Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has heralded a period of nation-wide home schooling unprecedented in living memory and prompts the question, how can teachers ensure safe working practices during this period of uncertainty?
In light of the current crisis, education delivery has made online educational resources a de facto reality for children, young people, their parents/carers and teachers. There are additional challenges for parents and carers, many of whom have also had to adapt to home working and now find themselves to be proxy educationalists.
There has been considerable debate about these issues in the press. However, there is proportionately limited consideration of the unintended consequences of increased online activity and keeping children and young people safe. The UK government’s statutory guidelines on “Keeping Children Safe in Education” (September 2019) identified three broad areas of risk for online child safety:
- ‘Content – being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material; for example pornography, fake news, racist or radical and extremist views;
- Contact - being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users; for example commercial advertising as well as adults posing as children or young adults; and
- Conduct – personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm; for example making, sending and receiving explicit images, or online bullying.’
The following is a link to the latest briefing document regarding safeguarding during COVID-19:
Schools and the national curriculum are required to cover the above areas in their teaching of pupils and students to enable awareness and to protect children and young people from avoidable online harm. As a consequence, some children may know more about online safety than their parents/carers and possibly their teachers. It is broadly true children and young people are, in general, more adept in the accessibility and language related to the online world compared to the previous generation. On the one hand, there will be children and young people, who may be at risk because the increased use of internet devices is likely to attract opportunist abusers and possibly increase peer-to-peer online bullying directly targeting pupils learning from home. However, there are also positives, particularly given the isolation associated with lock down enabling children and young people to access their friendship groups and family members.
The Government Guidance “Teaching Online Safety in School Guidance, June 2019: supporting Schools to Teach their Pupils how to Stay Safe Online, within New and Existing School Subjects”, gives the most up-to-date advice and can be accessed here:
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