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Internet Safety East Lothian Style!

October 13, 2007

Musselburgh Grammar SchoolOne 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 SummersRonnie 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.

DS Andy JonesAfter 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.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2007 9:12 am

    I really wish I had been able to make the night. I hope Ollie will do another night. Such valuable information.

    Tess

  2. October 14, 2007 6:52 pm

    Hi Neil – Thanks for coming along to support the event. See you soon. Ollie

  3. October 14, 2007 7:00 pm

    @Tess: I was sorry you couldn’t be there. It was very worthwhile.

    @Ollie: It was an exceptionally good night. Thanks Ollie for organising and running the evening so well.

    It’s given me plenty of food for thought, and the necessity for hosting a similar evening in my own school was very apparent from the reactions of the parents.

    Ollie, what feedback or repercussions have you had as a result of the night?

  4. October 18, 2007 7:33 pm

    Hello Neil

    I know you did a Bebo thing at the TeachMeet. Do you do safety lessons with your classes? Do you have anything you can share? I’d like to do Bebo safety tips with my Computing teachers (and my daughters!).

    Thanks.

  5. October 18, 2007 9:00 pm

    Hi David,
    While I discuss Bebo with classes, I don’t have anything ‘formal’ as such. I am working on some resources for both class and blogging, but nothing is finalised yet… I need to set myself a deadline, but now that I’m running a department I find that my available time is very limited – not really good enough!

    What I do which appears to be very effective is to spend some time keeping an eye on the Bebos of pupils I teach. I make an effort to spot changes they’ve made and occasionally question them (in a friendly way) about things they’ve said. Ollie Bray takes much the same sort of approach… it is about making the kids/pupils aware that someone is keeping an eye on their sights. In Ollie’s case, he thinks it helps keep a cap on cyber-bullying. If someone is going to see what you post (outwith your peer group), then you might be more inclined to think twice about what you actually post.

    With regards to your own kids, I’d make sure they add you to their Bebo as a friend. That way you can get updates as to who is seeing their sites and it gives you an opportunity to monitor and mentor them. I say mentor, but before long you will be asking them for hints and tips. My two have been great with all of this and we’ve had several frank and honest discussions about some of the things that people post online with the net result that (as far as we can know) I’d say that both our two are pretty clued up. This would not have happened if we hadn’t been part of the ‘crowd’.

    Let’s be honest… Bebo is not the be-all and end-all of social networking, but it is a great, fun introduction to the more powerful/professional tools. It has some very cool and fun features that appeal to kids… and once they start becoming more competent, it gives them an opportunity to start expanding their own skill base. Kathryn, for example, has become a very competent photographer and user of Photoshop as she wants to make her own Bebo skins… not something we would have predicted before she started!

    I will write a more coherent guide to Bebo soon (promise!), but hopefully I’ve given you some information you can use in the meantime.

    Cheers!

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