It's 7:30 as I start writing this and I'm just about to visit my friend and CEOPS trained advisor Craig Gilman to make final preparations for 'Safer Internet Day' tomorrow.
Safer Internet Day was actually a coincidence. We're about to start a collaborative project with 4 other schools to design, make and race Scalextric cars, part of which will involve the children staying in touch with each other's progress via social media. I had decided ages ago that it would be good to have a week focusing around the issues of using the internet safely, and I chose this week, not realising that it contained 'Safer Internet Day'.
So Craig is visiting us tomorrow and will help us train our parents and children to use the internet more safely. We're holding 2 workshops for parents and have a list of parents who would like to find out more but can't make these particular days. Despite mainly working with 11-16s, Craig has bravely volunteered to help us out each and every class, including the very youngest, who are only 3. For those of you are wondering how you can possibly teach a nursery child about the dangers of the internet, the ThinkUKnow website has some great resources.
I read Kevin Maclaughlin's post on why he's not bothering with Safer Internet Day and can see that it's very frustrating to have an ISP that blocks everything. In Birmingham we are comparatively well-off to have an authority that is forward-thinking enough to let schools use nearly every tool out there. Education first, not locking things down, as this Ofsted report explains. Facebook is about the only social media place that is blocked by Birmingham.
The main reason that I'm doing this activity is that the kids really need it. Most of our 9-11 year olds are on Facebook, at least two years before they really should be. Some of them have wholly inappropriate pictures (I could make a link, but I'd be sacked) as their avatars. Others have 200+ friends including many they've never met. Some of them have included pictures of younger siblings in their photos. Some of them have left their walls and profiles open. All 'dangerous' stuff. So you see, whether or not I can access Facebook in school, I have to teach them to be safe.
I have a 5 step plan to achieve internet safety:
- Have a purpose. This scalextric project is a purpose. I want the children to learn to use the internet purposefully. OK, that's not directly to do with safety, but I believe that with purpose the children will steer clear of activities that will lead them into danger.
- Raise Self-Esteem. Again, not directly to do with internet safety, but highly important. The children need to learn to value who they are and learn the meaning of belonging to meaningful groups of people. I have resources that I can share if you're interested.
- Demonstrate the Dangers. Don't do this first - you'll just put people off using the internet entirely. The ThinkuKnow website includes some powerful and moving videos that aptly demonstrate the dangers in only 5 or so minutes.
- Teach the lessons. We will be teaching the children (using the ThinkUKnow resources) at their level about how to protect their profile (for the older children) and about not trusting everyone you meet online (for the younger ones).
- Involved the parents. The parents workshops tomorrow are crucial. It's only together as a community that we can move forward to get their best out of using the internet without being distracted by the bad stuff.
In a couple of days it will be interesting to reflect on how far we've moved on as a school community on this journey, and how much further we need to go.
And to back up Kevin, ISPs - open up your services please - we educators need to teach as well as to protect.