Internet freedom makes pupils safer
Pupils who are allowed to surf the Internet at school more freely are less "vulnerable" to online dangers, a new report shows.
by Rune H. Rasmussen
Pupils in schools that use ‘managed’ online systems have a better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe when using new technologies, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
‘Managed’ systems are systems that have fewer inaccessible sites than ‘locked’ systems and so require pupils to take more responsibility for their own safety.
Locked systems less effective
"Although the 13 schools which used 'locked down' systems kept their pupils safe while in school, such systems were less effective in helping them to learn how to use new technologies safely. These pupils were, therefore, more vulnerable overall," the report said. In addition, 'locked down' systems require teacher approval to be granted before websites are viewed, and the report says that this is “taking up valuable learning time”.
Even though ‘locked’ systems keep pupils safe, they do not encourage the pupils to take responsibility for their actions or prepare them for dealing with systems that are not locked. ‘Managed’ systems on the other hand, which restrict access to some websites, are better in educating children.
The report said: “Children who hold a parent’s hand every time they cross the road are safe. However, unless they are taught to cross the road by themselves, they might not learn to do this independently. A child whose use of the Internet is closely monitored at school will not necessarily develop the level of understanding required to use new technologies responsibly in other contexts.”
Education and experimental learning best way to keep children safe
Carole Fletcher, founder of Intuitive Media, says that this is an Ofsted study “illustrating just how important it is NOT to be denying our kids a meaningful Internet experience. Education, experimential learning using benefits of the Internet being the best way to help keep our children safe online.”
“I was at the BECTA Internet Safety Day yesterday and heard two teenagers speak. Their comment was .... blocking or inhibiting their use makes them want it more. They need constant reminders of how to conduct themselves online. On Facebook they said ..... they should be allowed to use Facebook in breaks .... it is just a form of 'speaking',” Fletcher says.
The most important filter is in the mind
Oystein Samoen, Director of Kids and Media, supports the conclusion from the Ofsted report:
“It goes along with our experiences from Norway where children have been both early and active users for several years. The most important web filter is in the mind and heart of the child, not on the computer. Teaching children safety and awareness, and training them to reflect and being critical to what they see, say and do is a crucial task for both schools and parents.”
“Filtering the computer does not necessarily create good filters in the child; it can cause a false trust in the children’s online safety and encourage children to “go behind the walls”. At the same time, both schools and homes have a challenge when there are mixed age groups using the computers. I would suggest that filtering still is a good idea for the younger children, while many “pre teens” and teenagers will learn more and faster to become safe, aware and creative users by peer support. For many teachers and parents, finding time and acquiring skills to guide their children is a huge challenge, this is an issue that calls for both Governmental and corporate initiatives.”
Facts about the Ofsted report
The report examined e-safety at 35 schools, and was launched following the Byron Review into risks associated with the Internet. It found e-safety was outstandind in five schools, good in 16, satisfactory in 13 and inadequate in one. Training for staff was the weakest aspect of e-safety, which was found to be in need of improvement in 21 of the schools visited.
Watchdog: Restricted web access 'less effective'
Internet freedom “helps pupils”
Students safest using the internet when they are trusted to manage their own risk
ITN News report:
Ofsted: More internet freedom for pupils is safer
This video clip is available here: http://itn.co.uk/036f9063240d1c1b01ca8ad0ef158f9c.html
Related articles on kidsandmedia.co.uk:
My Safety Online
Teach kids online security basics
Age-based guidelines for kids' Internet use