Staying relevant in a (very) 'different' online world

Sam Preston 15 May 2018 2 min read
Staying relevant in a (very) 'different' online world feature image

Every teacher and parent out there will know that uncomfortable feeling that washes over you the first time a teenager or child knows more about the subject we’re challenging them with, than we do. Cue the rolled eyes and feet shuffling (and that’s just us adults!). A natural part of evolution some might say, however, in the case of the online world, this puts us in grave danger of disengaging young people and our e-safety advice falling on deaf ears.

The digital divide between adults and young people is ever widening, and not simply in the language and technologies they are using, but also in their knowledge of IT infrastructure and how to circumvent the ‘system’ to access the latest apps, games and subsequent dangers.

400 to 550 times larger than the public internet we all know and access, the dark web is a worrying example of where children and young people are using their technological knowledge to ‘meet’ virtually undetected. Used to describe a section of the internet which offers the person viewing, and the websites that they view, total anonymity, young people are accessing the dark web to prevent parents and teachers from monitoring their online activity.

Demonstrating advanced IT skills, children as young as 12 are using special Tor browsers to do this, which wrap every bit of the information request sent out to the internet in multiple layers of encryption. The Mirror’s shocking headline ‘Children as young as 12 use dark web to deal in cocaine, MDMA and ketamine with cryptocurrencies’ just last month is evidence of this we cannot afford to ignore.

The fear of children and young people accessing the dark web has been further amplified by the forthcoming age-checks on porn sites which comes into force this May. Whilst Ministers say the move is part of a plan to make the UK “the safest place in the world for children to be online”, the new requirement for people to prove they are 18 before accessing UK websites, some fear could push children towards the dark web and exposure to illegal activities and more extreme material.

And it’s not just hidden platforms that young people are now manipulating to keep their online lives a secret. Experts have recently warned of a worrying new finsta trend whereby teenagers are creating fake Instagram accounts to torment their peers. This has seen young teenager’s personal details shared online and harmful words written by the impersonators to damage children’s reputations.

Research conducted by Digital Awareness UK and HMC recently revealed that 45 per cent of teenagers check their phones in bed and 23 per cent checked as many as 10 times during the night. Almost all (94 per cent) of these students are on social media after going to bed. So, as practitioners, how can we stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies and terminology young people are using online and provide them with the right and relevant information during the school day?

We fully support last year’s research findings from BESA (British Educational Suppliers’ Association) which prompted a call for e-safety to be a part of every teacher’s ongoing CPD. Its survey of more than 1,300 ICT lead teachers in schools showed that 51 per cent of teachers in their primary schools, and 49 per cent in secondaries, “need training in e-safety issues”.

Reported in the TES, Patrick Hayes, director at BESA said there was no “silver bullet” to solve the problem, but e-safety should be a part of every teacher’s CPD so they can keep up with an area that changes rapidly.

Schools and academies play a key role in promoting and ensuring e-safety. As such, e-safety training should be a key element of every school or academy safeguarding training remit. The digital world is an ever-changing environment and it is vital for training to keep pace with IT infrastructure and progress. Therefore, it is critical that governance, staff and volunteers have a clear understanding of this topic to effectively safeguard themselves, the organisation, pupils, staff and visitors.

In SSS Learning’s latest e-safety course you will learn about:

  • Potential internet related threats.
  • The development of e-safety procedures in accordance the legislative framework.
  • How to implement effective controls on the use of the school network and the internet.
  • Measures to ensure that all stakeholders use technology in accordance to school e-safety policies.
  • How to allow the benefits of the internet to be enjoyed whilst protecting the e-safety of students and staff from the dangers of the internet.

To find out more about our E-Safety course.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director

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