Online Safety

Last week I sent an email to the middle and senior team leaders offering to take the students from years 3-6 for an online safety session. This was partly a response to several incidents that occurred last year with students. The fact that most of these incidents started offsite was I think in the end a moot point.

What were we going to do about it?

After discussions with some parents, teachers and school council we adopted the following strategies:

  • to update our internet safety policies and student agreements for 2010.
  • to update our cyber bullying policies.
  • to organise a parent information / training session with an “expert” which in the end has taken some time to organise as there are few “experts” out there. We have obtained a mid year booking for 2010.

So what was missing?

 Well a recent Ofsted report published February 2010 titled “The safe use of new technologies” makes some some very points for schools and several key recommendations.

I was struck with this point:

The five schools where provision for e-safety was outstanding all used ‘managed’ systems to help pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies. ‘Managed’ systems have fewer inaccessible sites than ‘locked down’ systems and so require pupils to take responsibility themselves for using new technologies safely.” [p4]

We have a new statewide internet service with Netspace and I myself have found several sites blocked which has been frustrating – so now I’m wondering about just how ‘managed’ this service is. 

“The weakest aspect of provision in the schools visited was the extent and quality of training provided for staff. It did not always involve all the staff and was not provided systematically.” [p7]

Teacher training was not an action we choose to take in 2009. I do wonder whether my actions by offering to take the classes is a stop gap measure till staff are trained  – or is it on the job training for teachers and students?

While we are busy developing training for staff for the new Ultranet systems we don’t specificaly have an e safety curriculum or teacher training program. We may need some help here to do this.

I really liked some of the definitions the report used namely the purpose of new technologies and what safety is:

“New technologies are central to modern life. They enable people across the world to have instant communication with one another. They allow for the rapid retrieval and collation of information from a wide range of sources, and provide a powerful stimulus for creativity. They allow people to discuss sensitive topics which, face to face, they might find difficult. However, these technologies are also potentially damaging. They can give access to harmful and inappropriate materials and, because of the anonymity offered, vulnerable individuals may be harmed or exploited.” [p7]

and its definition of safety:

“The report of the Byron Review discusses the difference between being safe and being responsible. Children who hold a parent’s hand every time they cross the road are safe. However, unless they are taught to cross the road by themselves, they might not learn to do this independently. A child whose use of the internet is closely monitored at school will not necessarily develop the level of understanding required to use new technologies responsibly in other contexts.” [p8]

This example of the difference between being safe and being responsible  makes sense to me. Like the report most of the incidents for us involved chat sites students were using at home or texting / photos on mobile phones. It raised questions about students under 13 illegally having facebook or myspace pages.

I know my e safety sessions will at least covered:

  • not to reveal personal details when using the internet
  • not to give their password to other people
  • to report any suspicious sites
  • to ensure that any mobile devices that they might wish to attach to school equipment were free of viruses
  • not to make defamatory comments about others online.

Our policies set out clearly the consequences of breaching the regulations including banning pupils from using the school’s computer system for a defined period.

If there is some e safety training program for staff that is tailored to the different levels of understanding and application – please can someone send me the link or contact details?

In the meanwhile I will keep you informed on the student questions and feedback.

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