A poll conducted by EU Kids Online in February 2013 found that an estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyber bullying, with 1.26 million subjected to extreme cyber bullying on a daily basis.
With statistics like this, it is no wonder that e-safety is becoming a high priority in schools and not just because Ofsted includes it as part of its inspections.
Being vigilant when it comes to e-safety doesn’t just mean protecting students from this form of bullying; it also means implementing strict policies to protect private data on our teachers, students and all school staff.
There is now a dedicated organisation working to promote the safe and responsible use of technology. The UK Safer Internet Centre is coordinated by a partnership of three leading organisations – Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation – and acts as a hub for useful information and advice.
E-safety doesn’t mean restricting people or stopping them from accessing information; it is more about finding and maintaining the balance between giving learners enough freedom to explore, while maintaining control. This is key, but it can mean different things to different schools.
While the interpretations can vary, the following processes and procedures are at the heart of good practice in any school.
1. All staff members should have their own password
It goes without saying that all staff should have their own username and password and these details should not be known by anyone else. This is especially true if a school is using wireless connectivity, which is the case with most schools today.
Pupils in Year 1 and upwards should always have individual usernames and passwords too. They don’t need to be complex but it’s really important that this procedure is in place. From an early age children appreciate important issues such as personal identity, passwords and security. It also encourages thinking about safety outside of school; they learn about protecting their identity and their password being precious to them.
2. Implement an acceptable use policy (AUP)
It’s important that all schools have an AUP in place, and that all staff, pupils, governors and visitors using the school’s network adhere to this. AUPs are basically user agreements to honour the school’s confidentiality and data security rules.
Schools should take their own approach with helpful advice from their ICT provider, but should involve staff and the learners in establishing this approach. Gaining their understanding and appreciation certainly helps with buy-in.
3. Implement the right software
Software can be implemented to sit in the background and monitor a school’s internet use and issues such as bullying, threats or inappropriate approaches. E-safety isn’t just about having anti-virus software in place; it is vital to ensure a school’s complete internet infrastructure is appropriate and secure.
This can be a constant challenge as hackers and malware become more intelligent on a daily basis, so complete protection is no longer guaranteed. If a student really wants to access something, they will treat it as a challenge. It is therefore important for partners to be constantly ahead of that game.
4. Manage personal data on staff and students
People often associate e-safety as being web related but it’s also about data protection. Situations like missing USB sticks can be easily combated by having the right infrastructures in place, such as having data securely saved in the cloud so that it is still accessible from anywhere but encrypted and safe. It’s really important that there’s a consistent whole-school approach.
5. Provide appropriate training
All staff should be trained on e-safety and very much aware of the importance of safeguarding learners and vulnerable adults. They should be able to recognise e-safety issues and should make this a priority. It’s all about a school’s duty of care.
It has never been more important to ensure that schools, students and parents are educated on the issue of e-safety. Today’s students are growing up in a world where conflicts online arise on a daily basis. Teachers are asked a lot of these days, so it’s important they feel supported – both through the schools and externally.