From the beginning of this month we have running a month's worth of internet safety lessons from Year 1 to Year 6. At first I was a little apprehensive about going as young as Year 1 due to the general abstractness of the Internet as a whole. Sometimes I think that the children don't really understand how this all works. I know that they see things in a different light to us adults and that sometimes these kind of boundaries are simply eschewed but, the idea of chatting, gaming, SMS-ing, chatting in games, Facebook, Skype and that thiscomputer is the portal to an ethereal life also, sometimes, escapes them.
When we discuss the handing out of personal information online many children still think this is acceptable. Why? Because they see it as making friends in a truly honest type of way. The conversations with children as young as 5 (because they Facebook their friends usually with an older sibling) they think that adding a friend is simply just that. What we have to do now is kind of unravel this honesty and make them stop and think.
The videos posted below and the image right (from a series of animations for 5-7 yr olds ) are from the CEOP Think You Know? Campaign from the UK Police force. The noce way this taps into young minds is the general feel of the animation. It's not like the help videos of old where some minor sporting celebrity would tell the kids to stay safe, instead it's a lot more in tune with both age group and context. The website, you think you know is well stocked with catchy ideas for age groups 5-7, 8-10 and 11-16 and games to keep the younger ones thinking about how to behave in a responsible way.
There is an element to a child's online life that is often over looked because sometimes adults either feel that they don't know enough or that using a computer is embarrassing in front of their children. The issue is the sharing of information with the child and vice versa. The fact that many parents don't know what their children are doing online is a serious cause for condern. As an ICT teacher I have access to the lives of many children and their computing habits. It interesting to find out just how many children of 9 and under have a computer in their bedrooms. Many, though don't but the content they're viewing is also borderlining a worry.
I mentioned above the 5 year old users of Facebook and what they do on there. They told me that they play games on there. Fine. But, I would hazzard a gues that the people they invite are people that they don't know. This was the key element of the beginning of the internet safety month: Sharing information online. BrainPop gladly shares their online safety for free. Thank you Brainpop.
The knock on from this is chat based element of Facebook is chatting during an online bout of Call of Duty MW2 (Mature 17+ and kids as young at 9 playing it) or similar Xbox 360/ PS3 type game. What was difficult again for the kids to understand is that they could be playing some 30Yr old man from Colorado while we're here in Asia. The discussion went further with children telling me that they don't chat with them during gaming time as it's too difficult. Again, they miss the point of befriending someone that they wouldn't in real life.Would male friends with a bunch of men playing football on the field because they like football? "No!" they cried. So..
There is some kind of synaptic element to it all where the understanding of the internet is perceived as an extension to everyday life. Was TV the same as this? I don't think so. Could it be the video site revolutionthat allows every body into your living/bed/study room (as the video below suggests) that makes it more like real life.
As the kids get nearer Year 6 (10 ro 11Yrs) they're already versed in commenting on YouTube (one of the more immediate ways to gain an angle on cyberbullying) so the CEOP have made a set of rather poignant videos similar in impact to the recent drink-drive campaigns.The video at the bottom is for parents.
For those parents who've got teenage children or your're reading this and Year 6 and over.
A final video. The key part of this is that you should find out the options of privacy first. Can you only allow friends, friends of friends or the whole world to view your profile? Children should be allowed online as long as they know how to change the settings and only befriend those they know in real life.
This video is from the same agency in the UK. It is very hard hitting.