Online safety is a complex area. The threats and issues young people face in the online world are evolving all the time. Just when you feel you’ve got a handle on what’s current, a new challenge pops up elsewhere. Repercussions of these daily threats can be felt deeply in the playground, in the staff room and in the wider school community. Unfortunately, online safety can never be ticked off your to do list.
But there are steps school leaders can put in place to help safeguard children online. Here are our top five tips for online safety strategies.
1. Online safety is a whole school issue so make it a whole school responsibility.
Have an online safety group comprising: a member of your senior leadership team, computing lead, safeguarding lead, PSHE lead, a governor and possibly a parent. Have representation from your pupils or students. If you have digital leaders or online safety representatives then great. If not, use your school council. Meet regularly, review any issues, adapt school policies and procedures accordingly and give the group responsibility for overseeing implementation of your online safety strategy.
2. Have an online safety strategy
Covering the multitude of areas, such as infrastructure, management and parental engagement, is a challenge – so have a plan. South West Grid for Learning have a review tool with different versions for Scotland, Wales and England. It’s comprehensive, thorough and it helps you review your provision from an evidence-informed position, benchmarking it against national data. Once complete it automatically generates an action plan for you with links to tailored advice, guidance and materials that help you move forward. You can, if you reach the appropriate level, apply for the Online Safety Mark (recognised by Ofsted as an indicator of good practice). There is a cost for the assessor visit but you can use the tool for free.
3. Teach it wherever and whenever you can
Computer science steals the limelight but it is just one third of the computing curriculum. Teaching children to be “responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology” is just as important. So, teach online safety within computing and ensure there is progression. Just as you would reinforce full stops and capital letters in any subject, use natural opportunities in other subjects to reinforce online safety, especially when children or young people are using the internet. Have online safety assemblies, teach it within PSHE, talk about it within form groups, have a focus on it around safer internet day (but do not make this the only focus). Use every opportunity to help children and young people understand what constitutes appropriate, responsible and safe online behaviour.
4. Involve young people
Encouraging children and young people to take responsibility and ownership is an effective way of getting the message across.
- Online Safety group.
- Get them creating content for your website to help parents and students understand issues.
- Have a peer mentoring scheme in your school.
- Involve them in discussions on appropriate sanctions for online safety issues.
- Use them as experts at parents’ evenings and family learning sessions.
5. Make use of the free stuff!
South West Grid for Learning runs the UK Safer Internet Centre, which leads on Safer Internet Day. The website has free curriculum materials for teachers, advice on filtering requirements for technicians and help for parents in starting those tricky conversations. It has great digital literacy resources from foundation stage to year 10. It also runs the Professionals Online Safety Helpline which all schools can call for advice on issues they may face themselves or with children in their care. It has links with the main technology organisations, such as Twitter and Facebook, and can give advice and help to resolve complicated incidents.
Other curriculum materials include:
Childnet has free resources for K1-KS4.
NSPCC has a great site for parents including lots of advice on social media platforms.
CEOP (child exploitation and online safety centre) has lots of resources and advice on its thinkuknow.co.uk site and offers accredited training.
If your school needs help in devising or delivering any aspect of online safety, we can help. Have a look at our Online Safety Support package and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a chat and find out more.