This is a new challenge for our generation and we don’t have the easy templates that we grew up with. We teach our children to swim because one day it might well save their lives, but online we tend to put our heads in the sand and forget any type of parenting skills. And yet, the risks are just as great and the solution, no different – we have to teach our children the skills to survive in this new online environment. Are we in denial and think it will never happen to our child? It appears that we are.
The scary statistics are that 71% of 5/6-year-olds now have a device in their bedroom, 4 in 10 primary school children now have their own mobile phone and are using them with very little or no guidance from their parents. With new apps such as Music.ly or Live.ly, parents are not even checking what these apps entail. Young girls (8/9-year-olds) are left on their own to manage this and are being groomed. I have been into so many schools lately and been told of so many incidents of girls on these apps. Why are we allowing our children to manage their own privacy settings, which are more often than not left in ‘default’ mode, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation? Sometimes I feel like shouting at parents to “get a grip, be a parent, stop making excuses”! “Sit with your child and learn and explore the online world together, in the same way, we all sit and read with them”.
Teaching children about risks online could potentially save their innocence or even save their life. It is all very well talking about “stranger danger”, but what does that mean online? Children don’t even use that term; the adults created it. The same with “Sexting” and “cyberbullying”. At least if we are going to teach this subject, let’s use their language. Let’s use “people online”, “sexy or flirty texts”. There isn’t “cyberbullying”, it is just plain “bullying” or “online bullying” – “Cyber” is such an old term.!
I am asked all the time by teachers, how do we stay up to date with what is happening? It is almost an impossible task. Ultimately teachers are busy people and don’t have the time to plan yet another lesson, so high-quality resources are vital. Also, how do we engage with our children? Shouldn’t we be using technology to teach technology? Gamification (gaming in education) is such a powerful tool in a classroom. The whole lesson doesn’t need to consist of just gaming apps, but why not use something that can get a message across in a more effective way. Gooseberry Planet is the only company that offers 12 weeks of education for each child in each year of their primary education. We join parent, teacher and child together at the same time using technology. Schools need to step away from the ‘tick box’ ethos of satisfying Ofsted with a one-off E-safety lesson and a once-yearly address from a policeman in assembly: this is simply not adequate. Messages about online safeguarding need to be consistent, regular and current – casting aside old terminology that means nothing to our children. Ranked as one of the Government’s top 3 priorities, the approach to teaching online safety should be as robust and thorough as other mainstream subjects like Maths and English.
The Teacher portal within Gooseberry Planet equips staff with all the knowledge and material they need to address a subject that might seem both daunting and unfamiliar to many. Upon subscription to the software platform, teachers have access to a wealth of information around online safeguarding, including comprehensive lesson plans, activity books, blogs, classroom material and resource sheets for parents. We have done the hard work so that schools can take action immediately and get children learning in a fun and engaging way. We have a rigorous monitoring and assessment system in place so that the results of their scenario-based learning are recorded and each individual’s progress can be tracked. Meanwhile, the children have fun playing an interactive game, collecting stars and competing against their classmates whilst simultaneously reacting to potential ‘real-life’ scenarios online.
Parents are mostly aware of the problems online but are frequently the worse culprits. There are so many websites out there providing advice and technologies to help parents, but sadly a very small percentage will reach for it.
According to statistics 65% look to their school for help with E-safety and 41% want more help. There are sites like Internet Matters, Parent Zone and many more which are informative and full of advice, but Gooseberry Planet is the only company that uses technology to engage with the parent and provides them with real-time feedback about how their child is responding to real life online scenarios. Our system emails the parent every time their child plays on the platform: the parent can see their online responses and talk about it with them at home. We offer videos and information on the exact area in which their child might need to improve. This actively encourages open and honest conversation which is so vital. We are even going to create a game for the grownups. Why should the children have all the fun!