Online safety and distance learning
To help manage their child’s use of technology in the coming weeks, Kostis Papadopoulos and Elzemiek Chell share some of their thoughts, resources and tools with our parent community.
by Kostis Papadopoulos (leader of IT systems) and Elzemiek Chell (school psychologist); with thanks to to Childnet International, School en Veiligheid and the Council of International Schools
Over the past weeks we have found our way in continuing learning without the physical geography of school. Technology has provided us with many opportunities to stay connected to school, work and our loved ones. But the reality of changing the physical learning environment into a virtual one, has also presented us with challenges. As we enter the world of distance learning, our children spend more time online than ever.
The internet is an amazing resource allowing us to connect, communicate and be creative. But as young people spend more time online, there is also an increase in the chance they will see something online which isn’t intended for them.
There are four main kinds of internet risks for children: content, contact, conduct and commercialism. What they may encounter varies depending on their age and online activities.
However amazing the internet is, not all content is suitable for children and may be perceived as harmful or hurtful. Our children or teenagers may come across content that they might find upsetting, disgusting or otherwise uncomfortable, especially if they come across it accidentally. This might include images of cruelty to animals, real or simulated violence, hate sites and pornography.
New friends made online may not always be who they say they are. Risks include coming into contact with people they don’t know or adults posing as children online. Children might be persuaded to share personal information with strangers or provide contact details after clicking on pop-up messages.
It is important for our children to be aware of the impact their online activity can have on both themselves and other people, as well as the digital footprint that they create on the internet. Risks include acting in ways that might hurt others or being the victim of this kind of behaviour. For example, cyberbullying or creating content that reveals information about other people.
Children’s privacy and enjoyment online can sometimes be affected by advertising and marketing schemes, which can also mean inadvertently spending money online, for example with in apps purchases.
Teaching safe and responsible online behaviour
In a virtual school, children inevitably spend more time on their devices accessing the internet. Keeping children safe online is very much a joint responsibility. As a school we therefore make every effort to ensure that the platforms we use for online learning are safe, that expected behaviour is clear and that we educate our students on digital citizenship.
As parents we can help protect our children from internet safety risks, however, it is just as important to help your child to build digital resilience. Through teaching them how to be safe and responsible in the online world, we help them to manage risks and enjoy their time online. Together as a family you can also help prepare your children and build their critical thinking skills. You can do the following:
What you can do
- Be a role model for healthy internet use
- Talk about online content and behavior
- Remind your child about privacy and personal information online
- Teach your children about online purchases
Sounds easy, but where do you start? Childnet has pulled together a list of easy-to-use resources, broken up into age categories. They include films and activities to support you as parents and they update their content regularly.
Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start when you want to talk to your child about online safety. So here are some conversation starters.
You might ask your child:
- about the sites they are visiting and what they like doing online
- how to stay safe online. What tips do they have for you and where did they learn them. What is ok and what is NOT ok to share.
- if they know where to go for help, where to find safety advice, privacy settings and how to block or report services they use.
- If they could help someone. May be they can help you to do something better online or they might have a friend who would benefit from their help.
Advice and guidance if something goes wrong
If your child does run into inappropriate content, mean comments or fake news, there are lots of places you can go for help and advice.
Making a report
- www.meldknop.nl and www.veiliginternetten.nl are both Dutch websites designed to help you report anything which you believe shouldn’t be online.
- An English language alternative is www.reportharmfulcontent.com which offers the same support and information, but in English.
The websites offer guidance about how to report different types of content as well as help with the next steps you can take if your report isn’t actioned by the site or service you have made it on.
Speaking to someone
- Depending on the age of your child there are a range of places they can go for help. Both younger children and teenagers can call the Kindertelefoon (www.kindertelefoon.nl) for help and support.
- Older teenagers, parents and carers can call www.MINDkorrelatie.nl and www.meldknop.nl. Both can help with any questions or concerns you may have about keeping your children safe online. They can provide you with advice and help to troubleshoot any problems your family may be facing.