Why does my school need online safety training?

This article was first published on the SWGfL website.

It’s safe to say we’re past the point where a discussion about online safety, in schools or at home, can begin with “like it or not, technology and the internet are a part of our lives now”.

It’s not even up for debate – they have been a part of our lives for many years and to act as though they are a new and mysterious “unknown” is not reflective of reality.

We are a technological society, in a golden age of information and exploration – and our youngest citizens are growing up blissfully unaware of dial-up internet and analogue television.

Technology is ubiquitous inside and outside of schools and has brought with it an educational revolution. Young people now have access to more information than entire generations before them and barriers to participation and growth are crumbling in an ever-more connected world.

But, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.

In a connected world, schools need to ensure online safety is a priority.

Online safety isn’t going anywhere

95% of the UK is online (according to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Digital in the UK 2019 Report), with the average citizen spending 5 hours and 46 minutes using the internet daily.

Internet use is a part of almost everyone’s experience of the world (in the UK, at least). This is quickly being reflected in policy and law, for example with the publication of the Online Harms whitepaper in April 2019 and internet safety being a grading factor in Ofsted’s School inspection handbook.

Clearly, online safety is only becoming more relevant. Staying on top of online safety training and awareness in schools is now an essential part of our duty of care and safeguarding responsibilities.

A school that does not safeguard its young people online is not a school that practices safeguarding.

But what does a school that embraces online safety look like?

Online safety training for schools will benefit everyone

Schools practicing online safety don’t just protect their pupils – they enhance their learning experience.

A school that embraces technology will enhance its students’ experience – 98% of students in one study stated that their lessons were “more interesting when technology is used” and 99.8% said they learned more in classes that incorporated technology into their learning.

According to Ofsted, a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ school will “make e-safety a priority across all areas of the school” with “high priority given to training in e-safety”. This will ensure a “progressive curriculum that is flexible, relevant and engages pupils’ interest”. (Ofsted Inspecting e-safety handbook, page 8).

Properly managed IT systems and networks, used by young people who are educated confidently and intelligently in online safety, open up a world of possibility and are an essential part of modern education.

E-safe schools are happy, safe, expansive, creative, and at the top of their game.

The risks of ignoring online safety

Using ever-shrinking budgets for training courses that take teachers out of classrooms might feel tough to justify – but can you afford not to create a culture of internet safety in your school?

Young people are exposed to difficult and distressing content at rates that might surprise you. Research we conducted for Safer Internet Day 2018 found that 42% of young people felt worried or anxious about something online in the last week.

It isn’t overdramatic or excessive to state that the harmful use of technology costs lives.

A systematic review of research into cyberbullying, pulling together 26 independent studies that had researched a total of 156,384 children and young people, found that victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm or attempt suicide.

Online harm isn’t exclusively cyberbullying, though. Other e-safety risks include:

You may be surprised at how little online safety training can cost – especially in comparison to the risks.

Online safety means possibility and potential

The UK Safer Internet Centre believes that technology is inherently positive and beneficial.

If we can help people of all ages feel aware, educated, and supported in their use of technology, we open up limitless possibilities and opportunities for growth.

Technology enriches our lives by:

  • Helping us feel connected – to friends, family, and communities that represent us
  • Expanding our opportunities – opening us up to the world
  • Giving us freedom – to explore ourselves, our feelings, our hopes and our fears
  • Teaching us new things – an endless encyclopaedia and field of experts
  • Sharing information – to teach, learn, challenge, and delight

And, so, a little education can produce an enormous impact.

From tiny acorns…

Online safety training for your school

Online safety training doesn’t have to be stuffy. It doesn’t have to be a drag. It doesn’t have to be led by well-meaning parents giving it their best shot.

Online safety training can be led by experts, tailor-made to suit your interests and needs, and leave you feeling empowered and enthused.

There are many options out there, but the UKSIC, through SWGfL, stands alone in delivering training from globally-renowned consultants who are at the cutting-edge of online safety trends and policy.

If your school is looking for fairly-priced online safety training, led by experts, that will allow you to protect your pupils and unlock the educational potential of technology, visit our online safety training page to see why we are the perfect fit.

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