Don’t let social media ruin your Christmas

…keep them safe.

By guest writer Anita Holt.

On Christmas morning, in many houses in the UK, excited young people will open their shiny new internet-enabled devices. By late afternoon, many social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Pinterest (hopefully not Tinder), will have a whole new set of users. Parents everywhere feeling pleased that they have made their children very happy with their choice of present. So where did it all go wrong? Back in the early days of when the Internet started to become available to the home users, the advice was, only have the Internet on a family computer, which is placed in a family room, so you can see what your kids are up to, assured about what they’ve viewing etc.

The Internet was actually a much safer place then than now, so what now? Are parents happy for their children to sit at home in the corner of their homes, in their room, in MacDonald’s, at their auntie’s where everywhere there is free wifi. The first thing my young nieces and nephews asks me for when they visit is the Wi-Fi code. I live in an adult only house, so my Internet has no filters, no child-friendly access, but never once have their parents checked to see what their kids are accessing. Kids are left playing in the rooms for hours at a time, sometimes into the night playing Xbox and PlayStation games, with strangers from across the world, does nobody else see this as a potential safety issues. Whatever happened to Stranger Danger, is that not a thing anymore?

present-932219_640I wonder how many of those parents talked to their children about e-safety, how many of them even understand or know about the range of social media that’s out there, and the potential dangers their children face when using them.

If those same parents bought their children bicycles, would they let them ride them without talking to them about road safety?

The issue is that parents understand about road safety, but so many don’t know where to start with e-safety, and may look to the expertise within schools and colleges to support them. Even if the institution blocks social media, they still have a responsibility to keep young people safe, by delivering e-safety training.

Schools and colleges see the need to deliver awareness up-to-date training on topics such as drugs and alcohol, so why not e-safety? and why imagine that a staff development presentation once a year would be adequate on a subject so pervasive.

College and school staff, like parents, understandably find it difficult to keep up with the ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in the world of social media. This is why sites like CEOP and Think You Know are invaluable. They offer a whole host of resources and teaching ideas for schools and colleges to use. The resources are aimed at different age ranges, as well as some resources specifically aimed at parents.

There are videos, lesson plans and a whole host of other resources which can help you deliver e-safety. Although predominantly aimed at under 16s, I find some of the videos so powerful, they can easily be used for delivering training to older teenagers, vulnerable adults and staff. If you are thinking of delivering e-safety training visit the Think You Know website for support, resources and advice.

light-562557_640I am a CEOP ambassador and have delivered e-safety training to around 2,500 practitioners across the FE and Skills sector. To address the diversity of staff I have delivered to, I have used a whole range of resources from across the Internet. Here are links to other excellent resources which I have found useful during the course of my training.

Additional information:

Work Smart – created by the TUC;

Stop Cyber Bullying – I find the intro to this site really useful in order to highlight the extent to which cyberbullying can go;

YouTube videos – There are two great videos that may appeal to post-16 learners. They are really good to set the scene to discuss Facebook Privacy Settings. Facebook in real life video and Can I be your friend video.

Good explanation of Social Media sites: 15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook

And just for a final bit of advice, if the kids in your life are speaking another language, you won’t find it on Google Translate try this one: Urbandictionary.com

If you have been tasked with delivering e-safety training, remember the learners are the experts in social media.

AnitaHoltMerry Christmas, enjoy and keep yourself and your family safe.

Anita Holt
Technology Enhanced Learning Manager
Institute of Learning & Teaching
Liverpool University

See also: Our Services
How are your Facebook privacy settings?
How to Protect Your Children on Their Smartphone

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