Today we thought we’d surprise you by having a different type of blog post. We’ve already blogged about helping your Young Child or Teen learn English so today we thought we’d look at the internet. Grab a cup of tea and read through my top tips on ensuring your children are safe using the internet this autumn.
Internet = benefits and risks
Children using technology at home is standard nowadays– from computers, interactive whiteboards and tablets, to mobile phones and game consoles. These devices are often most effective (or should I say fun!) when connected to the internet, which offers a vast amount of resources that cannot be found in traditional paper or TV format. Up-to-the-minute videos, songs, and educational games provide authentic language models and make classes more varied, relevant and attractive to younger learners. The internet also offers learners the opportunity to practise their language skills on their own devices, encouraging learner autonomy.
But while the internet is a wonderful teaching and learning tool, it can pose great risks if not used safely. These can be related to: content (young people viewing age-inappropriate websites); conduct (children posing as older than their real age; ‚sexting’ – an exchange of sexual messages or images, or placing images of other children online); and contact (including targeting children through chat rooms or social networking sites). If not educated about these risks, young people may put themselves in difficult, even dangerous, situations.
Talking to young learners about e-safety
The internet is extremely important in young people’s lives. It’s a big part of how they spend their free time: listening to music, watching movies, and spending hours on end chatting with friends via Facebook or other social networking websites. As such, teachers (and, of course, parents) can’t afford to ignore some of the risks. Instead, they should talk about e-safety with children, and listen to their concerns and opinions as well as give advice and set rules.
Although teenagers are the age group that uses the internet most, nowadays, even small children use computers, tablets and mobile phones regularly. By raising the issue of e-safety with young children, there is a chance they will avoid making mistakes and learn how to use the internet effectively but safely as they get older. Even if you don’t cover the topic thoroughly, some things may stay with your students and they might want to explore the topics further.
What to do if you think a student or your child is at risk or being bullied online
It’s important that parents know what to do in this situation. It’s definitely worth checking with the school authorities what the e-safety policy is, what procedures are in place, and who to contact in case of an emergency. If there’s no such policy, it’s worth looking up local child protection organisations that can help in such situations.
It’s also worth talking to children about internet safety as quite often they are not aware of the risks at all. One way to do this is by sharing some tips with them. This article on internet and computer safety gives parents plenty of useful advice, including a printable poster with five golden rules of staying safe online.
A few tips on promoting e-safety
The next important thing is making sure that children, when using computers, tablets or mobile phones in class, know what websites they should and are allowed to be looking at and keep to them. Careful monitoring of students as they do their work is essential. This might mean ensuring devices are used in shared family rooms rather than in the child’s bedroom.
Also, check what filters are installed on the computers, and if you encounter a dangerous website, block it or report it.
Finally, talk to your child about internet safety regularly, you could write a list of websites that are safe to use and only allow your child to use these websites.
Useful resources for promoting e-safety in the classroom
You can find lots of resources online. An excellent place to start is the Safer Internet website. .The Safer Internet website encourages children to create a promise on how to make the internet a safer place by filling in an Up 2 Us pledge card with their own ideas.
You could also take a look at our British Council’s LearnEnglish Teens website for some reading tasks and videos on internet safety. If you would like to talk about internet safety with your children, it’s also worth checking out our LearnEnglish Kids. website. There’s a quiz an interactive game and a writing activityon e-safety.
Finally, there are lots of interesting materials on CEOP’s website, including useful YouTube videos that might be interesting. The videos are divided into age groups and some of them have subtitles in foreign languages.
Happy (and safe) web surfing!
A version of this article appeared on our British Council Voices blog in February 2015. The Voices blog is another excellent blog to find out about UK Culture and the British Council.