Today we see the much anticipated UK Council for Child Internet Safety ‘Click Clever, Click Safe’ the first child internet safety strategy - and the usual tweeting, posting, publishing of statistics followed with predictable zeal.
So, I was asked for my response, and here it is, in the usual slightly garbled, ill punctuated rambling style that is my slovenly trademark..
Those of you who have attended my e safety sessions for children, teachers, adults who work with children, parents, governors and the rest, will know that I am passionate and committed to the cause of protecting our children and our colleagues from the many challenges posed by these new communication technologies.
So, I welcome the strategy, I value the commitment and energy of the 140 (very twitteresque) organisations of the council – and I remain optimistic that some good will come of it.
..and here’s the ‘but’
Let’s start with the easy things; what’s going on here; “We hope that ‘Zip it, Block it, Flag it’ will become as familiar to this generation as ‘Stop, Look and Listen’ was to the last,” said the Prime Minister. ?
The only time I hear ‘flag’ is in those meetings where folk adopt a vocabulary with the intention of elevating their own importance -and I have to confess that ‘zip’ will forever refer to file compression or possibly the lovable Uncle Buck ‘zip it, button it, lock it and throw away the key’. In no way can we see this as simple and accessible to children as ‘stop, look and listen’.
And.. the more difficult bit; throwing statistics around isn’t really of much use. If I have to endure one more esafety presentation with slide after slide of ‘alarming’ statistics there will be a real danger of me exiting by the nearest .. er.. exit.
The dangers are real and serious – I’m not saying they aren’t. What I am saying though, is we need to provide solutions, strategies, explanations – and we need to be positive role models.
After over 4yrs of being immersed in this area of work I can speak from a point of some experience. The challenges can be identified as follows
- protecting children from the bad people on the internet – This needs no further explanation .Children are at risk of death and life long trauma
- protecting children from each other – let’s call this ‘cyberbullying’ (though I could write for hours why this is such an inappropriate label)
- protecting the infrastructure – you know; malware, hacking, identity theft etc.
- and protecting the adults from false accusation, naive and inappropriate activity – and we are attempting to create an environment where those who work with children and shouldn’t, feel the net closing and leave our schools, youth clubs etc.
Here we go.. here’s the BIG IDEA. We need to modify, change, censor, punish (you choose your word) the behaviours of adults.
Until adults model appropriate behaviours, we stand little chance of having any impact on the behaviours of young people.
Let’s choose some simple, glib examples
Take the teacher who, when asked by their pupils ‘Sir, are you on Facebook?’ choose to reply ‘Yes indeedy (cos I’m hip and groovy)’ When I was a young blokey teacher I lived in fear that kids would find out where I lived. Not because I expected bricks through the window but because I wanted to keep my life private. Didn’t drink in the same pubs as my pupils or their parents, made sharp exits if they were in the same club or tourist attraction – and yet adults who work with children so often reveal so much of their private lives to their pupils, their parents, their communities and the world via their Facebook accounts..
Look at Youtube and the hateful comments that appear below any video. It’s not only young people who post.
Look at the hate groups on facebook formed to share vile and hateful comments about the police, football clubs, football players, X factor and Big Brother contestants. I’m all for crowd sourcing to save Bletchley Park, support climate change et al – but the truth is; our kids are much more likely to see their parents, adults they know, posting hateful comments on message boards and web pages than saving the world.
I read this week that we live in Roman times; the crowd no longer gesturing with their thumbs but with extended text via the technologies of the internet.
Perhaps one of the most powerful resources I use in sessions with adults is by Barnardos – you know the one? It involves a group of men going out and shooting teenagers. The entire dialogue comprises of statements made by adults on UK newspaper message boards, about children. ‘
My question is; how can we expect young people to value our guidance if they see the hateful arrogance that we display from the security of a computer keyboard on a day to day basis?
Next time you’re on a train do a little bluetooth search and see what delightful names come up for those oh so respectable business type people you’re sitting with. There will be obscene, flirty, bad taste (‘remote detonator’) and racist. Our children see these on their phones everyday. My own experience at education conferences has produced such gems as ‘Sexy Blond and F*ck_off’.
Take a look at the aggression that came pouring out on The Archers message board when a 6th former asked if anyone had access to scripts for an English assignment
A little ‘wordy’ I guess and this is one small part of a longer dialogue, with each, it would appear, the aim to belittle and humiliate the other.
And, I could go on, and on with examples of why we need to commit as much or more effort towards helping adults behave in ways that we would wish to see modelled for our children. Until then for people like me, our diaries will remain busy with sessions for teachers and adults who work with children.
Thanks for reading.
I eagerly await your polite and supportive comments