Cyberbullying

January 4, 2012

With increasing new communication technologies being made available to children and young people, there will always be a potential for them becoming a victim to online bullying. Online bullying, e-bullying or cyberbullying, is defined as follows: ‘the use of information and communication technologies such as email, [mobile] phone and text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal websites and defamatory personal polling websites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or a group, that is intended to harm others.’

Children and young people are keen adopters of new technologies, but this can also leave them open to the threat of online bullying. An awareness of the issues and knowledge of methods for dealing with online bullying can help reduce the risks. The issue of cyberbulling must be specifically addressed within a school/academy’s anti-bullying policy.

 Text Messaging

Bullying by text message has become an unfortunate and unpleasant by-product of the convenience that SMS (short message service) offers. Children should be advised to be careful about giving out their mobile phone number, and ask that those that have their number never pass it on. If only known and trusted friends know the number, it is less likely to be abused in this way. If being bullied by text message, children should immediately seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. They should not respond to the messages, but should keep a detailed diary recording information such as the content of the message, the date, the time, the caller ID or whether the number was withheld or not available. If space permits, the messages should also be stored on the phone in case they are needed later as evidence. Abuse in the form of bullying should be reported to the mobile phone company who can take certain steps to try to resolve the situation, and in some instances it may also be necessary to involve the police. In some cases it may be necessary, or easier, to change the mobile phone number or to purchase a new phone.

Like bullying by text message, email provides a reasonably ‘anonymous’ method of communication which bullies have seized upon to harass their victims. If being bullied by email, children should not respond to the messages, but should seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Likewise if they receive an email message from an unknown sender, they should exercise caution over opening it, or ask an adult for assistance. Don’t delete the message but keep it as evidence of bullying. If the email is being sent from a personal email account, abuse should be reported to the sender’s email service provider. Many email programs also provide facilities to block email from certain senders. If the bullying emails continue, and the email address of the sender is not obvious, then it may be possible to track the address using special software. Email service providers may be able to offer assistance in doing this. In certain cases, it may be easier to change the email address, and exercise caution over who this new address is given to.

Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms

Aside from the general risks of using chat rooms and instant messaging (IM) services, these services are also used by bullies. Children should be encouraged to always use moderated chat rooms, and to never give out personal information while chatting. If bullying does occur, they should not respond to messages, but should leave the chat room, and seek advice from a teacher, parent or carer. If using a moderated chat room, the system moderators should also be informed, giving as much detail as possible, so that they can take appropriate action.

Instant Messaging (IM) is a form of online chat but is private between two, or more, people. If a child is bullied or harassed by IM, the service provider should be informed giving the nickname or ID, date, time and details of the problem. The service provider will then take appropriate action which could involve a warning or disconnection from the IM service. If a child has experienced bullying in this way, it might also be worth re-registering for instant messaging with a new user ID.

Websites

Although less common, bullying via websites is now becoming an issue. Such bullying generally takes the form of websites that mock, torment, harass or are otherwise offensive, often aimed at an individual or group of people. If a child discovers a bullying website referring to them, they should immediate seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Pages should be copied and printed from the website concerned for evidence, and the internet service provider (ISP) responsible for hosting the site should be contacted immediately. The ISP can take steps to find out who posted the site, and request that it is removed. Many ISPs will outline their procedures for dealing with reported abuse in an acceptable use policy (AUP) which can be found on their website. Additionally, many websites and forum services now provide facilities for visitors to create online votes and polls, which have been used by bullies to humiliate and embarrass their fellow pupils. Again, any misuse of such services should be reported to a teacher, parent or carer who should then take steps to contact the hosting website and request the removal of the poll.

Specific issues regarding online bullying should be dealt with by the school or academy under its existing anti-bullying policies.

Advertisements

Social Networking

January 4, 2012

Social networking software such as Facebook and Twitter are providing opportunities for personal expression, the creation of communities, collaboration and sharing. Other examples include blogs (personal web-based journals), moblogs (blogs sent from a mobile phone), wikis (modifiable collaborative web pages), and podcasting (subscription-based broadcast over the web) supported by technologies such as RSS (really simple syndication – an XML format designed for sharing news across the web). They enhance or gain value from social interactions and behaviour. They can also provide opportunities for collective intelligence and thus add value to data. Digital video, photography and music technologies have democratised the process of content creation and distribution. Recent studies of children and young people’s online behavior indicate that there are a wide range of activities undertaken, from using the internet for homework and research to a wide range of entertainment and edutainment activities. The benefits for children are well documented, but so too are a number of risks of which young people must be made aware.

