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Back in April, UNICEF warned that millions of young people’s safety could be put at risk due to increased use of online platforms and digital solutions to support learning during the Covid-19 crisis.
Another study from L1GHT looked at millions of websites and social platforms early in the pandemic. The research found a 70% increase in bullying and abusive language among kids and teens on social media and chat forums, a 40% increase in toxicity on gaming platforms and a 200% spike in traffic to hate sites.
What can schools do to minimise this potential damage and who’s doing it right?
Karen Martin, marketing and communications director at St Bees School in Cumbria has made two-factor authentication mandatory to ensure that student and staff files remain safe while learning and teaching remotely. Warnings top all emails sent from outside the school, alerting the recipient to the potential of emails containing harmful links and files. Within the school itself, there are content blocks on unsuitable websites and regularly teach students about web safety and security during computer science lessons. It is imperative to make sure we don’t lose sight of internet safety. As such, our regular senior leadership meetings always have a section on the agenda for safety – and these issues are always raised. Best practice is not to let your guard drop – and this is something we do exceptionally well at St Bees.”
Mark Templeman is deputy head and director of studies at Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools. He’s also editor of the IT broadsheet produced for teachers by SATIPS (Support and Training in Prep Schools), a membership-based professional support body providing best-practice support and training for teachers in the independent sector. “Most schools filter online content and implement real-time monitoring. However, safety issues can arise at home outside school hours as children spend more time online,” Templeman says. “To assist, we trained one of our staff as a CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) ambassador. They are educating our pupils in how to keep themselves safe online when they are outside the purview of the school. They also help staff stay up-to-date with online trends.”
Work of the CEOP includes delivering tips on how to report online sexual abuse and exploitation, preventative education on online abuse and exploitation, educating professionals on how children are using the internet/social media/online technologies and how to respond to incidents of online abuse in school (including nude image-sharing among children under the age of 18).
ToucanTech works with clients such as St Albans High School for Girls, which have set up an online mentoring service to support school leavers and alumna to find mentors and read inspiring content about different careers (a useful substitute for physical meetings and traditional careers talks).
To support the student/alumna to use the system safely the school has published a series of guidelines on what to expect from the mentoring process, how to report any suspicious activity and how to avoid passing personal information to the mentor including contact details, recommending instead that interactions take place within the secure, logged-in careers portal.
More at this article from Independent Education Today.
The UK Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading organisations: Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL, with one mission – to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people.
Its initiatives include Safer Internet Day, which takes place on 9 February 2021 (this year’s subject explores reliability online) and online safety webinars. There’s also a range of downloadable resources for parents and teachers, and for educators or professionals, a Professionals Online Safety Helpline to assist with online safety issues or concerns any professional working with children and young people may have.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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