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How to manage online safety for children

What potential dangers are there for young people online? Watch Ben Hall explain how you can help your learners navigate online risks.

IT systems have not always had a positive impact on our lives. As well as rewards, the use of and reliance on IT systems also brings risks.

In this article, I will share some of these risks and identify opportunities for you to teach about online safety through the content you teach in computing systems and networks.

Online safety is everyone’s responsibility

When teaching online safety, you need to achieve the right balance. The significance of the issues associated with online safety means that it is not sufficient to teach about online safety as an isolated lesson or series of lessons.

Also, online safety is not only relevant in computing, but also in other areas of the curriculum, including personal, social, health, and economic (PSHE) education; spiritual, moral, social, and cultural (SMSC) development; and citizenship.

To teach online safety, you need to identify opportunities to embed online safety throughout the curriculum. This includes, but is not limited to, the computing systems and networks strand of computing, in which there are many links to online safety.

When you teach content that relates to computing systems and networks, there will be many opportunities for you to introduce online safety, or where your learners may identify possible links.

Two of the most relevant are online communication and online collaboration.

Online communication

If your learners engage with other people online, there is a risk that they may be threatened or harassed by other people.

This can have a serious impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly an online issue, where people can hide behind anonymity and communication can take place privately, out of the view of adults.

A child on a laptop, surrounded by symbols that represent various social communications, such as email; WhatsApp; and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The key to supporting your learners is to ensure that they know how to prevent malicious online communication, how to identify it, and where they can go for help. For support in this area, you can visit the resources linked later in this step.

Online collaboration

Many of your learners will have experience of online collaboration. Modern gaming platforms are designed to enable people to play together, and for many young people, this has provided them with their only opportunities for social interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You could discuss with your learners how they should ensure that the people they are collaborating with are who they say they are or what information they should (and should not) share with others, regardless of whether they know them or not.

A child holding a video game controller and wearing a headset to communicate.

Reacting to online safety issues

Online safety issues can occur at any time and change and evolve over time. As new platforms and trends emerge, you have a responsibility to guide learners as to whether they are appropriate, how to use them safely, and what risks they may present.

Other issues that can become evident with very little warning can include cyberbullying or learners posting inappropriate content online.

Such issues may be isolated, evident in certain classes or year groups, or relevant to the whole school. It is important for you and your colleagues to address them as and when they occur.

More help and support

You can find more help and support for these issues from the following:

This article is from the free online

Teaching Computing Systems and Networks to 5- to 11-year-olds

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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