Risks

Initial concern for children was largely centred on their use of social networking sites and the possibility that young people could be ‘groomed’ by those with a malicious intent. This is made possible by the amount of personal information that children can disclose online allowing predators to manipulate children by becoming their online friend, often hiding their true age and identity and developing close friendships by pretending to share common interests in music, personalities, sport or other activities for which children have expressed a specific liking. The huge publicity surrounding chat rooms and the decision by some leading commercial companies to close their chat rooms to children led to the focus switching to social networking applications. In some respects these are more of a problem than chat rooms, as young people share ‘friend lists’ and pass on contacts one to another. As instant messaging programmes allow private one-to-one correspondence with or without the use of webcams, they also can give even greater privacy to predators developing relationships with children online. It is important to understand that social networking sites are public spaces where adults can also interact with children, which obviously has an implication on child safety. Whilst encouraging young people to be creative users of the internet who publish content rather than being passive consumers, there is a balance to be weighed in terms of the personal element of what is being published. The concerns are shifting from what children are ‘downloading’ in terms of content to what they are ‘uploading’ to the net. In some cases very detailed accounts of their personal lives, contact information, daily routines, photographs and videos are acting as an online shopping catalogue for those who would seek children to exploit, either sexually or for identity fraud purposes. These sites are very popular with young people as not only can they express themselves with an online personality, but they can use all the applications the site has to offer to chat and share multimedia content with others – music, photos and video clips. Unfortunately, these sites can also be the ideal platform for facilitating bullying, slander and humiliation of others. The better sites are now taking this issue seriously and ensuring that they have safety guidelines and codes of practice in place. In drafting an AUP, students, where appropriate additional consideration should be given to boarding pupils. For example, additional privileges may be given after school with access to allow less restrictive filtering but keeping in line with the overall ethos of providing a safe environment. The management of mobile devices and laptop dongles that allow unrestricted access in dormitories should also be carefully managed with a view that such usage should be viewed on its merits and with due consideration to the in loco parentis nature of boarding supervision.

Implementation

Clearly banning activity of any sort merely heightens the desire of young people to explore and push the boundaries. We have a responsibility to understand what children are doing by talking to them about their online activity and educating them to the possible downsides – encouraging safe use and enjoying the benefits whilst minimising the risks. It is recommended that schools and academies use CEOP materials to educate children about risks and benefits, look at recommending social networking sites that safely enhance education experiences. Schools and academies should also look to provide timely and accurate information for parents and teachers, provide safety tips and good advice and stay up to date on developments.


Ofsted Press Release on young people not being sufficiently challenged in ICT lessons

December 14, 2011

“A report published today by Ofsted has found that achievement in information, communication and technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited. Inspectors found that how well pupils did in secondary schools was adversely affected by the lack of challenge for more able students and poor coverage of key aspects of the ICT curriculum.

The report, ICT in schools 2008-11, found that although ICT was good or outstanding in over two thirds of primary schools visited, the position was less positive for secondary schools with just over a third of the secondary schools in the survey judged good or outstanding.

The report draws on evidence from the inspection of ICT in 167 primary, secondary and special schools between 2008 and 2011. The ICT curriculum and qualification routes provided by nearly half of the secondary schools surveyed were not meeting the needs of all students, which reinforces concerns raised in Ofsted’s previous ICT report.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen, said:

“In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, young people need to be given the opportunity to learn ICT skills in an interesting, challenging and relevant way.

“Schools should provide a range of ICT courses that are suitably matched to students’ needs, support them with their learning and prepare them for higher education and for skilled work in a technological age.”

In 30 of the 74 secondary schools visited, nearly half of students reached the age of 16 without adequate foundation for further study or training in ICT and related subjects.

The numbers studying GCSE ICT have dropped since 2007. This year 31,800 students attempted the examination compared with 81,100 in 2007 – a reduction of 64 per cent. There has also been a reduction in the number of entries at A level ICT.

In contrast, there has been a considerable increase in the number of student completing vocational awards in ICT – 212,900 students completed OCR Nationals, a popular suite of vocational qualifications, compared with 58,900 in 2008.

Despite the fact girls perform better than boys in ICT, fewer girls chose to study the subject in Key Stage 4 and beyond. The report recommends that schools encourage girls to continue studying ICT beyond the ages of 14 and 16 by engaging with local IT businesses to bring the subject alive and provide a fuller understanding of ICT-related career options.

The teaching of ICT was outstanding in three of the secondary schools visited and good in 32, but it was no better than satisfactory in just over half. Where teaching was no better than satisfactory, the use of assessment to track pupils’ progress was poor, which led to teachers and pupils lacking an understanding of current performance and what was needed to improve. It also meant that sometimes students repeated work from previous years.

In both primary and secondary schools there were weaknesses in teaching more demanding topics such as databases and programming, highlighting the need for schools to provide subject-specific support and professional development to improve teachers’ confidence and expertise.

When teaching was good or outstanding, lessons were well planned with a variety of activities that were differentiated to meet individual students’ needs, and students were clear about their own current level and what they needed to do to improve.”

Notes to editors

  1. The report ICT in schools 2008-11 can be found on the Ofsted website at www.ofsted.gov.uk
  2. The previous ICT report ‘The importance of ICT: information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008, can be found at the following link: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/importance-of-ict-information-and-communication-technology-primary-and-secondary-schools-20052008
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection. 

 


Salmon, Napoleon and online safety

January 18, 2011

In 2002, The Salmon of Doubt, the sixth volume of Douglas Adams’ trilogy the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published posthumously. In it Adams says;

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Ask yourself these three questions about primary school-age children you work with.

