Online Safety 2018: WOOPWOOP It’s the Sound of the ePolice

The days of posting an image of your students online – and asking people ‘to share this so I can show my students how many hits it gets’ I HOPE is a thing of the past. We all know the near and present danger of the internet. The fact that it was “not designed with children in mind” seems to be more of a mainstream opinion in the wake of ongoing privacy issues and election scandals with Facebook.

So, what should we be concentrating on when it comes to eSafety and online life? What approach do schools need to take to ensure that their students are not only safe online

I feel strongly that we (adults so either schools or parents, or even – gasp -both!) understand the legal implications for life online. Last year I wrote this article with Holly Powell-Jones. In 2014, Holly was awarded a fully-funded PhD studentship to undertake research at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University of London to develop her experience with young people into a doctoral thesis. Based in the Sociology department, her research investigates children’s perceptions of the criminal, legal and social risks of social media misuse. Her first publication – a chapter on ‘Social Media and Bullying’ in Cowie and Myers’ book ‘School Bullying and Mental Health: Risks, Intervention and Prevention‘ – is out now. She has also presented her research findings at several international academic conferences, from gloriously sunny Hawaii to rainy Cardiff.  Read more about Holly’s research expertise.

Now, Holly continues to design and deliver media training courses for schools, businesses, charities, journalists, students and academics as an independent freelancer. See clients and experience. She is also behind Online Media Law  who specialise teaching the legal aspects of social media misuse in schools.They offer workshops and presentations for students aged 8-18, plus training for parents and teachers, as well as consultancy work. Holly is the Online Law Leader for GECFutures.

I wanted to see what she had learnt in the last year – and what she could teach me (and you!). She is now involved in PhD research and has even more experience in this field. I asked her what she thought schools could do to help improve online safety for their students. She kindly gave me her top ten tips.

Please read each one and consider how far your school engages in online law and online safety when it comes to these suggestions:

Holly’s Top Ten Online Safety Tips

  1. Law training is essential; students need to recognise what’s a crime online (as opposed to just unpleasant), and this encourages them to seek help. See Online Media Law for more help.
  2. Students are generally more willing to take risks as they go through their teens, so it’s vital fresh training is delivered across all year groups, annually.
  3. Make sure conversations are student-led where possible, and to listen to them. Start sessions with prompts for small group discussions, then feedback & discuss as a whole class.
  4. I always use real-life case studies as examples of what the risks online are, as it helps get the message across and show you’re not exaggerating any potential consequences.
  5. Be open & non-judgemental. There can be a lot of crossover between e-safety & things like sex education; it’s vital to talk frankly with students about these issues, and not shy away from them, however awkward you might feel.
  6. On that note: Double-check your disclosure & safeguarding procedures, so you know exactly what to do if you’re concerned by something a student raises.
  7. Signpost other places they could go, in case they don’t want to talk to you: Childline and TheMix are good, as they can provide support & advice with a range of issues.
  8. Research* shows peer-support initiatives tend to be successful, as students don’t always want to talk to adults. Consider a peer mentoring/student ambassador scheme.
  9. Equally, studies show that policies for pupils (eg. on mobile use, social media or bullying) tend to be more effective if they’re designed with students contributing to them.
  • Sessions for parents are a great idea too, as this helps ensure those important conversations about digital life are happening at home, as well as at school.

*’Bullying and Social Media’ (Chapter 11), ’School Bullying and Mental Health: Risks, intervention and prevention’ (Cowie and Myers, 2018; Routledge):

by Nicole Ponsford