Online Safety Curriculum
We are aware that for many young people, the distinction between the online world and other aspects of their life is less marked than it is for some adults. Young people often operate very freely in the online world, and some spend quite a bit of time during the day, online. We therefore teach our students throughout their time with us at school, about how to distinguish between different types of online content and how to make well-founded decisions when they are online.
We organise the teaching of our e-safety curriculum dependent on the age group of our students, however we do cover a range of information which will keep the students safe online and prepare them for life in an online world. We encourage our parents/carers to continue to discuss online safety with their child, in the same way that they would discuss other areas of their lives.
What do we cover within our curriculum?
As well as promoting the positives, we make our young people aware that the internet and social media have important characteristics which can pose potential issues for them. For example, some social media users are prepared to say things in more extreme, unkind, or exaggerated ways than they might do in a face to face situations. Some individuals present highly exaggerated or idealised profiles of themselves online and some platforms attract large numbers of users with similar, sometimes extreme, views who do not welcome dissent or debate. It is important that our young people are aware of these things and consider them when thinking about the content that they are both reading, sharing and interacting with online. It is important to note that the internet can also be a negative place where online abuse, trolling, bullying and harassment can take place and that this can have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing. Should students have any concerns regarding this, then they should report this immediately to a staff member, and also know how they can report this to other organisations such as social media platforms and organisations such as CEOPS. Equally, should any student be found taking part in these negative behaviours, then they will be dealt with within the school’s behaviour policy, as the school will not tolerate this kind of behaviour towards others.
We raise awareness around the use of the internet. Although we do stress that the internet is an integral part of life and that it has many benefits, we also promote the need for our young people to ration the amount of time that they spend online and the risks of spending excessive time on electronic devices and how this can impact their mental and physical wellbeing. We stress to our young people that some computer games and online gaming have age restrictions and that it is important for them to abide by these prior to playing the games, even if they are aware that others are not. In addition to this, we also remind our students that online gambling can result in the accumulation of debt and that should they have any concerns regarding this either about themselves, or others, then they should be able to speak to us about this. We may be able to put them in touch with other organisations which can support them or others.
We teach our students about personal data and the internet. Our students must be aware that certain websites may share personal data about their users and information collected on their internet use, for commercial purposes, for example to target advertising. This should be taken into account, and we encourage our young people to find out about how their data is going to be used before they sign up to certain sites. We remind students that criminals can operate online scams online, for example they might use fake websites or emails to extort money or valuable personal information and this could be used to the detriment of the person or wider society. It is therefore crucial that our students are taught about how to keep themselves and their personal information safe both in the ‘real world’ and online.
Within the curriculum we ensure that our students know what their rights, responsibilities and opportunities online are and that we as a school, and society has the same expectations of behaviour in all contexts, including online. We reiterate to our students that any information (including photographs and videos) that are shared with someone else has the potential to be shared online and that once this happens, it is very difficult to remove them, including potentially compromising material which can be placed online. We therefore teach our students not to provide material to others that they would not want shared further, or that should not be shared further, and that they should not share personal material which is sent to them. However, we understand that at times, issues may occur and we ensure that our students understand how to raise concerns in school, but also how to raise concerns outside of school. We raise awareness of the impact of viewing harmful content and within our education, we also discuss that some material can damage the way people see themselves in relation to others, and how they might behave towards others as well. We reiterate to our students that some content is illegal to view and teach them about the law in relation to this. We are aware that much of this topic links to our overall safeguarding curriculum and we have key staff who students are able to talk to should they have specific concerns regarding key issues.
The following are three websites which might be useful in the teaching of online safety, and which parents/carers might be interested in having knowledge of:
Online Safety Education for a Connected World is the UK Council for Internet safety (UKCCIS) framework of digital knowledge and skills for different ages and stages.
Sexting advice from UKCCIS for schools on preventative education and managing reports of sexting.
Thinkuknow is the education programme from National Crime Agency (NCA) and Child Exploitation Online Programme (CEOP), which protects children both online and offline. The site offers materials for parents, teachers and pupils on a wide range of online safety issues and facts about areas such as digital footprints, recognising fake websites and checking URLs.