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Simfin

esafety and digital citizenship specialist

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Here to help

04.09.17

I hope you've had a restful and happy summer break and you spent time with family and friends. After over 30 years working in education, and supporting organisations who work with young people, I've come to a single conclusion; The only thing that truly matters is that we are kind and supportive to the people around us. Whether they are colleagues, students, family, friends or neighbours - everyone deserves kindness.

I've worked in the area of online safety for almost 10 years and I provide face to face support and training to schools, colleges, charities and a range of organisations with a responsibilty for young people. I also specialise in providing support, resources and information via social media. Over the summer break I shared a range of articles and links on subjects as diverse as radicalisation, fake news and the impact of social media on body image and mental health.

There were also more quirky links to digital citizenship. Did you know 30 million Facebook users have died in the first 8 years of its existence?

 Hurricane Harvey was the cause of wide spread devastation.. and fake news. There's that shark again.

Also, in August Safer Internet Day 2018's Theme was announced.

When we try to engage with young people, and help them to become safe and confident digital citizens, it is very important that our messages and resources are relevant and engaging. That's why I share these things with you.

You can be up to date and informed and relevent when you support young people by simply doing one or more of the following:

You could follow my tweets on Twitter

Or, Like or Follow my Facebook Page

Or perhaps you'd find my Instagram feed a little easier to digest?

It's possible you prefer the more formal world of LinkedIn, I post resources there too.

Or.. just go old school and visit the website

I'm here to help you. If you'd like me to come to your school or organisation around Safer Internet Day 2018 then let me know, That's always a busy time for me and my diary does fill up quickly.

If you've yet to arrange your annual esafety update for your colleagues - I can help with that too.

People like you think my support has value

Take care out there

Simon

 

 

 

 

 

5 A Day

07.08.17

This morning I was invited to speak on BBC radio about the Children's Commissioner's 5 a Day campaign launched  6 August 2017.

There is a concern that children are spending too much time online (a study by Ofcom found that 5 year olds spend up to 15 hours each week on social media) and socialmedia companies must become more responsible in the way they engage with young people.

The 5 a Day campaign suggests that there are five  elements of a positive socialmedia and online 'diet'.

Be Mindful

Connect

Give to Others

Get Creative

Be Active

To summarise the campaign; parents could look at ways in which they can help their child use social media in more positive ways. To be more resilient and not allow the negitivity of others to impact on their sense of self worth. To proactively look at ways to be positive and supportive of others. To use socialmedia to learn new skills and be more creative, and also to make time to be physically active and particpate in sports and outdoor activities.

Children will learn from their parents and emulate their behaviour - to some extent. Parents who participate in sports and play musical instruments are more likely to have children who see the positive benefits of such activities. Similarly if a parent is always checking their socialmedia streams on their phone in the home, at the park, the playground, then children will see this as normal behaviour and almost certainly use socialmedia in the same way.

Through my work I  see so many positive benefits of socialmedia engagement and it is undoubtedly the most useful resource available to me for my own professional development, and maintaining personal and professional relationships. The presenter asked me if socialmedia was 'bad for children's health.' My answer was that inevitably there will be physical issues around eye strain, posture, lack of exercise, sleep depriavation etc. yet ultimately I think 'Everything in moderation' is a useful maxim. Let's help our young people become positive, resilient, safe and creative citizens. To do this, first, we need parents to understand their role in demonstrating these attributes themselves.

 

 

 

 

Live Streaming Tears

22.07.17

I've been working in the area of online safety for over ten years and there are days when I feel we have made no progress at all. Children and adults continue to put themselves at risk when they are online and we continue to fire fight incidents rather than instilling in young people the skills, knowledge and confidence to be safe and resilient digital citizens.

Yesterday I received a message from a parent who was alarmed by a BBC news report about children being groomed via the Twitter live video app Periscope.

You can see the report here

If you're not familiar with Periscope then in simple terms, you can stream live video of yourself or your surroundings to anyone, and everyone, across the world. It's very useful when used responsibly. I could use Periscope to stream one of my courses so anyone interested, who couldn't attend in person, could benefit from the event. Similarly you could stream live video of you and your friends skateboarding, playing football, climbing a local landmark, riding on a fair ride.. pretty much anything you think would be of interest to others. However the BBC report focuses on young people and children who live stream themselves, sometimes alone, sometimes in their bedrooms and more or less hanging around, live, online waiting for someone to say something to them.

 It really isn't a surprise at all that there are people who will take advantage of this and make inappropriate comments and requests, many will be offences, and many will constitute grooming - and the child is at risk of exploitation and possibly physical harm. But let's pause for a moment and consider where the problem lies. In 2006 I, and other online safety specialists, warned parents about the perils of webcams attached to home computers and there have been thousands of apps since then that allow the opportunity for children to post videos of themselves online - for the world to see. Recently I saw parents warning each other about 'paedophiles' contacting children on Music.aly - an app that is used for singing and dancing and so very appealing to young children who hope for positive feedback and friendly comments from friends and, yes, strangers too.

As parents, carers, and adults who work with young people we would do better to spend less time being 'shocked' and 'alarmed' about specific apps and, instead, focus on consistent messages of support and guidance for our young people so they understand the balance of risks and benefits of live video and social media. We should help young people to understand what kinds of activity will put them at risk. We should give them the skills to recognise when they are at risk and what action to take. This means we need to have consistent positive messages for our young people and to ensure they have trusted adults they can turn to, to know how to report unwanted and inappropriate behavior within the apps, and how to find online support from organisations like Childline when they fear they have nobody they feel they can confide in.

After over a decade of the same familiar challenges, it can't be so unreasonable to hope that parents, and adults who work with young people, can begin to provide consistent and effective support for our young people.

 

 

National Unplugging Day

26.06.17

On Friday 23 June 2017 I was invited to contribute to a BBC radio discussion on the subject of National Unplugging Day; held on Sunday 25th June 2017.

The aim of the day was to ask parents around the UK and beyond to pledge to #GoGadgetFree and spend the day from sun-up to sun-down without any technology.

'With traditional family values under constant attack from modern day living and a variety of mental, physical and emotional issues stemming from technology overuse it’s no wonder that people of all ages have never been more desperate to find ways to get a handle on theirs and their families digital habits and get some boundaries in place'

 You can hear my thoughts on the role and opportunity for parents to help their children become confident and safe digital citizens here

if you'd like me to support your colleagues, or parents and carers, then do please let me know. Always here to help :-)

 

 

 

 

Ch Ch Changes

15.06.17

You have possibly heard that Northern Grid for Learning, my employer, will close for business at the end of July 2017.

I will, however, continue to provide face to face and online esafety and safeguarding training, and support, for the region’s schools, and organisations that work with young people.

It is important that all adults, whose role involves working with young people, receive annual online safety and safeguarding training, and I can provide this if you think it would be helpful.

I also deliver sessions for governors, parents and carers, and digital leader sessions for young people.

Please do contact me if you would like to discuss ways in which I may be able to help.

Please also note my new contact details, which are live now.

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.here

Thank you for reading and have a great day :-)

Best wishes

Simon

Lazy messages

11.05.17

Until adults move on from the dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children.

Ask children and young people about the esafety messages they’ve been told by parents, carers and teachers and they will mumble with disdain:

‘Never share personal information online’

‘Never talk to someone online who you’ve not met in ‘the real world’.’

‘Tell a trusted adult if you are worried.’

‘If you are being bullied online then just turn off your device and go outside and play with real friends.’

Too many parents, and adults responsible for young people, reinforce messages that are glib, meaningless and underpinned by; ‘I don’t know anything about this new stuff – I just wish they would ban Facebook.’

If we are to accept we have a role to provide guidance and support for young people in our care then we must be much more proactive in developing our own knowledge and understanding of social media and online opportunities and challenges. Similarly we must be seen by our young people to model appropriate behaviour and to empathise with young people rather than make false distinctions between ‘the online world’ and ‘the real world.’

Let’s look at the e-safety messages we‘ve been feeding our children.

 

‘Never Share Personal Information Online’


How does this make any sense? We need to share personal information every day and we frequently offer Amazon and similar, our home address, bank details and other personal information. If we accept that ‘1 in 4 adults met their partner online’, then surely as parents and teachers we need to provide young people with advice and guidance on when and how to share personal information? Until we help children understand the cost benefits of sharing personal information, they will continue to be misinformed about how and when to share.

 

‘Never Talk To Someone Online Who You’ve Not Met In ‘The Real World’.’


Many of us who use social media for our professional development and hobbies and interests will recognise that sharing ideas and experiences with strangers across the world has real benefits and can enhance our professional and personal lives. Surely we should be providing students with opportunities to communicate with ‘strangers’ by bringing online interactions, linked to curriculum work, into our classrooms?

 

‘Tell A Trusted Adult If You Are Worried.’


I think we can sometimes be a little too quick to assume a child will have a trusted adult. We assume, if they have two parents, they can speak to them, or that they will by default, tell their class teacher or key worker. Some children may not feel comfortable telling their mother but they may tell a friend’s mother. Some may not wish to discuss issues and concerns with their current teacher but perhaps their previous teacher? We shouldn’t underestimate the role of lunchtime supervisors and librarians. Often these people see and speak to the children every day and are seen as more trustworthy than some of their other relationships with adults.

A child needs a choice of trusted adults and we should make sure every child knows who their personal preference trusted adult is, before they are at that crisis point when they really need them.

‘If You Are Being Bullied Online Then Just Turn Off Your Device And Go Outside And Play With Real Friends.’
Until adults move on from this dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children. Young people and many of us who are adults see our online interactions to be important and often more valid than face to face interactions. Social media is social. Young people want and need to be part of the interactions and this is where many will gain their sense of self worth. It may be difficult for some parents and teachers to comprehend but for many of us, online relationships can be better, more rewarding and more caring than the face to face interactions of school and home.

For those who work with, and care for, young people there is something you can do. Take control of your own learning and understanding of this important area of a child’s development. Use social media to engage and learn from others.