On Wednesday I had the pleasure of taking four Year 5 pupils to an E-Safety training day run by Buckinghamshire County Council. Training events like this are so important in helping us keep up to date with current trends and gaining the latest knowledge, especially in an area which is constantly changing. Here at Gateway School, we take E-safety incredibly seriously. Over the course of this half term, every year group has been focussing on this topic and it is particularly fortunate that I now have a few fully qualified assistants to help me.
Christmas is just around the corner and I imagine that at the top of many of our children’s wish lists is some kind of electronic device. If Santa does manage to fit a tablet, phone or laptop into your children’s stockings they are very lucky children indeed! A new device provides a perfect opportunity to establish some routines around safe and responsible usage.
The first factor to consider is the amount of time you, as parents, spend in front of a device. As carers, you are modelling the behaviour that you consider acceptable. Your children take note of this and decide on their own expectations based on your behaviours. Answering a phone or writing an email at the dinner table can set dangerous precedents.
The latest research suggests that the amount of screen time is less important than the content being looked at or the activity undertaken. Most social apps (Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram) are designed for people over the age of 14 (Fortnite is recommended for children over 12).
The important thing, I believe, is to be involved in your child’s online activities. Be aware of what they are doing and, if possible, use/play the app/game with them and regularly check how they are using their devices. It is important that your children understand that you are monitoring their activity for their safety rather to be nosey!
A good practice to start as early as possible is to set clear expectations on where the device can be used. Devices shouldn’t be allowed in bedrooms, especially at night. The temptation can be too high if the device is readily accessible. When I have been involved in looking into incidents, most occur in the middle of the night when parents assume that their child is asleep. By using the device in a public place such as the kitchen or living room and removing access at a certain time ,children know there is a possibility that someone can see what they are doing.
Internet providers (BT, Virgin, Sky etc) have got very good at helping families filter content in the home. Many providers provide software that allows you to disconnect wifi device by device at whatever times you choose. This is a very helpful way to control access for your children.
As always it is also important to check the settings on the apps that you and your children use. When software updates are installed on mobile devices some apps automatically reset to factory defaults, thus opening previously secure privacy settings.
At the course on Wednesday the presenter asked the children how long it takes an ‘online’ friend to become an ‘actual friend’. Their answers scared me. This question might be a good starting point for a discussion with your children this weekend.
I hope that you have a lovely half term.
Adam Atkinson, Head of Computing