The internet is an inevitable part of children’s lives nowadays but although this has many positives, it also has its downsides.
Children are at risk of being exposed to harmful information and people online and this means the rest of us have a responsibility to protect them.
Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report published at the end of 2017 found that children spent more time online last year than they did in 2016. As many as 74% of 11 to 15 year olds have a social media profile and 45% of 12 to 15 year olds who go online say they have seen hateful content on the web in the past year.
As children’s online behaviour evolves, the approach taken to keep them safe needs to be continually revised to keep up with the latest trends. This article covers some of the key areas to focus on to keep children safe online in 2018.
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE)
The government has proposed revisions to the latest statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE), which are set to be finalised in September 2018. They are currently going through a consultation period which ends this month.
The revisions highlight that governing bodies and proprietors should be doing all that they reasonably can to limit children’s exposure to online risks from the school or college’s IT system.
Using filtering and monitoring providers is therefore critical to protecting children online. They can protect children from harm but also alert schools to inappropriate behaviour online.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has provided a list of filtering and monitoring providers that meet the national standards. They advocate using providers that are Internet Watch Foundation members.
In addition to these deterrents, children also need to be educated about how to spot dangers online.
General Data Protection Regulation
Educational institutions should also make sure they comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force in May this year.
Schools often hold sensitive data on students, including details such as health, ethnicity and religion. They need to make sure they have the consent of a parent or guardian before processing children’s data.
They also need to make sure they have procedures in place to report, detect and investigate data breaches. Appointing a data protection officer that meets the standards specified by the GDPR regulation is also necessary.
Staff play a fundamental part in the online safety at schools. Even the most sophisticated anti-viral software or filtering and monitoring cannot replace the role staff play.
As well as educating young people on how to stay safe, they should also be taught to be vigilant when they go online, so as not to inadvertently compromise the school’s IT security.
Staff should be careful not to fall victim to phishing emails, a tactic which hackers are still having success with. It is not always possible to easily spot which emails are legitimate and which ones are fake. Staff should therefore be taught to be suspicious about emails from unknown sources and never open links, or download attachments, from people they don’t know.
The same goes for downloading unsolicited antivirus software. If they are unsure if a request is legitimate, they should check with the school’s IT providers. They should also keep software up to date and not ignore upgrades, which are designed to fix vulnerabilities.
Their also needs to be a clear password policy that’s easy for staff to follow. The National Cyber Security Centre has guidance on password security which includes details on dealing with password overload and helping users generate appropriate passwords .
Keeping up with the latest online trends among young people isn’t always easy for those looking after them but paying attention to the areas laid out in this article can help.