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Thinkuknow In Perth

December 6, 2007

When we talk about social networking, are we sending out the right signals? At the Thinkuknow training session in Perth last night I was struck by how much we tend to emphasis the dangers whilst barely acknowledging the benefits.

Picture 1.pngThe Thinkuknow training session in Perth last night started by covering some of the same ground as Ollie Bray’s recent Musselburgh Grammar School session. As such, I was already aware of Habbo Hotel, MSN and so forth. I’ll be honest and admit that, during this part of the evening, I started to look around at the range of people in the audience. Numbering about 40, the audience consisted of a wide variety of people: uniformed Police officers, Social Workers, teachers, Child Protection Officers and possibly even some parents! Many of them were encountering the online world inhabited by our children for the first time and I couldn’t help but wonder if the message sent out by the session is really the right one. You see, there is – quite rightly – a strong focus on the dangers of online usage, but there is almost no mention of the very real and tangible benefits of the internet.

As an organisation, CEOP are charged with protecting children from the worst that the internet can offer, and in this respect they do an incredibly difficult and distressing job extremely well. It is not up to them to promote Web2.0 activities, but what struck me on the night is that, because many in the audience are seeing sites like World of Warcraft, Bebo and Second Life for the first time, and because they are being advised that these sites are potentially dangerous to young people, they come away with a very jaundiced view of their potential.

I had a great conversation with some of the other participants during a coffee break and found myself in the position of having to defend the tools that most of my readers take for granted. It’s an interesting position to be in, especially if, like me, you are as passionate about protecting children whilst also wanting to see greater use of the tools.

The second part of the evening involved our CEOP trainer, Malcom (sorry, I never caught his second name!) showing us how the Thinkuknow resources should be used to deliver knowledge to pupils. For me this was the real reason for being there. Thinkuknow have devised a great resource which takes a very no-nonsense approach to online safety and which I look forward to delivering to pupils in my school in the New Year.

As a final point, I was very encouraged to hear Malcolm point out that we need to get away from ‘blocking and filtering’ because it merely serves to drive undesirable behaviour underground… perhaps this an occasion where the schools should be listening to the real experts in child protection, and concentrating on positive education rather than pointless filtering…

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