Who has the responsibility for teaching children about e-safety?

The issue of e-safety came up again this week as the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has said; “Young children should hear about the dangers of pornography as soon as they have access to the internet.”

Russell Hobby said “the conversation should start” when children started going online – but who should be having that conversation with them?

The issue of e-safety has come to fore recently with the discussion surrounding the dis application of the ICT curriculum and the introduction of a new Computing curriculum in its place.  The curriculum that is currently used in schools contains specific reference to e-safety as KS3 and KS4 that covers recognising issues of risk, safety and responsibility surrounding the use of ICT safely and responsibly, and also covers developing an understanding of and following safe practices using digital communications and the need to show respect towards others.

One criticism of the new draft Computing curriculum is that it does not contain enough reference to this topic and the suggestion is that by its exclusion we are failing to provide adequate education and protection for young children.

To support this argument you could reference existing ICT qualifications that are based on the national curriculum and which contain specific reference to e-safety. Across our main KS4 ICT qualifications we cover areas such as the safe and responsible use of communication services, showing respect towards others, preventing the abuse of personal information, dangers of using ICT/the internet, the use and abuse of personal and private data, and cyber bullying.

So what happens to this learning once the new Computing curriculum is introduced?

Well, it is there – At Key Stage 1 the new National Curriculum for Computing aims to ensure that all pupils are responsible, competent users of information and communication technology, and pupils should be taught to how communicate safely and respectfully online and how to keep personal information private.

And at Key Stage 2 the learning in this area progresses onto to how to respect individuals and use technology responsibly, securely and safely. However the subject doesn’t receive any specific attention in the criteria for Key Stage 3 or 4 and so missing from the subject criteria at a time in their lives when learners are perhaps most likely to using technology and social media most frequently and independently.

But does that mean that schools shouldn’t teach about e-safety?

As the use of technology is more widely used across the whole school curriculum, why should the issue of the safe use only be taught within ICT/Computing lesson?  Interestingly the NAHT thought that pupils should receive the guidance about online pornography as part of relationship and sex education.

My own feeling is that an e-Safety Policy should work in conjunction with other school policies such as behaviour, anti-Bullying etc. and apply across the whole school and it’s curriculum, and while you would think that ICT teachers are a natural resource to help with those polices, so are parents and school governors.

And what about parents – what is our responsibility with this? As the parent of two young children who regularly access online material, I believe I have an obligation to teach them about how to use their devices safely and to inform them of the kinds of dangers and risks that exist.

The BBC reporting of the speech quoted figures that show the vast majority of parents, 83%, had sufficient confidence in schools’ ability to help their children understand the issues, while only 13% felt the subject should be left to parents alone.

I suspect that the answer is for this to be a partnership between parents and schools. As with sex education or e-safety, parents need to support and compliment what is being learnt in schools and not ignore our role in educating and protecting our children. Schools shouldn’t be seen as the only means of teaching children to be safe.

I’d be interested in people’s thoughts and comments about where and how e-safety should be taught and what the roles of schools should be in this, and what qualifications should do to contribute to this.

Please forward the link to this blog onto anyone who you think might be interested.

Thanks for reading!