Internet Safety East Lothian Style!
One of the biggest problems facing us as our pupils move more of their lives online is most parents don’t know what their kids are up to. East Lothian took the bull by the horns and organised an information evening for parents.
The Musselburgh Grammar School (MGS) Internet Safety for Parents and Families night opened with a powerful slideshow prepared by Ollie Bray and based on the Fischbowl’s “Did You Know”. It was a suitably thought-provoking way to start the evening, especially as Ollie had included a number of relevant statistics with regards to online safety.
Ronnie Summers, Rector of MGS, gave a brief introduction and pointed out that this was the first such event supported by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre to be held anywhere in the UK.
First to speak was Detective Sergeant Andy Jones of Lothian & Borders Police. His information, whilst delivered with good humour, was quite shocking in its implications and should be required knowledge for any pupil, parent, teacher and school trying to grapple with the issue of online safety. He talked about the existing legislation (primarily Section 52 & 52A of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act, 1982) as it applies and took the time to explain what the law says… before asking how many of the parents had actually checked their child’s phone. Remarkably few had, as he was able to testify because of the regularity with which the police find inappropriate images within terms of the act on pupils’ phones.
After illustrating how easy it is for a ‘harmless prank’ to become a very serious matter, DS Jones probably caused quite a few arguments as parents will no doubt have been checking phones as soon as they got home!
One thing that I took from Joan Tranent was that quite often the pictures being shared by pupils are causing great distress to other pupils who do not wish to be exposed to the imagery. Peer pressure dictates that the children feel they have to look at, and approve of, the photos being shown… when they would rather not see such imagery.
Ollie’s presentation was a tour-de-force as he introduced the parents to a number of the sites that their children are most likely to be using. Habba Hotel, MSN Messenger, Bebo and Teenspot fell under the spotlight, but it was the looks on the parents’ faces when they realised that a careless comment, or lack of care in protecting your identity would allow you to find out where your parents lived, how much your house was worth and your annual income (courtesy of the google, bt.com and 192.com). You should read Ollie’s reflection on the night to get a fuller flavour of what he was talking about, especially as he has many of the slides he used on his blog.
As Ollie said, tonight is about making parents aware of the dangers… and I believe the night was a resounding success in that respect. My only fear is that, with the inevitable emphasis on the dangers and problems, the parents will have missed one of the really important messages, if not the most important message of all. That the biggest danger facing the internet is that we concentrate on the dangers and forget about the benefits.
The internet is an immensely powerful and wonderful creation… but like any tool, it needs to be used responsibly and the MGS night was a great first step towards helping parents guide their children in the right direction!
Thanks to Ollie and all at Musselburgh Grammar School for allowing myself and Mrs W to come and sit in on a fascinating night, and one which I believe needs to be repeated in every school in the country.