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Is your child safe online?

posted 5 Jan 2017, 03:08 by Dave Evans
I have been prompted to revisit this theme having heard today that some children have recently been upset to receive unpleasant 'chain letters' or messages on social media. You probably know the sort of thing that I mean - messages that demand you to send it on to 5 or 10 of your contacts otherwise you will have bad luck...or in the case of one of these messages, that you will die. 

These messages might be intended to be harmless, but in fact they can be quite frightening to some people, especially younger or more vulnerable people. 

In school I will be asking all my Y5/6 teachers to discuss these issues with their classes over the next week or so. Children need to know that this sort of message can amount to cyber-bullying and that there are steps they can take if they are worried about it, such as telling an adult, blocking the sender or using online reporting options.

Having said this, I would like to remind parents that they have responsibility for ensuring online safety out of school. Detailed guidance about this was given in the newsletter for May 2016 (still available on this website) and this included guidance about the age requirements for popular social media sites. For example, users must be at least 13 to have an account with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Users for WhatsApp should be at least 16 and for YouTube accounts, at least 18. My strong recommendation is that if you have a primary school age child using any of this social media, the best thing to do is to simply delete the account; if you are allowing your child to use social media, you are allowing them to enter an online environment which is designed for adults and in my experience, primary age children do not have the maturity and understanding to stay safe in that environment. 

Social media issues sit within wider considerations of how to keep the children safe online so that (for example) they are not at risk of being 'groomed' and do not have access to pornographic or violent images. Any child who has unrestricted access to the internet out of school (maybe via a laptop, tablet of smartphone) is certainly at risk. Please ask yourself whether you have applied strong parental controls to devices that your child can use, and/or whether you are supervising your child's internet use effectively. Again, you can find lots of advice about this under the 'Safeguarding' tab on the homepage for this website. 

Finally, a related issue is the access that some children have to computer/video games, or films, which are designed for an older audience. Viewing images which are made for an adult audience, can be very damaging for a child. 

With proper supervision and by observing the recommended age requirements, parents can enable their children to really benefit from the internet and the world of social media, but there are many associated dangers and as a school, we are very keen that parents should understand the risks and take responsibility for protecting their children.