In this blog, Alister Minnis from Lomond School offers some guidance on how we can best keep children safe while they’re spending more time online.
With schools closed and parents working from home, there is no doubt that children are more likely to be using the internet unsupervised and could be vulnerable to cyber bullying and scams.
During lockdown, pupils will spend even more time on their phones, computers, iPads and video games, and while the internet, in general, is a great resource for education and entertainment, it’s important that parents and carers are vigilant when it comes to screen time.
UNICEF states that 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide, while increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as a greater risk of cyberbullying*.
During the national health crisis children are inevitably spending more time online, utilising education platforms, being entertained by the likes of TikTok and YouTube, gaming on XBOX and PlayStation, keeping up with friends over social media platforms, and reuniting with family over Zoom and House Party calls.
While lessons have continued online at Lomond we have been working with parents and pupils to ensure all virtual communication is conducted in a safe manner. For example, we’ve provided guidance on how to appropriately conduct video calls.
Open conversations with children about their activities online are more important than ever, ensuring they have the confidence to confide in parents about any concerns they may have. The reality is that cyberbullying and exploitation can happen anywhere, and it’s important to note that the risk was of course, still there before lockdown. With children moving a great deal of daily interactions to virtual platforms, they do however become more vulnerable to the dangers of the internet. To combat this, parents, guardians and carers need to ensure that they know what their child is viewing and who they’re communicating with.
A collective effort
We must all work together to inspire confidence in children who are dealing with cyberbullying to come to us for help to resolve the problem. Children should be made aware that the same rules and procedures apply when taking offline situations online, and that incidents will be weighted with the same importance and approached accordingly.
Just like if there was a social gathering that goes wrong, for example a real house party which gets out of hand, parents should work in partnership with the school to investigate any incidents. As a preventative measure, parents and carers should establish guidelines with their children to communicate boundaries and protocols to make sure kids have clear pathways to report any of their concerns and to have the confidence to do that.
Taking advantage of our time at home
As far as possible, it’s good to try to engage in communication which is as ‘close to’ physical contact as possible. So, instead of a text, a video call feels more personal and engaging – children are experiencing far fewer face-to-face social interactions whilst they are removed from the physical school environment.
Although parents are preoccupied with work and home schooling, arguably now might be the perfect time to identify how our kids are spending their time online and what we can do to help them. With this unusual opportunity, we can help optimise their online safety to its fullest potential.
Many thanks to Alister Minnis from Lomond School for his contribution to this blog.