Three key messages for teachers to share with parents and caregivers to help keep children safe online, by Caroline Allams.

There are two main adult influences in a child’s life, their parent(s) or caregiver(s) and their teacher(s). Therefore, sharing knowledge and strengthening the link between school and home is key to providing a well-rounded online safety education. Just as sending reading books home helps to enhance literacy, the very same principle applies with digital learning. As schools look to embed online safety into their curriculum, the most successful strategies will include parents. A proactive stance in schools could be the perfect catalyst for parents to take action at home, bolstered by the support they will receive. After all, some adults may feel out of their depth in a fast-moving digital world, so confidence building for teachers and parents will ultimately benefit children too.

To aid knowledge retention, a unified approach will provide consistent and repetitive messaging, so children take on board the information and begin applying it to their digital interactions.

Three online safety messages to share

1. Why limiting access to screen time is important

Screen time should not be completely restricted because there are many ways that children can benefit from their time online. They can pursue hobbies, learn new skills and explore interests, which is why it is important to find a healthy balance. There won’t be many parents who haven’t been thankful at one time or another for some peace and quiet whilst their child is glued to a screen but setting limits on screen time is a great way to break an addictive cycle and involve children in other activities. Tech companies have joined in with this initiative, with many introducing settings that provide screen-time alerts. For teachers, sharing this message with parents is not supposed to act as a directive but as a way to highlight the benefits of reducing screen time, so here are two great reasons for children to switch off occasionally.

  • Better sleep: When children focus on screens right up to bedtime, their brains have been stimulated, perhaps with feelings of stress and anxiety (depending on the nature of the content they are engaging with) to the point where sleep may be disturbed. As you are all too aware, this then has a knock-on effect at school, which impacts attention, knowledge retention and overall performance. Children who have devices in their bedrooms may also be tempted to go online during the night, which creates further disturbance but, more concerningly, also increases the likelihood of online harm.
  • Health improvements: Inactivity linked to prolonged time on screens can result in child obesity and health issues. Limiting screen time encourages more physical activity, which can also be beneficial for improved sleep. Play time away from computer games also gives children the opportunity to develop important soft skills that are also transferable to digital communication.

2. The risks of photo sharing and camera use

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) recently reported rising cases of ‘self-generated content,’ which means that abusers are grooming children to share photos and switch on their webcams. It is shocking to think that this horrendous abuse could be happening to children whilst they are supposedly ‘safe’ at home. This is why we need to act quickly to highlight the potential risks to children, so that they are better equipped to spot an inappropriate request and can pause and reflect before considering taking and sharing pictures online – even with people they’d consider to be friends. Approaching the subject (in an age-appropriate way) should be encouraged at school and at home, because a seemingly innocent act could have devastating consequences. Most devices include cameras within them, which is why some form of monitoring for primary-aged children is recommended.

3. It’s good to talk and get involved

As we’re all becoming more aware of the importance of speaking up about mental health, the same applies to the benefits of openly talking about online safety. Whilst teachers have access to great support, parents may need assistance in starting meaningful conversations around digital citizenship. The message is simple: parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask their child(ren) about the games they like and engage with. Even if the answers are about unfamiliar games, at least parents can find out more, and perhaps even take part. Opening discussions at school and home ensures children have opportunities to speak up if they have concerns and can freely ask questions. Adding peer-to-peer support into the mix adds another great layer of protection.

Some schools have told us that once children are able to spot inappropriate behaviour and language, they feel more confident in calling it out.

Get started today to build a healthy digital culture at school and home to help children to thrive online.

Author

  • Caroline Allams

    Caroline is Natterhub’s Co-founder and experienced educator, having taught in both UK and leading international schools. Passionate about immersive learning that creates impact for students, Caroline leads the product development, creative and pedagogy for the Natterhub brand. As founder of the award-winning brand The Pedagogs, Caroline, also a parent, initiated and designed the concept for Natterhub in a bid to prepare children to thrive in a blended digital world.
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