use with your class.

Rozz Lewis

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