The Reality of Keeping Children Safe Online This Summer

By EduCare

| 01 July 2017

EduCare has been developing online safeguarding training alongside charities and industry specialists for the last 30 years.

During this time, director Keir McDonald was awarded an MBE for Services to Children in acknowledgement of his commitment to child protection. Their Online Safety course equips adults with the necessary online safeguarding knowledge to help protect children and young people from the dangers of the internet.

With the summer well under way it's time to focus on the importance of keeping children safe online during the holidays. While the latest Ofcom research suggests that parents are happy with the length that their children use devices with access to the internet, during the holidays, this ratio can be difficult to maintain. There are a number of tools that are accessible to parents to encourage online safety. It is important to promote a joint approach with school, teachers and children.

Schools are dedicated to teaching students best practice for online safeguarding. They play a big part in the wellbeing and safeguarding of their students, so once they've broken up for the holidays, there is an increased responsibility for protecting children online.

The Reality of Keeping Children Safe Online

As the number of under-15s with a tablet or mobile device rises, so does the importance of online safety for children during the school break. Even if it's sunny outside and they are out with their friends, these devices are designed for internet use on the go. Limiting device usage at home, or just using a network level filter as an online safeguarding strategy, is not sufficient.

To obtain positive outcomes and promote best practice clear messages should be given. Limitation can prevent excessive usage, but we must regularly educate children and parents. A single-stage approach to online safety for children rarely delivers an appropriate level of security. This is why we try to combine education and limitation techniques for the most effective child protection best practice.

For younger children, this involves helping them develop an understanding of what the internet is, how it works and why it might be unsafe. As they mature, it's important to maintain a similarly mature approach.

Explaining how personal information they have given to websites can become available to others, how "clickbait" works or what "fake news" is are more complex lessons for older children. Likewise, describing the way YouTube comments work would be an important lesson for younger children who have just started using YouTube to learn. Making young people aware of the importance of not sending private images of themselves or others online is paramount.

Staying Up to Date With Children's Internet Activity

It's good to see your online safeguarding responsibilities as a two-way agreement. Those in charge of keeping children safe online are required to develop rules by which devices with internet access can be used, as well as to educate on how to use them. The second part requires the participation of the child themselves.

While communicating the dangers of the internet to children, you should be encouraging them to talk to you about anything they don't understand. While it might be as simple as asking about how to open a new tab, or what "www" means, it's very important that they want to ask questions and that they value your involvement. The more intrinsically linked you are with their online activity, the more effective you'll be at keeping children safe online.

A great way of staying up to date with a child's internet activity is simply just to be involved in it. This reinforces your role as the person to come to if they feel like anything is "different" or unusual within the internet. It also makes you more aware of a child's internet routines and how they change (for good and for bad). Knowledge and awareness through participation is more effective than outright prevention.

Building a Positive Digital Tattoo

Building a positive digital tattoo, or digital footprint, is something everyone should be participating in, especially as a child protection strategy. A digital tattoo is a collection of all of your data, which is publicly available on the internet.

In an age when social media websites have existed for at least 14 years, many people have grown up without realising the extent of the data that has been stored in their name. Raising awareness of digital tattoos is important because it allows young people to influence them in a positive way. Writing comments on blogs, YouTube or social media can enhance your digital tattoo, leaving a more positive representation of yourself for others to see.

It is called a digital tattoo for a reason. Once it has been "inked" onto the internet, it is very difficult to remove it. Children and young adults must be made aware of their digital tattoo and how it might affect their lives when they grow up.

EduCare's Online Safety course was written and developed alongside Jonathan Taylor, who specialises in online safety and positive digital tattoos. This summer, we're running a prize draw offering Jonathan's services for FREE: the opportunity for Jonathan to join you in your school or workplace and run one of his workshops.

If you're interested in an opportunity to learn more about protecting children online, visit our prize draw webpage and maybe you'll be the lucky winner!

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