E-safety and digital bullying – help for parents to keep their children safe
There was much discussion about e-safety and digital bullying at the Independent Schools Safeguarding Forum I attended last week. It is a hot topic in schools at the moment as we are finding more and more of our pupils are accessing higher level technical devices, software and apps. The fact that this phenomenon is applying to sequentially younger children means that everyone needs to be aware that their daughter will be exposed to the internet in some way and from an early age.
A large proportion of girls from Year 3 to 6 now have smartphones. It is all but impossible to buy a ‘phone’ which is not also a powerful computer, camera and video recorder. I was struck by the recent headline that a basic modern handset has far more computing power than the technology that took astronauts to the moon on Apollo missions. Girls with these phones have the ability to reach out to others from across the globe, but they can also be contacted by those same people.
Parents are in the unenviable position of having children who often know more about what the latest technology, apps and programmes can do. Safety measures put in place can often be bypassed by increasingly savvy young people. It is very easy to throw hands up into the air and accept defeat in this respect. Other reactions are to place implicit trust in our children that they will do the right thing
and not get involved with contact from strangers or being abusive towards other people. Case studies show that many children who would never say something unkind face to face have been known to bully others online. Too much trust in those not emotionally mature enough to understand the importance of their actions can be counterproductive.
Banning phones or access to the internet is not the answer. It is essential that you converse with your children, ask them to explain things to you and agree some ground rules. Try to make it a two way discussion so that you are not being draconian in your approach. Learn as much as you can and stay up to date. One thing I would urge is that you have an evening cut off time for messaging and social media and that the phone does not reside in your daughter’s room overnight. It needs to be switched off or on silent so that incoming messages or alerts do not ring through the house and nudge at your daughter’s FOMO (fear of missing out).
There is help out there for parents. We regularly send documents and links out to update and assist parents. I use this website with the children in school: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/. It has sections for different age groups and is an excellent site for parents. The girls at school like interacting with it and it could be a good opening for your conversation.