Education and esafety: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read in the News

Note: The following guest post comes to us courtesy of Keir McDonald, Chairman of EduCare, a company that provides bespoke training solutions for schools. Their courses are available both online and on paper, and cover child protection and duty of care issues.

Media horror stories bombard us daily when it comes to students and esafety, but is going online really as dangerous for children as some journalists would have us believe? A new report from the London School of Economics has found that children might be better at self-regulating their internet usage than we usually give them credit for.

The influence of news stories on children is particularly strong when it comes to stranger danger and bullying, but do media representations of the internet empower children, or destabilise their development of effective online risk-management skills?

After speaking with 378 children about esafety, academics from LSE found that many children actively seek out ways to stay safe online by “planning” and “reflecting.” For example, when using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, older children take precautions such as changing their privacy settings to protect themselves online.

Even younger children, between the ages of 9 – 11, are competent at avoiding problematic websites or applications by simply clicking away. This is an obvious but “effective tactic” when it comes to staying safe on the internet. Most children were able to recognise both the risks and the symptoms of internet addiction, including health problems, losing interest in other things and losing friends.

Though girls are “more likely to seek social support […] than boys,” both sexes are generally reluctant to approach an adult for help when an incident of cyberbullying occurs. Children are commonly able to react proactively to abusive messages by blocking the send or disabling their own account, but sometimes this isn’t enough and internet conflicts escalate rapidly.

Why are children reluctant to seek support when faced with bullying?

Children are often reluctant to seek support, preferring instead to minimise or downplay the significance of cyberbullying. However, this is an inefficient tactic and schools can do more by harnessing the power of the peer-group for their anti-bullying and esafety lessons.

As adults, we can encourage children to feel comfortable sharing their online problems with us by being more reasonable, and less sensational, when it comes to the internet. For one thing, when we talk to children about the internet, we should acknowledge the many good points as well as cautioning against the dangers. Monitoring our children’s online activity is fine for very young children, but as they get older, we can earn their trust by respecting their need for a certain amount of privacy.

Parents and teachers can try to ban Facebook and other websites, or limit their children and student’s internet usage, but they should be aware of the potential consequences. Using social networking sites, among other online skills, has become almost mandatory both in the wider world and in the modern workplace. Banning children from social networking instead of teaching them how to network safely is doing them no favours in the long run.

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3 Replies to “Education and esafety: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read in the News”

  1. This is a tough issue, because today’s parents did not grow up online in the same way their kids are and so it can be scary. In truth, no parents can ever completely regulate what their kids are up to online, so teaching them how to handle what they see and what happens is the best approach.

  2. I think it is impossible to protect our kids completely from everything — including the online world — but I also don’t think they should have complete autonomy. Until we as parents and teachers are reasonably sure that they can handle what they encounter if we aren’t around, we need to be incredibly cautious.

  3. I was still in high school when Facebook and other networks were becoming really popular, and I personally never saw any of the bullying online that I read so much about now. I don’t doubt that it takes place, but I also think that it scares a lot of parents unrightfully so.

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