Safer Internet Day 2019: three hard questions educators need to ask

The online safety curriculum keeps evolving – and it needs to. As children and young people’s use of online media evolves, so too do the safety challenges that arise. Last week’s Ofcom report into children’s media lives provides a snapshot of what children are doing online and how online interaction is changing. For example:

  • YouTube is becoming the viewing platform of choice, with rising popularity particularly among 8-11s. Within this, vloggers are an increasingly important source of content and creativity
  • Online gaming is increasingly popular; three-quarters of 5-15s who play games do so online
  • Social media can bring a combination of social pressures and positive influences
  • A majority of online 12-15s think critically about websites they visit, but only a third correctly understand search engine advertising

And, critically:

  • Children are still being exposed to unwanted experiences online, but almost all recall being taught how to use the internet safely
Image from Ofcom (2018) Children and parents: media use and attitudes report

While there are clearly trends we can see year on year – TV use decreases, mobile use increases, more and more children have their own devices at an ever younger age – some of the details do also change in ways that we need to be alert to. Apps change – musical-ly has become TikTok – with new features bringing both new opportunities and new challenges.

In Safer Internet Day (SID)  assemblies this morning we have been discussing the Pokemon Go app and some of the concerns it has raised. For example, children need a Google account to play the game and there have been reports that the app is granting itself permission to access their Gmail and Google Drive accounts, while a malicious version of the Android app gives attackers full control over the victim’s phone (find out more in this excellent ParentInfo guide to Pokemon Go).

This year the theme of Safer Internet Day is consent. In case that’s a word you don’t use with the age range that you teach, how about ‘permission’? As this week’s SID presentation puts it,  ‘put your hand up if you’ve ever asked permission to go to the toilet in school?’ That’ll be just about all of us. And just about all of us are affected not only by the choices that we make knowingly or unknowingly online on a daily basis (most children included), but also those choices that others make.

Three hard questions

1. Are we talking to children about data and companies collecting their data?  

To what extent do children understand that, with free services, they are not the customer but the product? That the data they are giving away is valuable? That they may be exposing others’ data? Very few adults read the terms and conditions of the networks and platforms they sign up to so it is beyond unrealistic to expect children to. Instagram’s latest Ts and Cs are 5000 words long.  However, the Children’s Commissioner has produced a brilliant jargon-busting guide to the Ts and Cs of social networking sites Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Instagram. These simplified Ts and Cs reduce them to a few hundred words with relevant headings and bullet points and turn them into a great resource to use in class.

2. Are we making links to bridge the gulf from a Computing focus to the rest of the curriculum?

Too often ‘online safety’ is framed as a computing issue. It needs to be all-pervasive. As the Children’s Commissioner says, children see no difference between online and offline life – it’s just life. ‘Consent’ has relevance for all areas of the curriculum, from PSHE and Citizenship to RE and values. Is there any part of school life that ‘polite and civilised respect for other human beings’ should not touch? Is your school embedding ‘consent’ into every aspect of school life?

3. Are we making a link with the impact this is having on us all?

According to a report published today from the Prince’s Trust, which has been gauging youth opinion for 10 years,  just under half of young people who use social media now feel more anxious about their future when they compare themselves to others on sites and apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. A similar amount agree that social media makes them feel “inadequate”. More than half (57%) think social media creates “overwhelming pressure” to succeed.

As the debate about the value – or not – of ‘screen time’ rages on, we prefer to shift the focus to the activities that children and young people are investing their time in on their devices rather than the amount of time they spend doing it. Is it creative and enhancing or is it passive consuming and shallow scrolling? Is it part of a healthy and balanced digital diet? And are we talking enough about how those choices are influenced by the software design of the devices they use, with smartphones optimised for consumption over creation?

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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