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PRIMARY AND SECONDARY | INDUSTRY INTRO | 05 Read a related story: click here Preventing online risks

A frightening 43% of children have experienced bullying online. To prevent this, it’s important to integrate standardised educational solutions, such as e-safety learning across the whole curriculum, says Paul Evans, managing director of Redstor


ver the last 20 years we have seen an exponential growth in the capabilities of technology, which has had a drastic

effect on the learning environment with schools noticeably relying more on technology as an educational tool. Being able to facilitate learning from

anywhere no doubt enriches the learning experience for students, and becoming familiar with technologies they will use in future careers will prepare them for life after school. However, this begs the question – are schools prepared enough to teach online safety, security and digital citizenship? If pupils are not properly educated about the potential dangers of online activities, then this kind of reliance on technology could expose pupils to many online risks, such as loss of data, access to explicit material, accidentally downloading viruses, and cyber-bullying. Although there is software available

Paul Evans

to schools that help towards preventing these risks by monitoring and blocking, it’s crucial that schools do not rely solely this; the main focus should be on educating the end users on how to act while using digital technology. A huge benefit of a ubiquitous learning environment is that the teacher is able to change from being the ‘sole source’ of information to becoming the ‘information facilitator and supervisor’. However, there is an increasing gulf between those who are growing up with technology such as apps, cloud computing and smartphones and those whom modern-day advancements remain esoteric. Students have the ability to naturally understand how technologies work meaning teachers are facing the stark reality that children are outsmarting the adults when it comes to the digital world. Schools need training and ongoing education

in digital citizenship and online safety now – not in the near or distant future. A ‘one step ahead’ approach

is necessary to keep abreast of online dangers, social media sites and technical loopholes that pupils may look to exploit. Keeping staff in the know about these

issues means they know what to look out for with students’ online activity. It is a good idea to distribute resources such as reports about the latest e-safety guidance and concerns. Furthermore, condense any appropriate information into a newsleter for pupils and use school assemblies as a time to educate students about online risks. Only by proactively teaching positive computing and digital lifestyle habits can such problems truly be addressed. A frightening 43% of children have

experienced bullying online, and 81% believe it is easier to escape punishment for bullying online than in person. To prevent this, it’s important to integrate standardised educational solutions, such as e-safety learning integrated across the curriculum and training programmes that teach high-tech safety rules. Schools have favoured a ‘locked down’

approach in the past, using software to block and filter online activity in schools. However, this alone is not sufficient to protect children whilst on the internet, not least because most intelligent 14-year-olds can easily bypass blocked sites using a proxy server address. Whilst such systems do contribute to an overall e-safety strategy, they do not flag bullying or grooming behaviour, nor do they alert teachers to the fact that students have atempted to access prohibited or worrying material. Having a more realistic approach

to monitoring what students are up to online can be more effective in helping pupils learn how to use new technologies safely. This is because they allow children to make mistakes in a safe online environment where they can get used to working within a defined set of boundaries. The internet is a valuable classroom

commodity and children should learn to use it safely in a controlled environment. If schools effectively teach both staff to integrate e-safety information and set realistic boundaries for students then there is no reason why the ever-growing advancement of technologies will not work in harmony with education. ET

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