Most children returned to school on the 8th March 2021 after months of lockdown and remote learning. Many children/YP spent far more time online especially keeping in touch with their friends via social media. As we all know, the internet has many positive attributes and social media allows us to have free 24/7 contact with our friends and family. But not all children/YP have a positive outcome when they are online, and many come to harm due to negative comments, cyber-bullying, grooming, exploitation and online scams.
“Online safety is a huge focus for schools. We noticed an increase in issues relating to social media arising during lockdown” (Head of Year 13).
Steve Welding, E safety Advisor was contacted by Nonsuch High School for Girls to see if he could talk to their Year 12 girls as part of their PSHE lessons. It was decided that the talk would focus on various subjects around internet safety and general safety rules. Steve was then asked if he could include all the Year 13 students, as they would soon be leaving for University. This then made a total of 400 students.
16- to 18-year-olds are a difficult cohort to talk too about Online safety and Social media issues, especially as it was to be delivered virtually. The following issues were covered:
- Sexting/Nude selfies
- Revenge porn
- Sexual Assault
- Online dating
- Online Reputation
The session lasted for 50 minutes and it was well received.
“That was super – a really comprehensive look at lots of important issues to help our pupils feel safer when using social media and online platforms” (Head of Year 13).
Following this, Steve was invited into two of our Primary School to speak to Year 6 about internet safety.
“This is my favourite year group to speak to for a couple of reasons, a. they are just about to start their journey to Secondary school and b. they are beginning to use the internet and social media to communicate with others – and many are getting it wrong” (Steve Welding, E safety Advisor).
The following topics were covered with Year 6:
- Personal information
- What is the law
- Personal identity
- Online gamming
- Online reputation
Six 1-hour sessions were carried out in the two schools and this involved 180 children. The sessions prompt lots of questions from the children. Many children assume that when they are playing inter-active games, they are playing with other people who are roughly the same age as they are or slightly older. In reality, many of the people they are playing the games with are adults, the average age of an online gamer is 38years old!
Many of the Year 6 children do not understand social media or what it is. Steve asked the question “Who has a social media profile” and about 30% of the class put their hand up. He then asked the question “Who communicates with their friend on some kind of social media” and 80% of the class put their hand up!!
Fingers crossed, Steve will be doing many more online safety sessions in our Sutton Schools and raising awareness of the issues and risks that are out there.