  1. Do the children have mobile phones?
  2. Do they engage in online gaming?
  3. Are they members of an online social network?

If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, revisit the questions in three years’ time. I’ll bet the answer will be ‘yes’.

100 years before Adams’ book, G.K. Chesterton wrote a novel entitled The Napoleon of Notting Hill. In it he describes a game where;

The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

Part of the problem is that the ICT curriculum for primary schools is largely becoming irrelevant (as is the secondary one). Children are turning away from it in droves. There is an apparent deepening divergence between what children do with digital technologies and what we teach them.

But does this mean that children know everything and we know nothing?

No. The biggest single issue related to online technologies in education over the next few years will be e-safety in all its incarnations. It will be the softer, human, ethical skills that we will need to focus on.

This relates to issues relating to:

  • Online grooming by sexual predators
  • Exposure to potentially harmful material
  • Identity protection
  • Online addiction
  • Cyberbullying

Independent schools are not immune to these issues and they relate to out-of-school use as much as in-school use.

Some statistics

  • Young gamers spend on average 8 hours weekly playing online.
  • Young people sleep 2 to 3 hours less per night than 10 years ago.
  • In January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered on Second Life.
  • Facebook reports more than 500 million active users (3rd largest country)
  • Users spend 700 billion minutes on Facebook each month.
  • 20% of children who regularly log on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give personal sexual information.
  • 25% of children have been exposed to unwanted pornographic material online.
  • Only 30% of households with Internet access are actively protecting their children with filtering or blocking software.
  • 75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.
  • Only approximately 25% of children who encountered a sexual approach or solicitation told a parent or adult.
    • 22% of the targets for sexual predators were users under 13.

What do we do?

  1. In accordance with last year’s Ofsted guidelines we need to move away from a reliance on locked down systems to monitored systems with good educational provision for children, parents and teachers.
  2. We need to work closely with form tutors, PSHE teachers and pastoral staff
  3. We need to educate children about locking down privacy settings
  4. We need to take control. Zip it. Block it.

Other issues

  • Cyberbullying
  • Online, social gaming by girls
  • Increasing usage of mobile/gaming devices

Is it all doom and gloom?

No. There are massive opportunities for both information and communications technologies, but with this comes new forms of literacy. Our challenge is to bring children’s personal, social and ethical skills in line with their technical skills.

As Diana Laurillard says “This is not rocket science. It is far more complicated than that.”

There are many programmes to support this work.

  • DigitalMe- SAFE (social networking for primary school children)
  • CEOP
  • Childnet
  • Safer Internet day on February 8th.

We must educate children to behave ethically, skilfully, intelligently and creatively.

Douglas Adams says “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.” Education on the other hand is something that does work. In the case of e-safety, our challenge is to align it to the technology in a meaningful and effective way.


E-safety review 2009

August 6, 2009

On 9 June, on behalf of Naace I attended the E-Safety Review 2009 sponsored by Forensic Software. The first session was devoted to the topic of Cyber Mentors featuring the “Beat Bullying” charity. A number of students spoke eloquently about their experiences with the programme and made some important observations to the educationalists attending. They spoke about the power of the internet for communication and research and highlighted the need for children to be trusted and to be allowed privacy. They acknowledged the need for some internet filtering but stressed the need for freedom. They also recognised the prevalence of cyberbullying and identity theft.

Niel McLean, Executive Director for Institutional Development at Becta, spoke on current government guidance and the importance of safeguarding next generation learners. He made the point that schools should protect children whilst they are in their care and educate them for when they are not. He stressed the need for schools to have an Acceptable Use Policy rather than relying on locking down systems. Niel noted that the new Ofsted Framework for September 2009 will have a stronger focus on safeguarding. He concluded by making the point that engagement and interactivity that support effective learning and that safeguard children are fundamentally the same.

John Parmiter from Warwickshire Local Authority spoke about local strategies that are used to reach both the school and home, whilst David Roberts from sponsoring partners, Forensic Software Ltd outlined new technology that supports successful e-safety strategies. Journalist and TV presenter Anna Richardson spoke about the making of The Sex Education Show vs Pornography and revealed how during the making of the show it was discovered that ease of access to pornography influences the views of young people towards sex and relationships.

The highlight of the seminar, however was Professor Tanya Byron who spoke candidly about her commissioning by the Government to investigate issues relating to online safety of children. Professor Byron described how she found “protection” to be an uncomfortable term to use to describe online safety except in the case of vulnerable children. She spoke of how we are in danger of reducing childhood experience with “zero risk taking”. She suggested that we should not take a top-down approach to managing online safety and described how the system is dominated by Luddites who don’t understand the issues. This has led to society becoming riddled with risk aversion. She described how we should look at what children are doing and embrace it to help them become more resilient. We should use technology, standards and education to help children become cyber-literate and safe. Schools should involve children in the development of Acceptable Usage Policies and all parties should work together on to develop a social marketing campaign, professional development for schools and expert panels to advise policy makers, schools, parents, teachers and children.

This was a very entertaining, profound and thought-provoking session.


%d bloggers like this: