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Should Schools take some responsibility for teaching children to be safe ‘online’?

We all want to ensure that children are safe, happy and protected. From an early age we teach children not to talk to strangers, not to get into a car with anyone, not to be ‘tempted’ by sweets or promises to see puppies or kittens. We teach them to cross the road safely and how to be generally ‘safe’ in their world. But there are, in today’s society, a much bigger threat to them out in the world – and that is the internet.

Most children want to be part of the social cyber community and want to have Facebook,Twitter and other social media accounts. But out there are predators – and todays children are much more ‘at risk’ from predators online than they are out on the street. The online predator is nameless and faceless and can be whoever they want to be. They lure unsuspecting children or teenagers by posing as their peers and lulling them into a false sense of security with false pictures and profiles. How do YOU know that 14 year old boy your daughter is talking to online is really a 14 year old boy. It could be some older man or woman (I will not discriminate) who gets their kicks from talking to kids. But how does your child REALLY know who they are talking to? It is said parents should be aware of what their kids are doing online and who they are talking to – but does a parent have the time to monitor 24/7 or the knowledge to be able to spot ‘warning signs’ in what is said by these predators online.

More and more schools are implementing the latest technology within schools, new computer systems, ipads, etc but most schools are ‘locking’ this technology out – making systems completely internal to try to keep children safe whilst they are in school. Schools will not even allow HTML emails to be sent to the school for fear that ‘someone’ might see ‘something’ they should not – even protecting their teachers from the ‘big wide world’. But with all this new technology shouldn’t schools be teaching children how to be safe online by allowing them to have access to the world wide web and social networking under controlled conditions – teach children what are the warning signs to look out for when talking to people on the internet – how to ‘spot’ the predator who is posing as that 14 year old boy – because an older person will often give themselves away with language or implications that is not appropriate to the age group they are purporting to be. Perhaps controlled environment ‘scenarios’ could be set up to teach children the warning signs to look out for – inappropriate words or phrases – trigger signs which, if a child picked up on them, could be reported to an adult for appropriate action. Unless a child is taught what to look for they are going to continue to think they are safe. The next thing is they arrange to meet this internet friend (not necessarily telling anyone where they are going because most predators persuade youngsters to keep secrets) and the next time they are seen is as a rape victim or worse still, a body in a ditch.

We all want children to be safe online but we don’t seem to be willing to teach our children HOW to keep themselves safe. Parents often don’t have the know how but education professionals can be trained to teach our children to be safe and happy in their online environment.


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