Principal’s Blog: Online Safety

This week the staff have been managing issues connected with our students using social media unwisely. We did this last week too, and the week before. We may well be doing the same next week. It is a growing national issue and Penrice is no exception.

Penrice staff are probably more engaged in helping students than most schools. Because we own the iPad’s on which some of this unwise behaviour occur, we probably know more about it than most schools.

What are we talking about? Some of our young people have unrestricted access to the Internet at home. Most of our students use that access to play online games, research and chat to friends. Some students use that access to find pornography and share those images and videos. Some students get involved in ‘sexting’ each other – sending images to each other which are indecent and illegal. Some students set up fake websites and use them to bully and harass each other. Some students use social media to measure themselves socially, to seek approval for the way they present themselves, to gain reassurance from people they don’t know that they are good looking and nice people. Some of those social media groups end up bullying or undermining each other. The concept of ‘trolling’ is well known but the impact of a few badly chosen words can have a lasting impact on a growing, vulnerable mind.

We teach e- safety all the time. We preach the virtues of staying safe online but, so often when it goes wrong for children, they will say “I know you told me not to do this but I wanted to, so I did it anyway.”

As parents you need to know what your son or daughter is doing online. They are with us for six hours a day but the vast majority of the abuse happens twenty four hours a day and most often at night. As a school we cannot police the internet. We spend many hours each day untangling what students have done or said online and how that affects others. We do make a difference but at times it feels as if we are swimming against the tide.

Most students, most of the time, use the Internet well. They need to learn to do that because the socially connected world they inhabit is the future. That won’t change. We will never go back to the world that many of us as parents were born into. We have to teach our children to navigate this world in the same way we teach them to cross the road or keep safe in a town centre. Penrice can do some of this, but we need every parent helping us too.

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