Today’s lecture looked at issues regarding the safeguarding and wellbeing of children; be it emotional or physical wellbeing. It also examined the importance of relationships within the classroom and the types of decisions we need to make when shaping our professional identity and the way we interact with children in our class. Resilience was also discussed and the question was raised whether it is our responsibility, as teachers, to promote resilience in the children we teach. What struck me most about this session, though, were the risks and procedures in relation to e-Safety.
In a world where the use of digital technologies is inescapable and actively encouraged in many ways, it is frightening to acknowledge the types of hazards which can stem from abuse of the systems which now form such a large part of everyday life. Inappropriate content and dangers involving online grooming were what most people would initially connect with the word ‘e-Safety’, but I found the three C’s (contact, content and commercialism) useful in putting these dangers into perspective and actually acknowledging the variety of other issues which can occur from online use (Allen et al. 2012:215) . I had never thought about the content of some online resources as affecting primary school children – possibly because I overestimated the abilities of internet filtering. However, looking at the Martin Luther King website today, set up by a white-supremacy group in America alerted me to the other types of obstacles children face in the use of the internet.
This prompted me to remember an article I read in Education Today, called Drawing out ideas from youngsters rather than imposing frameworks: A strategy for teaching the evaluation of information (Shenton and Nesset. 2013:12) The article expresses the need to teach children skills in evaluating the validity of information on TV, in books, from things they are told and, most pertinently – online. It suggests children are guided to explore the common features of ‘bad information’ (ibid) and that teachers should be ‘furnishing youngsters with a toolkit that they can use in a range of contexts.’ (ibid) This would mean that a new generation of online users could emerge, with the skills necessary to look in to issues in more depth before forming a solid opinion, and so become a critical, open-minded individual. This is interesting in light of the information we have received recently at university – in relation to the same kind of thing; examining our sources of information for underlying factors which may hinder its validity. So, this article has picked out an important point in being able to use the internet in a way which will aid children’s life in the future and help them discriminate potentially detrimental pieces of information. The fact that we, on the PGCE course, are receiving this information now suggests a need for it to be highlighted within the cohort. This may be due to a generational disparity in ICT education – as issues surrounding digital technologies were not so prevalent when I was at primary school. However, with every child now being able to access the internet at school and almost every child at home, it makes sense for them to be taught these skills at a much younger age.
Digital technologies seem to be an unstoppable element of modern life and the majority of people now have an online presence – on social networking sites, blogs etc. With this in mind, I was expecting the lecture to mention user-responsibility to other people. This was not addressed at all though and I was quite shocked. Although cyber-bullying was touched upon, I believe it should be a priority to try to tackle the root of cyber-bullying and the abuse which happens online; and that starts with educating children about the effects of their words. Instructing children on how to protect themselves online and be able to identify potential risks to their own wellbeing is incredibly important. But, what about the potential risk they may pose to others. It is not difficult to find examples of content online which may cause offense or upset – either maliciously, or unknowingly. It is crucial that children gain an understanding that things they say online may be misconstrued and have a serious effect on someone else – whether they meant for this to happen or not. The faceless nature of the internet makes it easy to forget that there is an audience at the end of our Facebook statuses and blog posts, and by teaching children the possible consequences of what they post online – in terms of other people’s reactions to it, we may be able to shape a more responsible and considerate generation of internet users.
In very recent news, ABC News reports of a 12-year-old girl committing suicide in September this year due to cyber-bullying by two other girls aged 12 and 14. BBC News says that the girl took her own life following ‘months of relentless online bullying’. I think this shows, to the extreme, the effect that cyber-bullying can have on others and the dangers of social networking. I also think it supports my point that children need to be educated about the consequences of their online footprint. I don’t think there are many children who would like to think something they said to another person would prompt such a devastating reaction and these risks need to be made clear.
Of course, tragic stories such as this are often brought to the forefront of the media and can serve to present an inaccurate view of the dangers surrounding internet usage. The lecture made me realise the importance of educating children about the risks, but also managing this so that children do not go away feeling scared at the prospect of using online resources. The realities of online risks need to be understood, but with instruction on how to identify and manage these properly and the provision of people (teachers or otherwise) children can turn to if they have worries or issues regarding e-Safety, children can benefit fully from the amazing resource which is the internet and protect themselves from potential threats in the future.
Allen, J. Potter, J. Sharp, J. and Turvey, K. (2012) ‘E-Safety’ in. Primary ICT: Knowledge, Understanding and Practice. London: Learning Matters Ltd. Pp 214 – 222.
Shenton and Nesset (2013) ‘Drawing out ideas from youngsters rather than imposing frameworks: A strategy for teaching the evaluation of information’ in. Education Today 63:3 pp 12-13.
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24538798> Accessed 21/10/2013