Contributed by: Tony Anscombe, Online Safety Expert at AVG Technologies
Anyone who is raising kids will know just how much they love to play with PCs, tablets and mobile phones. From an increasingly early age, our kids are becoming exposed to the internet, and both the wonders and less appropriate content that it hosts.
When you sit and think about it, over recent years almost every aspect of our daily lives has, in some part, been touched by online technology and our growing need to stay ‘connected’ at all times, and the same goes for our children.
But while for many of us the internet is something we have learnt to love, for the majority of our children maneuvering the online world is merely business as usual. In fact in a recent research study with UK parents we found that over half (56%) think that their child knows more about the internet than they do by 12 years old!
Parents: Turning to teachers for advice
As technology races ahead, trying to stay up to date with all things ‘internet connected’ can seem like a never ending struggle. As a parent it sometimes feels like it’s your job to have all the answers. But, with technology racing ahead who do you turn to when your kids know more about the internet than you do?
In the latest installment of our AVG Digital Diaries research we wanted to find out exactly this and it seems of little surprise perhaps that many parents are looking towards teachers for advice and council when it comes to educating their child (and themselves) about only safety.
Often, teachers are seen as the go-to guides for all things educational; they are in a position of authority and we expect them to have the answers, even if we don’t. But are we expecting too much from today’s teachers when it comes to online safety education?
Lack of knowledge leaves teachers ‘insufficiently equipped’
The simple answer is yes. The research revealed that the majority of UK teachers are feeling too much pressure from parents, with 86% expressing concern that parents rely too much on them (and the school) to teach their child about online safety. And, just like parents, teachers too are feeling the digital divide.
While nearly two fifths (38%) admitted to having been approached by their students with concerns around internet safety issues, over a quarter (28%) of teachers said they were ‘insufficiently equipped’ or ‘not equipped at all’ to handle their pupil’s online safety concerns.
The problem here, it seems, is that there’s a considerable gap between what parents think teachers know, and what teachers actually know about online safety. With nearly two thirds (63%) of teachers admitting they have not been formally trained to teach internet safety, parents should perhaps stop leaning on teachers for online safety advise and start working more closely with teachers to bridge the e-safety gap.
Where does responsibility lie?
With the next advancement in technology just around the corner, schools – and Ofsted – are faced with the difficult task of trying to close the gap between how quickly technology is advancing and the speed at which the curriculum is updated. For this reason it’s important that teachers and parents take an active role in the online safety education process:
- Parents need to start monitoring and engaging in their child’s internet habits – While you should not be ‘snooping’ on your child’s online activity, showing an active interest in what your child is doing online is an important part of development. It’s important to start this discussion from an early age and if you are unsure how to go about it why not use Magda & Mo – our interactive online safety e-book that walks children through different scenarios they could be confronted with online. Don’t forget that simply communicating with your child and asking the right questions about their internet use can be enough to spot the signs of trouble.
- Teachers need to receive the proper training – As many children’s first port of call when they have concerns about the online world, teachers should be given all the necessary resources to tackle the online issues they’re being confronted with. If your child’s school does not have these readily available why not take a look at some of the free education resources online? Childnet (www.childnet.com), The Safer Internet Centre (www.saferinternet.org.uk) and my recent book – ‘One Parent to Another’ – are good places to start, and continue your own online education.