How to talk about internet safety with your primary school classroom
The modern age of digital innovation has presented a whole new world of opportunities for teachers and students, with more resources than ever available at the touch of a button or click of a mouse. Schools spend a whopping £900m on education technology every year, according to UK government figures, with 97% of 15-24 year-olds in the UK having basic digital skills. Tablets, laptops and desktop computers are now ubiquitous in schools all over the country, with countless apps, software programmes and games created every month to help teachers and students engage with education digitally.
While the influx of new technologies has undoubtedly created new opportunities for teachers to connect with pupils and education materials, the boom has brought about certain challenges when it comes to internet safety. If you’re a primary school teacher concerned about communicating the dangers of the world wide web with your students, the following tips should help:
Mix dedicated internet safety lessons in with regular safety reminders
One of the most important things to remember when teaching internet safety to primary students is that your messages need to be ongoing – not only can young people forget or become complacent over time, but the ever-evolving nature of the internet means messages will need to be updated. For this reason, teachers should not only conduct lessons dedicated to using technology safely but also include updates and reminders whenever pupils use the internet.
The UK Safer Internet Centre recommends educators embed e-safety messages across the curriculum. Hosting fortnightly or monthly internet safety sessions can provide the perfect opportunity to screen informative videos, such as Caught in the Web, Childnet’s series and the latest from Webwise. You could combine an art lesson with internet safety, having children design their own posters based around the golden rules of staying safe online or have pupils play online games and take quizzes to further educate them on cyber safety.
Focus on different issues each session
Internet safety extends beyond simply being mindful of who you talk to online. Important issues from primary children include cyber bullying, online grooming, accessing inappropriate content, social media and gaming. Age appropriate-resources around each topic can be found online – try Internet Matters and NSPCC for good resources and advice. Your school may have guidelines and rules around the internet safety messages you can communicate, so take heed of these before planning lessons.
Teach caution without frightening children
Primary pupils may be internet-savvy, but their young age means caution must be taken when teaching them about the potential danger on the internet. NSPCC teaching guidance recommends sharing the message with pupils that the internet is a great place for children to be, and being ShareAware makes it safer. Make sure pupils feel like they are in a safe space when discussing the internet, establishing a “one person speaks at a time” rule and the option to submit questions and concerns anonymously if children feel unsure of asking in front of a group. Parents may need to be advised of and involved with internet safety messages, so check your school’s policy before going ahead.
Teach students to be SMART
Acronyms are a great learning device for students of all ages and can be particularly effective when applied to internet safety at a primary level. The SMART acronym can be broken down as follows:
Safe: Pupils can stay safe by not giving out any personal information when chatting or posting online.
Meeting: You should only meet someone from the internet with your parents’ or caregivers’ permission and supervision. Meeting online friends can be dangerous.
Accepting: Be careful when accepting friend requests, emails, messages, pictures or files from people you don’t know. They can contain viruses or nasty content.
Reliable: People on the internet aren’t always reliable. The online world makes it easy for people to lie about who they are.
Tell: Always tell your parent or a trusted adult if anything online is worrying you. Keep yourself updated
As a teacher, it’s important for you to stay up-to-date with cyber safety developments and trends so you can pass on the most recent and relevant information to your pupils. Keep informed with the latest teaching candidate resources here.
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