With children now spending less time socialising outdoors, instead preferring to spend an average of 13.4 hours per week in front of their computers, online safety has now taken its place at the top of parents’ and schools’ safety agendas.
A recent OFCOM report confirmed 93% of 8-15 year olds in the UK have access to the Internet at home, with 40% having a smartphone and 35% owning five or more media devices. The availability of the Internet to children has created an environment whereby misuses and abuses of the system pose a new type of threat to child safety. With around 70% of children visiting websites every day the justification for education in online safety is self-evident.
Online safety threats to children exist in a number of forms ranging from the conduct of children between one another to online identity protection.
An Open Research Online report found that 38% of young people have been affected by bullying online, with abusive emails (26%) and instant/text messages (24%) proving the most common means of cyberbullying. In 2013 alone Childline provided counselling to around 4,500 children specifically concerned with cyberbullying.
In relation to the areas of privacy and online identity an LSE Research Online report found that across Europe 38% of 9-12 year olds and 77% of 13-16 year olds have a Social Network profile. In the UK this number is slightly higher at 43% for 9-12 year olds and 88% for 13-16 year olds. Social Networks have been identified as areas of often naïve misuse by younger users in publically publishing sensitive information. The Europe-wide figure for 9-12 year old users with public profiles sits at over a quarter, the major privacy issue highlighted in the case of these users is the prevalence of the sensitive information they offer, most commonly providing their phone number, address and the school they attend.
The introduction of the new computing curriculum in England, scheduled for September 2014, provides the opportunity for teachers and students to work through in detail the eSafety concerns that have arisen in recent years. NCC Education’s Digi-Qualifications cover the in-demand areas of using computers and technology safely and securely.
Students are taught the importance of behaving respectfully, responsibly and securely online. The issue of cyberbullying is identified as a key aspect in shaping students’ own conduct online and safe and responsible courses of action are promoted through exercises throughout the qualifications, from Key Stage 1 to 3. With units covering online identity and privacy, digital footprints and copyright, students are taught the most up-to-date information on acting as a good digital citizen and remaining safe online.
Parents and teachers can take comfort in their children and students enjoying the wealth of the World Wide Web safe in the knowledge that they are equipped with the best possible understanding of safe and secure surfing.