Daddilife’s e-safety month is a great way of helping us Dads to focus on how we set guidelines, boundaries, privacy settings and rules regarding online safety at home. The month coincides with the launch of a new book – Parent Alert! – written by Nadia Sawalha, Kaye Adams, and security expert Will Geddes. The book provides some really helpful tips on how to ensure your child’s safety online, whilst enabling them to still access the many benefits the internet has to offer.
But what about the place where our kids spend the bulk of their weekday waking hours? How do we know our children are safe when they’re using internet at school?
From School governor to Ofsted inspector
As a parent of a school-aged son and a former chair of school governors I underwent a crash course in the checks and processes schools go through when it comes to e-safety via an Ofsted inspection experience. “Inspectors will look at whether school leaders have put in place effective child protection and staff behaviour policies that are well understood by everyone,” an Ofsted spokesperson explained:
“They check whether staff, leaders and managers oversee the safe use of electronic and social media by staff and learners and take action immediately if they are concerned about bullying or risky behaviours.”
Dads’ Role In School Safety
Whatever checks and balances schools have in place, parents can be understandably anxious about their children accessing online material which they’re not able to directly monitor. “I always feel it’s my responsibility to teach my children about e-safety, in the same way as it is to teach them about real-world safety,” insists Stu, a dad from Middlesex.
“That’s a parental duty. I have a 9-year-old son who is starting to find his way around YouTube, and an 18-year-old daughter who’s been through all the social media she can eat.”
“The tools I put in place for them are pretty good at protecting them from phishing and spam. But she still had to learn about the risks of cyber-bullying in the same way as she did about bullying. (She suffered neither of these, thankfully.) Part of her learning may have come from her school, but their efforts weren’t heralded home to me as a parent.”
Learning from real life
Whilst schools do instruct pupils about the dangers that lurk online, it can take a real-life experience for the lessons to sink in, as Paul, a father of two boys aged 5 and 9 from west London discovered. “I know, through my eldest, that their school had spent some time on e-safety. I was a little disappointed however, when we found him chatting with some other ‘children’ in an online game shortly afterwards.”
Even though Paul believes the incident was perfectly innocent, he felt the need to reiterate the points the school had made. “We made it clear to him that this is what the school had been talking about. I think it was a bit of a realisation that the lessons might apply to him personally. The threat of no more tablet use if it repeated may have had an equally powerful influence.”
E-Safety Starts At Home
As with many aspects of school learning a deeper understanding of a topic requires much more that can be squeezed into the day’s curriculum. Even with a subject as important for children as online safety. “I think some schools have a lot of catching-up to do,” says Stu. “They need to understand what the problems are for themselves first. I think the biggest focus would be on a real understanding of social media. I think there’s a limit to what a school can teach about e-safety. And it’s a lifelong learning thing too.”
Children also need to have fail-safe methods of alerting their teachers to anything that’s upsetting them online. And parents can ensure their child’s school has robust measures in place when it comes to e-safety. “If you have a question about the way your child’s school teaches online safety, ask to speak to the school’s designated safeguarding lead,” says Ellie Proffitt, Education and Youth Engagement Manager for Childnet.com.
“Remember that many online safety issues will overlap with other subjects such as computing, PSHE and citizenship, so these departments may also have some information for you.”
You can also request to see a copy of your child’s school’s online safety policy, though it should ideally be available via the school website. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for any parents’ talks that cover these subjects. “For many schools, online safety is a priority and any chance to involve parents further will be welcomed,” insists Ellie.
It’s something that, as a dad, Paul concurs with. “I’m pleased that my sons’ school is promoting online safety. I definitely feel that it is my responsibility too though. If we are all singing from the same hymn sheet and reiterating the essential points, children are more likely to take it seriously.”
Lessons To Learn
A great way for parents to get to grips with what they can do to protect their children whilst ensuring they reap the many rewards the internet offers comes in the shape of the new book; Parent Alert! How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online. It highlights the pitfalls of social media among many other topics, whilst providing expert insight and tips for parents.
When it comes to Dads involvement with e-safety beyond the home, especially in school, the dads I spoke to have some useful pointers too:
- “I think schools could help ‘train the trainer.’ Ideally, a school could run sessions for parents, who would then teach their own children. Some schools may already do this, I don’t know.” Stu
- “What I would like to see is more education for parents. Simple guidelines for keeping your child safe and a watchlist for danger signs,” says Paul.
- “One issue is that the received wisdom is for teaching staff to stay away from children on social media platforms. But if we equate the real world with the online world for e-safety, that’s probably not a good idea,” says Stu. “We trust staff with our children at school, so why not online? If teachers are to understand social media for the purposes of e-safety then they really need to be immersed in it.”
If you need a fast start, there are 3 copies of the brilliant Parent Alert book to giveaway! Simply enter your details below.