We’re delighted to share this guest post on the ever current issue of e-safety courtesy of Alan Mackenzie from E-safety Adviser. Alan is a CEOP Ambassador and associate member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) working in partnership to help keep children safe online. Here he gives us his thoughts on the subject and some of his top tips.
E-safety is a huge subject area and the context is dependent on many different factors, for example the context of child sexual exploitation from a police perspective is different to an educational perspective; one will be looking at detection, investigation and prosecution whilst the latter will be looking at protection and risk mitigation through good education and awareness. Furthermore, e-safety has traditionally concentrated on specific safeguarding areas. Whilst these areas are vitally important it is recognised that exposure to risk has to take into account many different and wider aspects.
To explain that a little further, imagine you were tasked with a lesson to teach children to stay safe in the real world. Think about the extraordinary amount of risks there are: what would you teach; which one is more important than the other; what factors would you have to take into account; can you teach it in a classroom or does it need to be a practical; where on earth would you start? You have to take into account so many things such as their age, past experiences, any particular vulnerabilities just to name a few.
To simplify, how do you teach life? The fact is, you can’t. It is something that needs to start from an early age and be an embedded and progressive part of education, not a bespoke subject. For example, when we take our children swimming for the first few times they will wear armbands, we’re there with them, encouraging and helping. Eventually those armbands have to come off, the children will become more confident, take their first risky dive, gain experience and build resilience. Safety is no different, and that includes safety online.
That brings us to internet safety rules. I’m not a great fan of rules; principles yes, rules no.
For example, ‘Never post personal information online.’ In 2019 is it feasibly possible not to post personal information online?
And then we have, ‘Don’t talk to strangers.’ Whilst a good principle in theory, ask yourself this, if we continue to tell children not to talk to strangers, at what point do we tell them it’s okay to talk to strangers? This is a fundamental aspect of growing up, social awareness and essentially, citizenship.
With all that said, we have to start somewhere and there are some principles that are important to all of us, children, young people and adults alike:
- The notion of privacy online is quickly being eroded to the point where there is very little guarantee of privacy. Even those allegedly disappearing Snapchat images are on a server somewhere, and as we have seen so often in the past there are many vulnerabilities. ‘Be careful of what you post’ is such a simple yet incredibly important principle for many different reasons. The internet can only be accessed by less than 50% of the population of our world, but that’s still a lot of people.
- Children will model adults, which has been the case since time began. If we want children and young people to act appropriately online then adults must model good behaviour. This includes both a professional and personal perspective.
- Internet safety, or e-safety, is not a technical issue, it’s a behaviour issue. There is no such thing as a dangerous app, only the manner in which people use them.
- You will commonly hear from children and young people, ‘The internet is everything, everything is on the internet.’ We need to embrace that and empower children for all the good that online connectivity gives to all of us, not demonise it with continual tales of all the bad things. Empower children and young people with the wonderful positives that the internet gives us, and use that education to explain the risks.
- As a professional or as a parent, there is one principle that is key – you are the trusted adult. Children and young people need to know that they can come to you in time of need. The excuse “I know nothing about technology” is a barrier to children. Remember, e-safety is about behaviour, not technology.