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Teaching internet safety in schools during E-Safety Week

Read how a primary school in Wales taught its reception pupils the importance of internet safety in E-Safety Week.

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As a recently qualified Primary school teacher at Ysgol y Ddraig in Llantwit Major, South Wales, Nicole Cogbill’s passion is to ensure that digital competence is an integral part of teaching and learning. As one of our Promethean advocates, she has written a guest blog for ResourceEd about the importance of internet safety in schools.

Internet Safety is now a fundamental part of the curriculum we teach in the UK, especially in Wales as citizenship is one of four strands of our new Digital Competence Framework. Just like teaching children to cross the road with diligence, we need to embed key messages about internet safety to children as early as possible.

E-Safety Week

In March 2017, like many schools across the UK, my school celebrated E-Safety Week. Through the course of the week our e-cadets led assemblies, discussed the pupils’ e-safety charts and all teachers delivered key messages to children of all ages. As an NQT I am aware of the importance of embedding the key learning points of internet safety throughout the school year. However, as we were emphasising its importance during this week, I wanted to teach a stand-alone lesson to my Reception class that would help them understand the concept clearly.

I searched for video clips of puppets and songs that delivered key messages such as “never share passwords” or “always ask a grown up if you see something you are unsure of online.” One of the most difficult (yet topical) issues is understanding what information is safe to share online. I have had many conversations with upper KS2 teachers who explained the difficulties they’d had with their pupils using apps and social media platforms unsafely.

Reaching the youngest pupils

As I was teaching a Reception class at the time, I decided that sensitive information was a topic that needed more focus, and I recognised an opportunity to embed crucial messages to the younger pupils of the school. My class was creative and they enjoyed being hands-on so I created a small activity to promote the understanding of sharing safe information.

The children were asked to create a collage of images of information that could be shared online. The children could select their favourite TV characters, food and sports but also rogue images such as the Welsh flag (representing where they live) and their own picture with their name attached, and more.

Teaching ‘think before you post’

I debated whether the children would grasp the concept of sorting between safe information to share online, or not. However, as the children started to complete the task, I heard conversations amongst the 4-5 year olds asking each other, “It is okay to share my favourite colour with people, isn’t it?” and, “I won’t put the flag on my work as that will tell people where I live!” To hear these conversations from children so young made me realise that they were starting to understand the importance of “think before you post.”

The children loved creating their own usernames on their collages and were creative with their suggestions. While they enjoyed combining their favourite colour and animal — such as blueshark and purplebutterfly — I was still unsure if they understood why they were doing so.

This was until two young boys beamed at me with their finished collage saying, “We’ve finished Miss Cogbill.” I praised them, talked about their choices of images and asked them to write their name on the back of their work. I was then surprised when both boys looked at me, laughed and said, “No!”

I replied, “Sorry? Please may you add your name to the back and put it in the pile on the table.” Both boys looked at each other, laughed again and repeated, “No!”

When I asked them why, they chuckled and said, “We can’t add our names to it, we can’t post our real names online with our pictures, we need to use usernames!” This is when I knew my young 4-5 year olds were becoming more aware of how to stay safe online!

As Nicole highlights, an increasing prevalence of social media among young children means a greater requirement to teach online safety from a younger age. Internet-based tools are invaluable to developing new and engaging pedagogical methods, but the internet continues to pose a risk if we don’t teach children how to navigate it.

As more schools like Ysgol y Ddraig teach its youngest pupils the importance of internet safety, the next-generation digital competence will go hand-in-hand with digital vigilance.