Learn why a Digital Leaders programme may just be the ticket, from Traci Good.

Hi, Traci here! I run an Online Safety programme  and as part of the programme, we complete a whole-school survey which includes responses from parents and carers. We have had just under 12,000 children and 1,800 parents/carers respond – and the data from it was very interesting! We shared some of the stats in the fifth edition of R.I.S.E. Magazine so I thought it may be useful to share now with you some of the work we completed following the end of the survey.

When we asked about ‘being approached by unknowns online’ or ‘seeing scary or worrisome content online’ parents/carers said it happened far less than children disclosed, so I popped on my superhero cape and headed down to some of the schools to fnd out more…

I asked groups of Year 5 and Year 6 children at 10 separate schools, “Why are we not sharing our online lives with parents/carers? Why don’t we tell them when something goes wrong?”
The responses at every school were the same:

  • “Our parents just don’t understand.”
  • “We will get into trouble.”
  • “Our devices will be taken away.”

Learn from things gone wrong

I want to shine a spotlight on the last comment. Can you imagine as an adult that you have just posted something on Twitter/Insta/Facebook and someone snaps back with a comment that leaves you reeling, so you share your frustration with your partner.

Can you imagine how you would feel if your partner carefully removed your device from your hands and told you that you can’t have it back for a month? They are just trying to keep you safe from the horrible words, but at the same time they have just stopped you from connecting with all the positive people in your life, no more listening to your music playlists or catching up on the latest celebrity gossip. You can’t access the news or book your holiday. No more Candy Crush, Wordle or Quordle. You can’t speak to your closest friends. I can already feel that big gaping void, and suddenly I feel very isolated.

What I would have really wanted to happen was for my partner to say, “Some people are just idiots, why not block them or report them?” I would want support and suggestions, want my partner to check the message I originally posted and tell me that I ‘worded it badly,’ or that the message was clear, but the responder misunderstood what I was trying to say. I would want to learn from this, so the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Helping parents/carers to respond this way

It is important that, as a school, we connect with parents/carers and give them the skills to deal with their online lives. With these skills, they can ensure they are a safe place for their children to fall if it all goes wrong. Signpost them to sources of support and give them the confdence to deal with online problems, safely, efectively and in a supportive way.

Children were quick to tell me that if their device was removed, the next time they face a problem they defnitely wouldn’t tell their parents. The problem is that next time it could be something major, rather than a hurtful comment.

As a school, you can start these conversations by having Digital Leaders. I run a programme called i-vengers, but you can set up your own quickly and easily. Let me share the benefts of Digital Leaders (or i-vengers) in your school.

What are i-vengers?

i-vengers is a group of children elected annually by their peers. They assist with aspects of technology in the classroom, and ensure school displays, Acceptable Use Policies and the home-school communications are shared. They lead assemblies on online safety, take part in Safer Internet Day activities and attend regular meetings led by a staf Digital Leader. They have specifc tasks to complete each half term, with a few special missions thrown in for good measure.

What do they do?

i-vengers attend regular Digital Leaders meetings/ training sessions. If you don’t currently have a digital leader group, consider setting one up. If possible, it should include your school online safety lead, i-vengers, governors/trustees and parents. Your meetings should have a focus e.g., Safer Internet Day, competitions, feeding back concerns or trends and apps in school. Be clear on what your aim is, as a group, and what you want to achieve.

i-vengers take part in Safer Internet Day, leading assemblies for KS1 and KS2. This year’s SID was on Feb 7th [2023] and there are [always] lots of free resources available. They also lead other assemblies on online safety, for example, teaching everyone about safe passwords, scams, age restrictions and parental controls. Please share the information given in assemblies with home, so parents/carers beneft from this shared knowledge.

In some schools, i-vengers also assist with technology in assemblies and provide playground support and class support with tech on a rota basis. You might want to consider these activities too.

What skills do children develop by being an i-venger?

i-vengers develop their:

  • teamwork, leadership and communication skills
  • problem solving skills
  • confdence in their abilities to assist with technology and support staf, parents and their peers
  • knowledge and awareness of the diferent aspects of online safety
  • skills using diferent programmes in the curriculum.

Having digital leaders in school can be a huge beneft for your staf, pupils and their parents/carers, so I would thoroughly recommend having your own programme in school. If you already have one, maybe you found some ideas for new ways your digital leaders can support.

Good luck, and if you need any help, please just ask!

Author

  • Traci Good

    Traci is an online safety consultant, specialising in the education, safeguarding and policing sectors, with a particular interest in supporting vulnerable and SEND students online. She is currently running the i-vengers programme, which is a positive, peer-led, digital leaders programme, jointly funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire and Derbyshire County Council.
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