Schools are requesting that pre-primary school children as young as three are taught about being safe online.
Talking at a roundtable about the findings from research conducted by AVG Technologies Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, explained that “We are increasingly asked to address children who are younger and younger. We initially started going out to primary schools but now we are getting requests to go even younger, talking to 3 and 4 year olds.”
The approach is a soft one – this isn’t meant as a tactic to frighten children away from technology and the internet, but rather to provide them with some basic understanding of how to keep safe online and to communicate with a trusted person when incidents occur.
“The messages we give these children are very simple messages about technology and safety not scary messages around grooming or cyber bullying. We want to get across that if something goes wrong they should just tell someone.”
The roundtable discussion with TrustedReviews revolved around the lack of support given to teachers with regards to teaching internet safety, and the growing need for it.
Although nearly two thirds (63%) of teachers have not been formally trained to teach internet safety, nearly two fifths (38%) admitted being approached by their students with concerns around internet safety issues – cyberbullying (26%) and access to inappropriate content (16%) were the most common issues cited. When approached for advice on varies online safety issues 28% of teachers, on average, felt they were ‘insufficiently equipped’ or ‘not equipped at all’ to handle the issue.
The emphasis on the discussion, which included several University lecturers, online security specialist AVG and Childnet, was heavily weighted in favour of education rather than regulation – this is not an issue that can be solved with bans and limitations alone. Children will always find access to the internet and should be encouraged to use the valuable resource, but with due guidance and care.
Elena Martellozzo, Criminologist at Middlesex University, believes that regulation has in fact failed children to some extent “I’ve been working with the Metropolitan Police looking at the way in which sex offenders groom children the way in which indecent images are distributed, I’ve seen the worst stuff that you can possibly imagine, but I am still an optimist. I think that it’s important to get a strong message across. We’ve failed twice with regulating child use of the internet. We failed to take the opportunity to educate children and we failed to protect children. Children use the internet 24/7 and we need to embrace this.”
For more information on children’s internet safety read Tony Anscombe’s One Parent to Another free ebook