Posted 32 days ago

Online safety for too long has been a bit of a Cinderella subject, popping out once a year in line with Safer Internet Day or when the latest high-profile issue rears its head e.g. Fortnite, Momo.

 

The growing emphasis on online safety

Overshadowed by computing science, in the computing curriculum 2014 schools have struggled to give it time and appropriate attention. That is changing, and I engage with many schools now where it is a priority, and also extends to meet the challenge of engaging parents and the wider community. Swindon CAS recently focused on the latter area and the next meeting is dedicated exclusively to online safety. This drive is probably both a consequence of need and curriculum change.

 

How has the reform increased the importance of teaching online safety?

Relationships Education has been updated and made statutory from September 2020 in one of the biggest reforms for many years. It’s impossible to have failed to take note of the Online Relationships strand. This separation out of the online component however cannot be considered the totality. Indeed, four out of the five proposed strands place digital citizenship and by inference online safety at the core. Online Relationships and Being Safe requires no expansion but both Caring Friendships and Respectful Relationships cannot be taught effectively divorcing the offline and online worlds. Given the growth of the social web through gaming and social media the issues of online friendship and respect are central to both strands. Young children from early primary age now regularly chat and friend people online. A proper understanding of acceptable and safe behaviour in this context is essential.

 

Online behaviour and respect

Respect is a critical concept for children and how this applies to the Internet should not be ignored. The fact that communication online breaks down barriers can unfortunately also negatively impact acceptable standards e.g. trolling, abusive behaviour as well as create echo chambers of extreme and inappropriate views. Children need to be taught how to contribute effectively and respect others’ viewpoints online as much as they should offline. Similarly, there is a need to teach about friendship and how this is different online and offline; that we expect standards of behaviour from caring friendships, that knowing someone online is very different to knowing them offline. In both areas the online dimension requires expansion and greater understanding.

It is both an exciting and challenging time, but online safety is now very clearly at the heart of curriculum reform.

 

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