"Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe."
Byron Review: Children and new technology (2008)
As discussed in the strategic approaches section of this infoKit, students need to be involved and contribute to the development of an organisation’s policies and procedures in the creation of a safe environment and the development of e-safety resources. By doing this, students will gather a greater understanding of the challenges associated with safe behaviour online and feel that sense of ownership and accountability.
Students should take responsibility for what they do online. They should have the confidence and understanding of what is appropriate, and seek advice and guidance where they are unsure.
Working together with parents, carers and teachers, some specific responsibilities for students include:
- Contributing to the development of institutional policies, not just in relation to e-safety but IT provision, behaviour and anti-bullying
- Report incidents of technology misuse
- Seek advice, help and support from parents, carers and teachers if they experience any problems online or come into contact with inappropriate content
Students who are confident and proficient in their use of technology and social media will still need support to help them navigate the challenges associated with e-safety. They must have clear guidelines about behaviour online in college and guidance about use outside. There should be a separate acceptable usage policy for learners written in language they can understand that spells out what they can and cannot do and any sanctions that will be employed, linked into student code and referral procedures.
It is also worth highlighting the value in involving students as partners of mentors in the development of their own skills and in providing peer support. The digital literacies guide includes some case studies of where this has been used in practice.
Key questions to ask of students
RM have highlighted five topics to ask students about staying safe online (RM, 2013):
- What is e-safety? Start by finding out what your students think e-safety is, as a way of auditing their current knowledge.
- Responsible use of social networking? Share a fictitious social network profile (provided in the lesson plan) and ask students how this person is protecting their personal information and what they are doing wrong.
- Are you a cyberbully? Was that ‘joke’ they sent really funny or could it have been an act of unintentional bullying? Get the pupils to roleplay the impact that this could have.
- What’s your digital footprint? What information is there about you online? How can you protect your online reputation (now and in the future) and what you need to know about sharing personal information.
- How reliable is online information? This lesson is all about how to interrogate what you might think are ‘facts’ you find online.
Central to e-responsibility is giving learners the skills and knowledge they need to keep themselves safe and to act responsibly online. Who in your organisation needs to be educated, to what level and at what stage depends on the type of provision, the learner’s age and the activity they are engaging in? As well as staff and learners, others may need to be made aware. This would include parents and carers for vulnerable learners and young people, governors and partner organisations in work-based learning.
Implementation is also important. For example:
- If e-safety is part of the learner’s induction does it take place before they login for the first time?
- Is it embedded in the curriculum or left to learners to work through independently?
- What checks are in place to ensure that they do the activities and work through the whole programme?
Learner inductions should include information on the widest range of risks to their personal and financial well-being and include information on: social networking, chat rooms and instant messaging (IM), email and phishing, cyberbullying, mobile phones, gaming and gambling, financial transactions, and anything else they feedback as important.
Inductions with Xerte
The Learning Resource Centre at Huntingdonshire Regional College has been delivering Information Skills, e-safety and Inductions using online tutorials developed with Xerte, the open access e-tutorial building software developed by the University of Nottingham. This has allowed the college to engage learners, develop information and independent learning skills, and improve learner employability and progression prospects.
Promoting digital values
Cover all areas of online activity not just cyberbullying – the aim is to create well informed, responsible users of technology. Many resources are focused on school age children but are still useful as long as the focus is on responsible behaviour. Digizen from ChildNet is a useful site that promotes digital citizenship skills and digital values. It covers copyright and plagiarism as well as cyberbullying and social networking.
Other resources aimed at older children and young people often present e-safety issues as interactive games or challenges in order to engage young people and support their understanding. Several films are available via YouTube that really demonstrate well the potential dangers of not being e-responsible. ChildNet also has an information site called Sorted on keeping your personal information secure online written by an 18 year old for older teenagers.
The ThinkuKnow website has a number of age targeted resources for teachers to use including some for Special Educational Needs learners including videos in British Sign Language (BSL). There are contextual notes and a series of scenarios learners can work through independently as part of an induction – followed by assessment through games and quizzes.
Work-based learning at Hull College
A participant in the HELPP e-portfolio project at Hull College makes the point that a professional blog is very different to a personal one – the language used, the presentation, the types of comments that are attached must be carefully considered:
"It’s professional so I think the actual words that people use on the blog should be professional, should come across professionally and it should be professional. …it’s got to be different."
Learners also need to be aware that personal blogs can be read by prospective employers and clients. This also applies in the context of e-safety in showing the need to be careful what they produce online.
Promoting e-safety practice from Safer Internet Day 2013
A number of examples of good practice are available from Safer Internet Day (SID) 2013 showcasing innovative and engaging ways to promote e-safety.
- Vikki Liogier’s presentation provides an overview of how Epping Forest College is setting up an interactive exhibition for SID 2014 to create a walk through college users’ stories
- Rosie Douglas shares the experiences of Mid Kent College on their e-safety journey, discussing how they celebrated SID 2013 with their learners
- Stephen Harvey and Sam Kennedy reflect on previous attempts to raise awareness of the importance of online safety amongst learners and staff at Hertford Regional College. They discuss the College’s emerging plans for SID 2014 to reinforce the importance of individual responsibility and accountability